Why AI Will Make Our Children More Lonely | Kanebridge News
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Why AI Will Make Our Children More Lonely

The good news, says Scott Galloway, is that AI’s economic impact won’t be the catastrophe that so many are predicting

Tue, May 30, 2023 8:44amGrey Clock 5 min

Scott Galloway, a founder of companies, board member of others, business-school professor and author, is outspoken in his criticism of today’s Big Tech-driven society. At the recent Wall Street Journal CEO Summit in London, he shared some of his views, along with an array of data points, in a wide-ranging, animated talk with Nikki Waller, coverage chief for life and work at The Wall Street Journal. Edited excerpts follow.

The unreal world

WSJ: How will AI change the home and family lives of people in this room?

GALLOWAY: You’ll get richer, and your kids will get lonelier and more depressed.

Most of the technologies we’re coming up with, or a lot of them, are pouring fuel on this flame of loneliness, where we’re finding reasonable facsimiles of a relationship. Social creates this illusion that you have a lot of friends, but you don’t experience friendship.

A lot of young men are self-selecting out of the real world. They believe they’re learning or investing on a trading app, and that’s just gambling. That’s just addiction. They think that they are having a relationship when they’re on Discord, or sharing information. They feel rejected on dating apps. If you’re a young man in the 50th percentile or below in terms of attractiveness, you have to swipe right or select 200 women and say, “I’m interested,” to get one match. If you match, you need five matches for it to turn into one coffee, because four of the five women who have a much finer filter in terms of selectivity, they’ll kind of melt away.

So most men have to match 1,000 times to get one coffee. And that validates that they are not attractive and not valued in the mating market. I think they’re going to increasingly turn to AI-driven relationships.

We have a series of replacements—fuelled by technology—for relationships, mentorships, the workplace, friendships, romantic relationships. And in the short term it sort of fills a void. But it’s empty calories, and I think you end up more depressed.

We’re mammals, and we’re supposed to be around each other. I worry that there’s a whole cohort of young people, specifically young men, who will withdraw slowly but surely from the world. And the output of that is they become really sh—y citizens. They’re more prone to misogynistic content. They’re less likely to believe in climate change. They don’t develop the skills to read a room and be successful at work. They don’t engage in romantic relationships, so they don’t have kids.

WSJ: How do you solve for this in the workplace if you’re a boss?

GALLOWAY: We need systemic solutions. We’ve taken away wood shop, auto shop, metal shop from high schools, and basically told young men in high school to be more like women. “Be organised, disciplined, sit in your seat.” And the education system is highly biased against men.

I think the labor force is quite biased against women still, especially once they have children. But the educational workforce is biased against men. Boys are twice as likely to be suspended than a woman on a behaviour-adjusted basis, the exact same infraction. A Black boy, five times as likely to be suspended.

What you can do as a CEO is, first, drop the fetishisation of elite colleges. There’s going to be two female graduates from college in the next five years for every male. And create more on ramps into your company for kids who don’t have traditional college certification. In terms of the workforce, I’m sort of the person that makes HR uncomfortable, because the No. 1 source of retention at a company is if the employee has a friend.

I’m a big fan of remote work for caregivers. We should have a new classification of worker: For someone who’s taking care of young children, ageing parents, someone who’s struggling with their own health, remote work is a huge unlock. But for people under the age of 40, I think the office is a feature, not a bug. And that is it’s a fantastic place to find friends, mentors and mates. We don’t like to talk about this, but one out of three relationships begins in the workplace.

Ninety-nine percent of relationships that began at work are consensual. And we talk about and we publicise some abhorrent behaviour, and those people deserve to be in prison. But the people who I find are most righteous about being against workplace relationships are already married. And if you’re going to ask a young person to work 12 hours a day in this competitive economy, where are they supposed to find mates?

Work/life balance

WSJ: Gen Z workers, in their first interviews, are asking about work/life balance. What’s the right way to think about that?

GALLOWAY: Work/life balance is a myth. I’ve taught 5,500 students at NYU, and I do a survey. “Where do you expect to be in five years economically?” And something like 90%-plus of them expect to be in the top 1% economically by the age of 30, right? I get it, it’s great. But it means you’re going to have no life other than work, or very little life. I don’t remember my 20s and 30s other than work. It cost me my hair, it cost me my first marriage, and it was worth it.

You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once. If you expect to be in the top 10% economically, much less the top 1%, buck up. Two-decades-plus of nothing but work. That’s my experience.

The AI future

WSJ: What career advice would you give a young adult right now regarding AI?

GALLOWAY: I’m an AI optimist. But everything in the media on AI is total catastrophising. It’s, “This is the nuclear bomb.”

I’m like, “That’s not that helpful.” Anytime there’s a new technology it goes through the same arc. There’s some catastrophising, there’s some job destruction, and then the economy grows and there’s more jobs.

Automation destroyed a lot of jobs on the shop floor, the manufacturing floor. But we didn’t anticipate heated seats or car stereos, and we created more jobs. I think AI is going to be enormously accretive for society and our economy.

If I were a young person, think about which industry does it disrupt, which industry will have the greatest reshuffling of value? Think about targeting disruption.

I’m not sure people thought processing power would disrupt cable television. But it did, in the form of Netflix.

Netflix’s rise is directly correlated to increase in bandwidth and processing power, because your cable bill kept going up faster than inflation such that you could have Food Networks 3 and 4. So for $12 a month I can get a reasonable facsimile of what was costing me $120 a month.

So what’s next? What does AI kill or disrupt? And where would I invest my human capital as a young person?

The most disruptable industry in the world—as a function of prices increasing faster than inflation relative to the underlying innovation or lack thereof—is, hands down, U.S. healthcare.

I haven’t had health insurance in five years. And when I tell people I don’t have health insurance, it’s like, “You’re a bad citizen. You’re not a good dad.” No, health insurance is nothing but a transfer of wealth from the poor who can’t absorb a big shock to the rich who can.

That is ripe for AI to come in and look at you and say, “You know what? You’re better off taking 4% of your salary, putting into the 401(k), using it if you have a healthcare crisis, but not buying insurance.”

There’s going to be so many little AI-driven healthcare companies that go after the American healthcare complex.

AI for me, if I were 22, 25, 30, and wanted to invest my human capital, I would think, “Where is the real action going to be? A reshuffling of shareholder value?” It’s going to be AI-driven startups in the healthcare space.


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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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