Why AI Will Make Our Children More Lonely

Why AI Will Make Our Children More Lonely

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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—fueled 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 organized, 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 behavior-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 fetishization 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, aging 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 publicize some abhorrent behavior, 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 catastrophizing. 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 catastrophizing, 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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