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How to Humanize AI

AI is here for good, whether you agree it's here for good purposes or not. What we thought was coming around the turn of the century is finally here.

Ok, so Hal from "2001 - A Space Odyssey" is clearly neither good, nor what we intended. And let's just hope that Siri and Alexa end up being less nefarious than Hal.

But clearly one of the major stories of 2019 has been the rise of AI, "Artificial Intelligence". It's become mainstream and it's showing up everywhere:

Of course, not all AI-generated output works out right. Machines, apparently, have limitations. Just ask Nike:

I can't stop watching that, nor can I stop wondering if Nike has actually used the spot. I assume the "neural network" that analyzed 7 years worth of Nike ads didn't produce what the designers originally hoped for. It did, however, unearth some real copywriting gold:

"If you can't beat them, legend that thing."

Having just sent the link of this video to my 14 year old son, I expect to be hearing him and his buddies slinging that phrase around soon. (Actually, they probably already retired the phrase and I'm just catching it now...)

So, yeah. Despite all of the conveniences of AI, there are glitches, though fortunately, nothing along the lines of Hal yet! Ok, great. Conveniences are reproducible. But I say that human experience, regardless of how that BBC thing worked out, cannot be manufactured by a machine. So how can AI help with that?

Bringing the Human Element Back Into AI

Artificial Intelligence has its limits and those limits are in creating actual human connection. Note: I don't count Hello, Barbie! or Talking with Machines babel as true human connection, even if a real human voice is involved.

We are clearly starved for meaning in this technological age. We crave a close, quiet, slow human connection so much that someone created a wellness experience that lets you stay in a Woom Room, that mimics being back in the womb:

There are also retreats scattered around the world that are themed for ...

This brings me back to that Nike video, the one that an Artificial Intelligence program created. It starts off with these words:

"for others it's just something we made up"

Someone, while navigating some miasma of despair, made up an idea to let people pretend to be in a womb, voluntarily go to prison, cry, and do so many more things I didn't list. It's kind of brilliant, no? We, as human beings, have the ability to make things up - to create - in the most surprising ways. And that is the point I'm making here today, fun click-bait and videos aside.

You see, "AI" is also an acronym for "Applied Improv". It's something I have been doing for a while and it is something I love. This AI involves making things up that creates more connection between people.

What is this "other" AI, you might wonder? Applied Improv involves taking the principles, techniques, and games used in improv comedy and applying them to other "real world" situations. For example, I gave a talk the other day at a company's year-end event on how to bring more positivity into their work culture. I used AI to rewire some of their thinking about how they interact through exercises that had them play, while learning. Or vice versa, perhaps.

Applied Improv is the Swiss Army knife of human relationship skill development. It's a great diagnostic tool to help people understand where problems or issues or opportunities lie. It's a wonderful teaching tool that helps people practice critical skills like listening and collaboration and resilience, which we practice and build in low stakes situations. Having practiced those skills makes it so much easier when the stake get high!! As a team building tool - you know, helping humans have meaningful connections with each other - it's top notch.

Want to know more about it? Just ask!

Maybe The Machines Were Right

Ok, so now I'm reconsidering it. That line in the Nike video that says, "it's just something we made up"? That's really on the money! It's even reflected in a couple of my own personal values. And it echoes some other legitimate points throughout the song:

  • "we hear crazy" (like, every day, right?)

  • "life is not fair"

  • "because you can't be a dream, it scares them"

That last line is downright profound!!! When we try to be a dream, to live our own dreams, it scares people. Oh no ... maybe the machines were right after all.

Nah.... They also said, "if you have only one hand don't just watch a marathon. first marathon." That's not intelligence.


Jim Young lives in Florence, Massachusetts in a real house that he shares with his real, live kids half the time. When he's not making up words on a stage with one of his improv troupes, he's helping people find ways to defeat the lie of "because you can't be a dream" through his coaching practice.

He also strives to "legend that thing" when bringing AI - Applied Improv - to companies and organizations who find themselves asking, "so what are you gonna do to accomplish your crazy dream"?

If you want Jim to improvise a rhyme for you, or help you with a dream, drop him a line at


Full Lyrics of the Nike "AI + Kennedy" YouTube video:

for others it's just something we made up because i was born believer if you cant beat them legend that thing so what are you gonna do to accomplish your crazy dream athletes around the homecoming we hear crazy life is not fair if you have only one hand don't just watch a marathon first marathon i'm not an overnight believe don't just be the world take died and they live a runner half be the fastest runner in your own because you can't be a dream it scares them.


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