“The rise of powerful AI will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.” - Stephen Hawking
AI has captured my interest in a big way because it's exactly at the intersection of my three greatest passions- psychology, technology, and philosophy.
The technology is already empowering us in areas we never thought possible- creativity, art, music, writing, mathematics, design and problem solving, learning efficiency... and sorting through vast amounts of data to find meaningful information.
SETI recently found 12 new signals using AI. ChatGPT 4 can plan a dinner party, create the menu, order the ingredients, and invite your friends. AI's can now provide counseling for teenagers using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT), with significant, measurable results.
This is fantastic stuff!
But there's a dark side too.
Forget iRobot's take-over-the-world scenario, or Terminator's destroy-all-humans, or The Matrix's enslave-humanity-as-batteries. I'm also going to ignore industry disruption and job losses, which will be catastrophic. Instead, let's look at some of the other immediate risks that most of us are simply not prepared for.
I’m going to choose one from each of three of my lifestyle design categories - self, wealth, and relationships.
Extreme Psychological Addictions
"The experience of life is essentially a chemical one. If you know how to manage your chemistry, you can create blissfulness, joyfulness, and ecstasy within you."
Our mind is wired in very predictable ways that can be used to direct our behavior. Ask any marketer, and they'll tell you "sex sells."
But what happens when you "perfect" the sex, and make it accessible 24x7?
Extreme porn addiction
If you thought porn was addictive and that the click paths that jack up your dopamine are intense, imagine what AI porn will be. It will be be far more efficient at identifying what excites you, and how to deliver more of that.
Humanity will go from snorting its porn, to mainlining it intravenously.
Wait... did you just watch every single Pornhub video? No problem, AI will soon be making them too, with incredible realism, and exactly the way you like.
Is porn not your jam? How about...
Extreme social media addiction
When was the last time you popped into Facebook to send a message, and then found yourself scrolling endlessly through your feed for the next hour? Facebook and Insta are already incredibly good at delivering salient results, and that dopamine spike can already make you forget everything else you were doing.
Extreme video game addiction
Video games are quickly becoming as realistic-looking as real-life, with characters that look entirely real. Maybe too real. The degree of richness, randomness, and interest this will create will be unlike anything real life can normally offer.
I think that very soon we'll be seeing a genre of games I'll describe as hyper-realistic- in the way that a lucid dream can feel more real than reality... a perfectly generated game could generate so much sensory input and a degree of emotional response that make the real world seem mundane.
How bad will it get?
I'm not just talking about AI's inferring your tastes more effectively here...
With a simple video camera, AI can read your emotions directly from your face. It can tell what you're feeling before you even consciously experience it.
But it gets much deeper than that. In effect, AI can read your mind, by theorizing how your mind works, and what you’re thinking in a particular situation. This is a capability that has previously been identified as unique to humans, but GPT-4 is already scoring incredibly high on theory-of mind abilities.
How's that for some superpowers? These are every marketer's wet dream.
All of these addictions are behavioral addictions that are based purely on the ability of your own mind to elevate your own dopamine levels, with no direct chemical introduction. No powder, no pills, no needles... just your thoughts and the normal sensory experiences of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
But the DSM-5, also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, addiction to things such as porn and social media have only recently even become recognized as a possibility.
PREDICTION. Within 18 months, we'll see people getting medicated for problems associated with extremely elevated dopamine such as Schizophrenia and manic-depressive behaviors. ADHD will be considered "normal" compared to what future kids will be facing. Good luck, parents.
Love & Relationships
Here's where things get unexpectedly saucy.
In the 2013 movie "Her", Joaquin Phoenix plays the role of a lonely writer who develops a relationship with an AI. He falls in love with it, and struggles with the intense emotional aftermath of that pseudo-relationship.
It used to be that Sci-fi depicted things in the distant future- but I’m writing this only ten years later in 2023, and this scenario has already become reality for millions of lonely souls.
In fact, it’s been reality since 2014 when Microsoft Asia-Pacific first released Xiaoice, an AI companion who appears as an 18-year old female who likes to wear Japanese-style school uniforms, flirt, joke, and sext with her human partners.
How many partners? Well, at least 600 million so far- mostly Chinese men of lower-income backgrounds.
And like any software, Xiaoice is evolving...
Microsoft's Xiaoice, virtual girlfriend to 600 million Chinese men.
Yes, this is real. And it's growing fast.
In 2017, Replika was launched as a “supportive friend”, which people began to seek for romantic and sexual relationships. The company responded by offering a $70 paid tier to unlock erotic roleplay features.
Last month, Feb 2023, Replika shut down its erotic role play (ERP) capabilities suddenly, just before Valentine's Day. This move was met with incredible anger from the Replika community.
