Can Romance Protect Us From Robots?
Tim joined Reinvent founder Peter Leyden for a conversation about The Future of Sharing.
Author and entrepreneur Tim Leberecht wrote the international bestseller The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself two years ago, in part as a response to our rampant tendency to over-quantify ourselves and our work. Leberecht said that because he used the term “romance” in the title, some people confused his message with “love what you do and do what you love,” but that feels too narrow to Leberecht. “What romance means is to bring your full selves to work,” Leberecht said, including negative emotions. “When we make space for that, we’ll have a greater chance of being human at work.” Leberecht believes that, particularly given the current transition to a more automated world, companies need to realize that efficiency alone isn’t sufficient, and that they need to invest more in culture and relationships. At its dystopian extreme, Leberecht believes that AI could threaten our very human agency. We need to insist on humans remaining central to our societies and economies, said Leberecht. Otherwise, “I think there is a real danger of humans being designed out of the equation because of AI.”
Leberecht spoke about the sharing economy (though he prefers the term “gig economy”) and compared working in the gig economy to the original “gig” work—playing jazz music. The two have a number of parallels, Leberecht pointed out, including autonomy, variety, and an ad hoc nature. Leberecht thinks that the gig economy will be the dominant way of working in the future, though he believes concerns about a “race to the bottom” in an unregulated marketplace are warranted, and need to be addressed before it’s too late for course correction. The sharing economy often creates the serendipity that’s lacking in the more traditional marketplace, Leberecht said, mentioning how home sharing facilitates intimacy and creates social capital. And after all, Leberecht pointed out, marketplaces are “first and foremost forums for human interaction.” Leberecht referred to Airbnb as smart and data-driven, but ultimately romantic in its mission of allowing people to peek into the lives of strangers. “The greatest asset for human beings is our identity,” Leberecht said. This, he believes, is what will protect us from being overrun by AI, and so anything that fosters and protects identity—including trust, culture, relationships, and generosity—should be nurtured and celebrated.