It's time to get back to basics
Frazier is an assistant professor at the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University. He previously clerked for the Montana Supreme Court.
The slow and steady seep of artificial intelligence into every aspect of life means that we all have to be disciplined about staying in touch with reality. Thankfully, that task may be easier than you’d imagine. Here’s one suggestion: Attend a Rotary Club meeting.
Yes, now’s the time to go back to basics.
For those unfamiliar, here's how Rotary International describes its members – they "believe that we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world's most persistent issues." Through their more than 46,000 clubs, the Rotarians strive to "promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, support education, and grow the economy, and protect the environment." It’s a lofty agenda, but it's a wholesome one: Rotarians don’t have political aims; they aren’t in it to grow their TikTok following; they don’t change their ways just because of a shift in the winds.
The resilience of the Rotarians demonstrates their connection to reality – something we could all use more of these days. I had the pleasure of giving a brief talk to the Milwaukie, Ore., Rotary Club a few weeks back – there was nothing “artificial” about the experience. The members discussed their plans to physically attend the farmer’s market to sell wreaths for charity, to physically host a holiday party for the community, and to physically be in the seats at an upcoming ballet performance at the local school. In short, they had clear plans to stay in touch with reality by being reliable and visible parts of the community.
It’s true that Rotary Clubs have seen a dip in attendance in recent years. The perception of Rotary Clubs as vestiges of the past is not entirely unjustified. Having attended a few meetings, there’s surely a need to diversify and expand membership. Yet, the Rotary and similar organizations may be one of our best chances for not getting too distracted by AI.
If the Rotary isn’t for you, that’s fine. But if we’re going to prevent AI from disconnecting us from our shared humanity, we all need plans for being physically there for our communities. It’s a heck of a lot easier to follow through on those plans by finding a group that will hold you accountable for actively participating in community affairs.
The need for a dose of reality is especially true for younger folks. The Americans who grow up in the Age of AI may soon become accustomed to AI being a part of every aspect of their lives. As we’ve seen from social media, the unchecked and unlimited role of technology can have severe consequences on our individual and communal health. History will repeat itself if we let AI invade every part of our day-to-day activities. The best way to prevent such negative outcomes is to encourage our kids to save space for reality and to serve as role models by being physically connected to our communities; Rotary Clubs are one option to do so but there are plenty of others.
So as the new year approaches, resolve to make reality a priority for you, for your loved ones and for your community.
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