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AI Addiction: Nothing Artificial About a New Dependency

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By Genevieve Cunningham

AI Addiction

The idea of artificial intelligence has been around for a long time. In fact, the first depiction of AI in movies dates all the way back to 1927 in a German classic called “Metropolis.” And in literature, it’s even older than that. Samuel Butler’s “Erewhon,” written in 1872 mentions robots with human-like intelligence. Over the years, we’ve seen the idea develop and evolve in various forms of entertainment.

There was once a time when AI technology seemed like it would stay locked in sci-fi movies and literature. But not anymore. It’s here, and for many it’s even better than expected. And while it’s certainly fun to dip your fingers into the AI pool, it turns out the pool may be addictive. Are we safe? Is AI addiction real and here to stay? Welcome to the newest and most confusing addiction to date.

The Prevalence of Artificial Intelligence

Although there are still plenty of people who aren’t using AI on purpose, there are very few that haven’t been exposed to its use in the world -- even if unknowingly. It’s used for facial recognition, image recognition, and speech recognition. It’s used daily in social media. And the opportunities to dive in for yourself and give it a try are growing every day. Just a few of the AI systems that are beginning to boom include:

  • ChatGPT - Even if you don’t know of any other AI service, you know of this one. Anything you want to know, type it in and get a detailed response.
  • Text to video - In our world of social media, this is a hidden gem. If you want to make a video for YouTube, TikTok, or something else, all you have to do is input text. AI will make the video for you.
  • Craiyon - Love art? Tell this AI service what you want to draw, and it will do it for you.
  • MagicSchool - If you’re a teacher, lesson planning just got easier than ever. Type in the objective, and your lesson plans and activities are done for you. Think of it as the perfect virtual assistant for teachers.
  • Podcastle - An AI tool that can help you with podcast production, making it sound professionally done.
  • Deep Nostalgia - This app lets you turn old pictures into motion. You can bring your ancestors to life on screen.

Chances are good that you’ve only heard of one, maybe two, of these options. And yet this list only scratches the surface. AI is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Unfortunately, addiction is sliding in right behind it.

What is AI Addiction?

AI addiction, or artificial intelligence addiction, is excessive and compulsive use of AI and other technology devices. Most definitions of AI addiction also include general addiction to technology, but the recent influx of AI in daily life makes matters much worse. The chief technology officer of the AI-based company OpenAI has warned that AI may become both addictive and dangerous to the general population. And although anyone can be affected, it’s thought that males are more vulnerable to the condition.

What are the Dangers of AI Addiction?

Like any other addiction, AI addiction comes with certain dangers. These dangers can affect multiple aspects of life, be it personal health, mental well-being, societal impacts, and more.

  • Decline in physical health - AI is screen-dependent. If you’re addicted, it may produce some of the same side effects of screen addiction. These might include eye strain, headaches, insomnia, and weight gain.
  • Loss of creativity - Experts suggest that prolonged AI use may diminish our creativity and critical thinking skills. Why? Because with AI, we no longer have to use them.
  • Loss of time - Anything addictive robs us of our time. Those addicted to AI are more likely to spend long hours in front of the computer, leading to a loss in productivity.
  • Social issues - AI is really smart. For those who are addicted, it can actually take the place of human connection. And because it takes so much of our time, it can lead to a loss of in-person friendships. Not surprisingly, this can lead to major social issues.
  • Decline in mental health - When we’re isolated, sedentary, and suffering from addiction, our mental health is absolutely going to decline.

Is There a Connection Between AI and Other Forms of Addiction?

For many, the thought of AI addiction seems almost impossible. We can’t really be addicted to it, can we? Unfortunately, we can, and the addiction to AI has many similarities to other more common forms of addiction.

  • Risk factors - Those who are susceptible to AI addiction carry some of the same traits of those more susceptible to other addictions: male, those with mental health struggles, and those exposed at a younger age.
  • Dopamine - Whether it’s addiction to substance or addiction to AI, both disrupt dopamine production. Over time, we need the addiction to create the dopamine hit to function in society.
  • Compulsive behavior - Addicts of all kinds struggle with impulse control, AI addicts included.

Although there are many similarities between AI and other addictions, there are differences as well. AI addiction is highly accessible. If you have internet access, you can use AI. The barrier to entry is very low. AI addiction also has, at least for now, less stigma. It has only been available to the masses for one full year (and counting), and so it’s still new and trendy. The less stigma, the easier it is to get sucked in. It also has less treatment options. Although we have many treatment options for substance abuse, AI addiction hasn’t been established long enough to have addiction treatment options.

The bottom line is that addiction is addiction. Some are more physically dangerous, and others are more mentally and emotionally dangerous. But they’re all dangerous when taken to the extreme. And perhaps one of the toughest aspects of AI addiction is that AI is absolutely amazing. If you give it a try, you’ll likely leave the experience in awe. It’s the mental and social version of the strongest drugs. If you already know that addiction is a problem in your life, approaching AI with extreme caution is highly suggested.

How Common is AI Addiction and Is It Growing Globally?

Because AI technology is so new, there aren’t good figures for the number of people addicted to it. When it comes to the internet, more than 6 percent of the global population is addicted. An estimated 15 percent are addicted to technology in a more general sense. If we’re noticing a trend of AI addiction after only a year of use, can you imagine the trend after 10 or 20 years?

AI can be beneficial, no doubt, but we have to learn how to use it instead of allowing it to use us. If trends are to be believed, this learning curve may be bigger than predicted. The potential for greatness is there, but so is the potential for addiction. Can we learn to balance it? Can we merge machine learning and human learning for one of the most powerful tools we’ve ever experienced?

AI isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay. But maybe we should pay attention. Although we may not be at risk of robots taking over the world and making us all slaves -- such as the Will Smith movie I, Robot -- we are at risk of becoming slaves to addiction. If we put in the time and effort to learn how to use AI to our advantage, maybe we can have our cake and eat it too. And maybe AI will even give us the perfect recipe to do it.

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