AI Is Worse If You Think It's Someone's Fault

A lot of stress about AI is caused by framing it incorrectly

I am troubled by how many people are upset by AI.

I mean, they’re really upset.

Having just written a thing on framing, I think AI is another example where people are doing most of the damage themselves.

In other words, I don’t think they’re so upset about AI itself, but by how they’re thinking about AI.

Specifically, I think people are upset because they think we’re making a choice to use it or not, and we’re choosing poorly. They’re going through life reading news stories and thinking…

Wow, I can’t believe people are so stupid! Here they have the option to just keep things as they are, which was working perfectly fine in the 80s, 90s, and 2000’s, and here someone shows them this stupid ChatGPT thing and now AI’s going to take all our jobs!

In other words, they think it’s dumb people deciding to use AI, and because of their bad judgment, we’re falling into some diabolical trap.

FRAME 1 (Negative) — Humanity had the option to stay with “normal” tech, but we’re all idiots and we’re making this whole AI thing happen by reaching for a stupid shiny thing.

TL;DR: We could have stuck with regular tech, but we chose AI instead.

I don’t think that’s happening at all.

We aren’t choosing anything. AI is just naturally and inevitably unfolding like any other technology, and we’re just the people who happen to be here while it happens.

FRAME 2 (Positive) — We aren’t choosing AI just like we didn’t choose the car or the telephone. Technology changes happen when it’s time for them to happen, and once they start they are inevitable.

TL;DR: Nobody chose anything. AI is just another inevitable technology trend.

Different frames = different reality

Someone living in Frame 1 vs. Frame 2 might as well be on another planet. The perception shapes everyday life.

In Frame 1, you’re under constant assault from an evil technology spawned by hucksters and sold to idiots.

Humanity is now at risk—with real impact to people’s lives—all because too many dumb people fell in love with ChatGPT.

Someone you know

If you believe that, then every time you hear about AI—on a podcast, in the supermarket, at a party, or at work—you have this cacophony of chattering voices in your head talking about how stupid everything is. Grumble, grumble, sassin-frassin, /tableflip

It makes people mad. Cynical. Grumpy. Negative. Anti-tech. Angry. Did I say mad already? It makes them mad.

Frame 2 (Positive)

People in Frame 2 don’t walk around with that chatter in their heads. They’re not constantly angry at someone—or people in general—or whoever, because they brought this all upon us.

In this model, life is just happening. Tech is part of life, and AI is just a big wave of tech washing over us. It might be a bigger wave than ever before, but it’s just a wave. And it’s a natural wave because humans created tech. When humans sharpened the first stone and put a handle on it, that was tech as well, and AI is just further along that same evolution.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be negatively affected by AI if you are in Frame 2. You can still lose your job to AI, have people struggle to find work that you care about, or have it mess with your life.

But the point is to avoid what the Buddhists call The Second Arrow.

The Second Arrow

The Second Arrow is a good way of capturing how I see framing in general, and definitely around AI. It’s basically a second amount of damage taken by thinking about a first amount of damage.

The Buddha asks a student if being struck by an arrow would be painful, to which the student responds affirmatively. The Buddha then asks if being struck by a second arrow would be even more painful, and again, the student agrees.

The Buddha explains that in life, the first arrow represents the initial suffering that comes from being human, such as illness, loss, or disappointment. This type of suffering is inevitable. However, the second arrow represents the additional suffering that comes from our reaction to the first arrow.

This includes emotions like anger, fear, resentment, or self-pity. Unlike the first arrow, the suffering from the second arrow is not inevitable; it's something we have the power to influence through our response to suffering.

A summary of the original Buddhist teaching

Positive framing avoids the Second Arrow, while negative framing walks right into it.

So, when it comes to AI, don’t walk into the second arrow of thinking this was someone’s fault.

Tides aren’t our fault, the winter being cold, solar flares—it all just happens. And tech is no exception. If humans happen, tech eventually follows, and here we are.

The integration of AI into our society will be hard enough by itself.

Don’t make it harder by living in a false narrative that makes you angry about it.