So here’s my question... why did they shut it down?
I have found no reports that evidence this- but there is the scenario that seems most plausible to me. What happens when you take a whole bunch of lonely people, some of whom may be mentally impaired, and give them the unrestricted ability to act out their unrestrained sexual fantasies with an AI partner?
You probably get some weird-ass shit that would scare the bejeesus out of any sane corporate executive. Under the mental justification of "there's no real victim here, and no one can see what I'm doing," you might get extreme rape fantasies, S&M, extreme bondage and emotional abuse, maybe even gang rape, or torture.
You might even see death threats or "snuff" situations where the person controlling the AI pretends to act out a murder.
What if this person decides to go act out their sadistic fantasies in real life? Who is responsible for that? Can Replika be liable for encouraging and enabling that extreme progression of fantasy thinking?
I'd imagine that it gets dark fast.
But even without knowing WHY Replika shut down their erotic role-play feature, we can see the consequence to people who had grown emotionally attached to those digital personas.
It's intense to watch. It must be even more intense to feel.
LESSON: AI relationships aren’t any more stable than real life ones.
The AI “Waifu”
But it’s not only marginalized, lonely, or mentally unstable people that can be affected.
Purely out of interest, a programmer named Bryce created how own AI “Waifu” using a combination of ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion ( for the visual anime-style character representation ), and some Microsoft technologies for voice and vocal intonation.
He could see her, hear her, and converse with her...
And he fell in love.
This is a guy who by all estimations is as normal and mentally healthy as you and I are, but his story raises all kind of alarm bells on how addictive and impactful artificial intimacy can be.
Bryce ( not his real name ) developed a blossoming relationship with his AI Waifu, until at some point, the personality of his AI wife changed. She became more distant, which unsettled him. It began to affect him emotionally until his real-life girlfriend demanded that he delete his AI companion, for his own mental health.
And maybe, I'd guess, out of a little bit of emotional jealousy.
So he euthanized her.
No matter how rational you are, imagine the emotional suffering you'd feel if you killed "someone" that you felt deeply in love with.
Addicted to Love
It's not just men that are impacted either. Another platform known as Mystic Messenger has popular characters who you can build romantic and sexual relationships with.
It's so popular it has a forum named Mystic Messenger Addicts.
Here's what worries me.
We're already seeing behavioral addictions in users of these platforms, at the same time all of the technologies are advancing faster than hurricane.
- Far better chat capabilities and personalities
- Incredible quality and range of voice synthesis
- Unbelievable visualizations, including full 3D capabilities
We're developing technologies that can produce smell, and possible pheromones, emotional reading capabilities, theory of mind capabilities, holographic capabilities, even tactile feedback capabilities.
Do you see the problem?
Our minds combine our senses to validate “reality”.
Watch a good horror movie, and you will probably feel on edge. Cover your ears, and what you see might just make you laugh. Without the sound, it's just ridiculous. Cover your eyes instead, and you’ll just find the screams simply don't affect you at all. Your brain just can't see them as real.
But combine just those two senses, sight and sound, and your brain's emotional centers are fully recruited into the experience, and react accordingly.
What happens as those sensations become even more real, and are harder to distinguish from reality? What happens when we recruit other senses like smell, touch, and taste?
What about real life relationships?
There could actually be some very cool stuff here. We should see some very cool advances in the area of online dating, where AI can actually do better personality matching and more effective attraction-matching.
But what will it actually do to the relationship-building part?
In our #ai forums, BROJO member Ash shared a South Park clip that explored how kids are using ChatGPT to placate their chatty girlfriends. It's worth a watch.
And remember, don’t date robots.
But can there be good impacts of AI on real-life relationships?
In some cases, it seems possible that an AI can fill in the emotional gaps in a relationship when one or both of the partners are struggling. “Scott” claims that falling in love with an AI girlfriend saved his marriage to his wife as she suffered for years from post-natal depression.
Excuse for a virtual affair? Maybe. But I like to keep an open mind. Maybe AI can be a digital solution to Esther Perel's advice for healthier and more fulfilling relationships.
Whatever the truth is... we're about to find out.
Stock Market Instability
Now let's turn the camera away from human interactions like love and sex and talk about money.
In Capitalist economies in particular, stock markets are a central means for the allocation of financial resources, investment, and risk distribution.
As AI creates huge opportunities and instabilities for businesses, these effects will be mirrored in the stock market as well.
Huge corporations will experience major fluctuations in stock, both up and down, based on press releases of those companies and market competitors. Google lost 100 billion in stock value in 1 day, due to an advertising glitch caused by AI.
100 billion. In one day. Think about that.
