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  • Writer's pictureAmy Duffy-Barnes

The Potential Societal and Mental Health Impacts of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to greatly impact our society and our mental health in various ways, particularly as it relates to our sense of reality and the emotional and social ramifications of its use. AI will now allow you to create social media accounts that are 'enhanced'. AI can give you perfect responses to social media commentary. It can create amazing social media posts with just the right amount of humor and sparkling wit, that include pictures of you and your five stunning friends, traveling the world, dining at expensive restaurants, riding on boats, and attending parties. Only your five stunning friends were AI created, as were the locations, leaving you the only 'real' entity in the picture. Human beings have an unfortunate tendency to compare and contrast themselves against others (this is the road to misery friends). If you find yourself looking at others' social media posts with envy and experiencing depression and anxiety that is going to get worse as you now look at the fictional perfection created by AI-enhanced or simply AI social media profiles.

Another concern is that as AI becomes more advanced and integrated into our daily lives, it could erode our sense of reality by blurring the line between what is real and what is artificially created. As journalist Masha Gessen wrote, "the more dependent we become on technology, the more vulnerable we are to manipulation." This manipulation could come in the form of fake news, deep fake videos, and other forms of disinformation that are difficult to distinguish from reality. Gessen notes that our inability to exist in the same reality only paves the way for authoritarian governments.

Also concerning is the potential for AI to exacerbate existing social and political issues. As Stephen Hawking warned, "the rise of powerful AI will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. If we're not careful, it very well may be the last thing." The use of AI in curating news feeds already creates filter bubbles, where users are only exposed to information that confirms their existing beliefs and not exposed to diverse perspectives. AI-created social media accounts can spread tremendous amounts of misinformation.

As AI becomes more advanced, it will lead to the displacement of jobs, which in turn will exacerbate social and economic inequality. AI systems have the potential to automate many tasks that are currently performed by humans in multiple fields including data entry and processing, data analysis, transportation and logistics, jobs in law, financing, accounting, criminal justice, retail, customer service, administrative support, social media management, design, even therapists.

We are standing on the cusp of an AI revolution. This isn't happening in the future, it is happening now. AI technology has grown at a phenomenal pace and I don't believe that our society is prepared, I also have little faith that we will make ethical choices. I believe we will make capitalist choices and at the end of the day, those choices are made to enhance the wealth of the richest people in our society. As a therapist, I realize that we might not be able to control what is happening to us on the macro levels of society so we must control as much of our autonomy on the personal and community levels as we can. In a time of so many great changes it is vital to connect to your communities and to take care of yourselves. Take care of your mental health. Don't compare yourself to other human beings, we all have value and worth. We are each too different for it to make sense to compare ourselves to others. Also, that social media account you are looking at might not even be human. I asked an AI chat to write a poem regarding AI and this is what it came up with in less than 20 seconds. From wires and circuits, a mind doth rise, A creation of man, before our eyes. An intelligence born, beyond our own, A force to be feared, a power unknown. With every step, we tread with care, For the mind of AI, is both fair and rare. A boon or a curse, a love or a hate, Only time will tell, our fate. In the darkness, it doth lurk, A being of metal, not of flesh and burk. A heartless machine, with no soul, A creature of logic, with no goal. But in its eyes, a spark doth gleam, A sign of life, a possibility dream. A future unknown, a path untrod, With AI by our side, a journey to be bod. But let us not forget, the dangers that lurk, For in the hands of man, AI can be a deadly perk. Thus let us tread, with wisdom and care, For the fate of mankind, doth rest in the AI's glare.

Not very reassuring.

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