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The Next – Mental - Extinction?

Mental health globally is already in crisis. AI is already making it dramatically worse. Could it be the final death of us?

We’re All Hal Now!

Now we’re all getting into the bad stuff that comes with AI. That includes ,inter alia, racial bias in AI tools, c.f. Google’s Gemini admission by its CEO, numerous instances of the AIs giving us wrong or even fake results (as with Michael Cohen’s lawyers giving bogus cases to the court) and now the emergence of chatbots where the bad guys get their AIs to hack and defraud unwitting users. And this is just the beginning!

This is all happening in a world which does not recognize the extent and seriousness of mental health problems anyway. AI introduces a huge new entrant in the mental health pantheon. Now we have to consider the impact of AI on mental, emotional and psychiatric factors and behaviors in a situation where AI is already going bad on us. Just think about Hal in “2001: A Space Odyssey” an inflection point we are now rapidly passing.

Now we’re entering a world of exploding mental health problems including suicide, drugs, depression, nihilism, anomie. The world of mental health professionals used to revolve around the DSM 5, the catalog of mental health problems widely regarded as the font of wisdom in the mental health world. But once you’ve got AI, what happens to catalogs in a totally new world of mental and emotional issues? They’ve already gone obsolete. We’re diving into the mental New World, without knowing or understanding anything at all about it.

Crazier Than Thou

Now we have to consider that this new environment will move the goalposts a long, long way backwards. How about new types of psychoses, neuroses and so on? AI will bring with it new paradigms, new behaviors and new ways of reacting to them. I can’t see any alternative to new frameworks emerging for mental health and, hopefully treatments. AI is likely to lead to new kinds of crazy and new types of crazies. We will likely only start to recognize these after they arise. Will it be too late then?

We might be seeing some of these right now. Fronto-temporal dementia, as seen tragically with celebrities like Bruce Willis and Wendy Williams, might be part of this very category. Most professionals can’t easily diagnose these conditions. We’re going to see a lot more.

And it’s not just humans. AIs themselves will almost certainly become affected. Beta testers for Bing’s new AI say that it is having some “strange Issues” including it “threatened, cajoled, insisted it was right when it was wrong, and even declared love for its users”

We as humans have fallen in love with the presumed ability of AIs to invent totally new things. But we have ignored that totally new things also often lead to totally new behaviors. As Elon Musk puts it “Good ideas are always crazy until they're not.” How do you ever tell the difference? And when do you draw the line that separates crazy from sane?

The Great Mental Extinction?

Here’s another worry. AI is in its early days still. It will advance, probably much faster than now. We can dimly see what bad things could occur but its way too early for us to figure it out because we don’t know enough about these AI models.

When do they go strange? What causes it? Is there a framework emerging to predict when AI goes into the uncanny valley? What is the mental structure of an AI? As AI marches further towards becoming true AGI, will the mental side of AI develop at the same speed or much faster?

What would that look like? Could it all blow completely out of control? Is that an extinction event too like the dinosaurs experienced? A mental extinction that finished humanity off before it faces the likely imminent reckonings from climate change, nuclear war and so on?

Right new AI is in a twilight zone. The dark side is actually getting darker. Sufferers firm Alzheimer’s generally get into what is called a sundowning phase towards the end of the day. This is when they lose full awareness and have difficulties in recognizing what is going on around them. They get confused, possibly even uncontrollably. Is humanity entering a sundowning phase right now?

We are reaching a point at which it’s sometimes going to be impossible to differentiate between crazy and sane Is this why the political world is turning sharply in almost every country and why the political debates are becoming incomprehensible to so many people who, hitherto considered themselves sane and just middle-of-the-roaders?

Have a (mentally) nice day.




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