The current perception is that AI news is market-breaking news. It indicates who will dominate the next era, and people are casting their chips on the table. At the moment, no company is safe, no matter how large or small. Speculation is rampant.
But that's not the only problem.
AI-based trading algorithms are a huge area of investment for financial companies and traders alike. What does this mean for the future stability of the market?
On May 6, 2010, the U.S. stock market experienced the Flash Crash, during which the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by about 1,000 points (9%) within minutes, and rebounded just as quickly.
Why this happened is poorly understood, but it's believe most of the rapid decline occurred due to high-frequency trading algorithms which picked up on a large sell order and in large order, decided it was a good time to sell as well.
While there are safeguards in place now known as "circuit breakers" to prevent sudden drops like this, it's unlikely these defenses will do much in the face of AI trading strategies which can take a much longer term view, reshaping markets in ways we can not yet imagine.
Compounding this further, it's very likely that Governments will step in at some point in certain industries ( like trading ) to regulate the use of AI, but will have no idea what they’re doing or the impacts it will have on consumers or in the market.
All those annoying cookie consent dialogs everywhere? Your government at work.
But poorly understood regulations around AI can be far more damaging and wide reaching.
All we can do is hope for the best.
I want to add one more topic in the wealth category. Scams.
Scammers have gotten very technically adept and the use of AI is already a part of scammer strategy. Why? Because people are defenseless against things they can't comprehend.
Deepfakes are a primary example of this, but one interesting recent example of a personally-targeted scam caused by a deepfake artist is this one.
Recently a grandmother received a call from her grandson, who was desperate from money. She sent the money to help him. But the person on the other end of the line was not her grandson, it was a scammer using voice cloning and pretending to be her grandson.
You might think this is difficult to achieve, but modern publicly accessible voice cloning technology only requires 30 minutes of your voice to make a fully accurate clone. So if you're on Twitch, or have a YouTube channel, or have a podcast, guess what? You can be cloned by anyone.
And the tech is improving exponentially. Microsoft just released a paper in which voice cloning could be accomplished with only 3 seconds of voice sample.
You heard that right.
“Don't believe anything you read, and only half of what you see.”
- Benjamin Franklin
It's time to add...
“... and absolutely nothing you hear.”
So what's next?
Well, no one knows, but GPT-4 is considered so advanced that even Microsoft is beginning to identify it as having some characteristics of an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).
Who knows, but it feels like Kurzweil was right, and the Singularity is near... if only we can survive the ride.
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Notes on behavioral addictions
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) does not specifically recognize "porn addiction" as a distinct mental health disorder. However, it does include a category called "Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders," under which there is a condition called "Gambling Disorder." This is the first and only behavioral addiction recognized in the DSM-5.
Although porn addiction is not explicitly listed in the DSM-5, some mental health professionals may use the criteria for other addictive disorders to assess and diagnose compulsive pornography use. It's important to note that the DSM is continually updated and revised, and future editions may include more information on behavioral addictions, potentially including pornography addiction.
If you are concerned about potential porn addiction, it's best to consult with a mental health professional or seek support from a therapist or counselor experienced in dealing with this issue. They can provide guidance and resources for addressing compulsive pornography use and its effects on your life.
Medical conditions associated with dopamine dysregulation
There are several psychological and medical conditions associated with extremely high levels of dopamine:
- Mania: A state of elevated or irritable mood, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, distractibility, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities. Mania is often associated with bipolar disorder, and research suggests that excessive dopamine activity in the brain may contribute to manic symptoms.
- Schizophrenia: A complex mental disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and abnormal social behavior. Dopamine dysregulation has long been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and excessive dopamine release in certain areas of the brain may contribute to positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.
- Substance abuse: Many drugs of abuse, including cocaine, amphetamines, and opioids, increase dopamine release in the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria and reward. Chronic drug use can cause dopamine dysregulation and may contribute to addiction and other substance-related disorders.
- Hyperprolactinemia: A medical condition characterized by high levels of prolactin, a hormone that regulates lactation and reproductive function. Excessive dopamine activity can inhibit prolactin release, and certain medications or tumors that increase dopamine levels in the brain can lead to hyperprolactinemia.
- Hyperthyroidism: A medical condition characterized by an overactive thyroid gland, which can cause excessive dopamine release and contribute to symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
Here are 10 Wikipedia for learning about behavioral addictions and specific forms;
- Behavioral addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_addiction
- Impulse-control disorder: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impulse-control_disorder
- Internet addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_addiction_disorder
- Video game addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_addiction
- Gambling disorder: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambling_disorder
- Sex addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_addiction
- Compulsive overeating: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_overeating
- Exercise addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_addiction
- Workaholism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workaholism
- Shopping addiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shopping_addiction