What’s so special about being human?

Being humans
Being humans

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


The other day I told ChatGPT that I was feeling a little blue and asked for advice. The advice was good: talk to a friend, go for a walk, practice mindfulness and gratitude. But the comforting, personalized bedside manner was unexpected: « I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling down. » And the wrap-up was downright spooky: « You’re not alone in this, and taking steps to care for your well-being is a sign of strength. »

Whew! Just me and my large language model will get through this.

The surge of artificial intelligence is alarming. Maybe AI will manipulate us as if we were 2-year-olds, commandeer everyone’s job and pollute our elections with deepfakes.

But the question that’s bothered me most is: Can we count on anything remaining special about being human? Our special quality was always our intelligence, but that distinction is long gone. It can’t be our creativity — look at the artists up in arms about AI tools training on their work to imitate it. It can’t even be our knack for relationships. Just as in the movies, in 2017 a Chinese AI engineer married a robot he had built for himself and planned to upgrade.

What’s left? To my surprise, the more I have thought about it, the more hopeful I have become. Just maybe, in finding our specialness, we cannot only corral AI, but start to appreciate ourselves more. We sure need that.