I have been thinking about connections again. As I watch the world crumble and change around me, it becomes even more apparent that we’re on the verge of losing more than just our sanity and semblance of peace – we are on the verge of losing ourselves. I’m talking about Artificial Intelligence and how its presence and uncertain motives seem like yet another threat to that which makes us human. An entity so powerful that people are worried it will replace not only artists, accountants, teachers, administrators, therapists, and even doctors – but also genuine friendships, genuine connections. I wonder what this means for people like me and others like me – those who grew up already feeling displaced and disconnected – who sometimes struggle trying to fit in and if the presence of artificial friends will only deepen those chasms. What scares me about AI the most is the ease of access and use. The same thing that it is being praised for and used for – to stave off loneliness, to offer support – is the thing that I would see as troubling when it comes to genuine connection. This is because human connections are imperfect and none of us are born knowing how to anticipate each other’s needs the way AI knows how to do just by spending a few minutes with us (I’m talking about applications such as Replica that some people, troublingly, do use in lieu of therapy). To me, it is the very imperfections inherent in us that bring in authenticity and facilitate healing.
In my profession I’ve had many satisfied clients and lots of successes of people overcoming their addiction and learning how to deal with things like trauma. But the way we became successful was not without some trial and error. Even as a long-time professional I wasn’t always sure if I was correct in how I dealt with a given situation – for those reasons, I’ve always relied on others for guidance. I’ve never considered myself a know-it-all. Even if I thought I knew the situation better than the proverbial back of my own hand because I educated and trained for it or it was perhaps similar to something I personally have dealt with or because I knew how others succeeded in similar circumstances. When challenges happen, I do see them as opportunities – to learn not just about my profession or area of expertise but about myself. Unlike an AI, I possess the sort of judgment that cannot be replicated because I was not created in the lab even if my behavior and thinking might follow certain patterns.
What I’m getting at is that I see AI as a certain reflection of how we’re becoming overconvenienced these days – even when it comes to our own healing. We don’t want to put in the time and the work, and we want things to be easy. This is normal, and it is only human. But there’s an addictive element to it, to have an app ready to serve you just because you’re in a bad mood or not sure how to deal with something emotional – you click on it and ask questions and it tells you what to do. What have you learned? Not much in the long run. Like any short-term solution – a pill, a drug, a dopamine kick – these apps become yet another crutch we end up relying on because they seem convenient and deceptively helpful. But I can tell you that the place of real healing comes from learning how to navigate all those bumps in the road by yourself and it often takes a long time to get to where you’re going.
A few years ago, there was a new movement in the dining industry called Slow Food designed to “prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us,” according to one definition. I myself have been a firm believer in something similar, but that applies to your psyche. An attention given to your mental health that counteracts the deceptively easy solutions and fixes and that focuses on you as a whole where you treat your mental health with respect and take into consideration all aspects of your life as you recover. And I’m not dismissing AI entirely – if it’s something that proves beneficial then by all means use it, just don’t replace the real help and connection with it.