Artificial Intelligence (AI) has doubtless been a dominating thought in our minds in recent years. Today, many of us depend on AI for everything from digital information assistance to planning itineraries to streamlining research.
With such multifaceted uses, it’s no wonder we have begun to rely so heavily on AI. Compounding this reliance is the accessibility of AI through our smartphones and mobile apps.
So, with many of us already fighting with our phones for our time and focus, is AI tipping us into losing this battle?
Why Are So Addicted To Our Phones?
Phones have gone from being a convenience to an indispensable tool that many of us, whether we like to admit it or not, couldn’t do without.
The primary culprit is the dopamine effect. Our phones are packed with entertainment – games, streaming services, shopping apps – that offer endless amusement. The more dopamine we receive, the more we want to keep reaching back for our phones.
Before we know it, we fall into the natural human tendency of forming habits, finding ourselves instinctively reaching for our phones before we know what we’re doing.
While notifications also play a role by prompting us to pick up our phones, a study reported by the BBC found that 89% of mobile phone interactions are spontaneous. Similar to a smoker reflexively lighting a cigarette, our bodies automatically crave the repetition that keeps us hooked.
Phones also cater to our craving for social connection and the fear of being left out (or FOMO, as it’s more commonly known). Through calling, texting, FaceTiming, and social media, many of us now rely on these devices to nurture our relationships.
With the combination of information overload and the endless scroll always beckoning us into the void, it’s no wonder we keep reaching into our pockets to pull up our Instagram or Facebook page.
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How Is AI Addictive?
Now, let’s delve into another layer of phone addiction causes: AI.
Put simply, as AI advances, its offerings expand, and thus our reliance on it deepens.
Decades of mobile usage have conditioned us to depend on technology for various needs. Now, with AI transitioning from behind-the-scenes computer technology to the forefront of corporate operations and our daily lives, it’s evolving into a new addiction.
AI provides personalised recommendations and notifications, creating a highly addictive experience tailored to our individual interests. Through continuous analysis, AI learns from our past interactions, predicting and encouraging further engagement.
AI-driven friendship apps also satisfy our social needs online, offering an alternative to in-person interactions. Instead of meeting people face-to-face, users engage with AI for socialisation.
Moreover, AI provides an efficient means of accessing information. Instead of having to trawl through the vast online realm to find what we’re looking for, users can simply query AI and receive instant results.
How Does AI Affect Our Phone Dependency
Of course, AI isn’t directly responsible for making us addicted to our mobile phones. As established, this dependence far predates the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the subsequent surge in AI dependency. Nevertheless, it does play a role in facilitating some features and apps that contribute to smartphone addiction.
Social Media Algorithms
Social media platforms already employ various strategies to keep users hooked, from notifications to inserting auto-play video content to crafting a bottomless pit of content to scroll through. But AI adds yet another layer to this by further personalising the user experience.
AI can tailor social media algorithms so that the content we see becomes moulded to our individual preferences, thereby encouraging interest and further engagement.
Gone are the days of endless scrolling through the web to find the answer you’re looking for. Instead, with the help of AI, simply whip out your phone, type your question into an AI app and, bang.
Before we know it, these quick, streamlined responses deepen our reliance on these devices.
Deepfakes and Content Creation
AI’s ability to create fake content has constantly hit the news, raising serious ethical concerns. Whether you find entertainment from deepfake creation or unwittingly fall prey to this misinformation, users may find themselves sucked into this AI-manipulated content.
As AI chatbots become more sophisticated, they are increasingly able to replicate human behaviour and conversation. This may lead individuals to rely on them for social engagement, potentially isolating themselves from real-life connections under the illusion that AI can provide endless conversation and empathetic support effortlessly.
Think of the presence of AI on your phone as having a little virtual assistance in your pocket at all times.
Accessible AI assistants like Siri and Alexa can provide immediate assistance through text or voice commands, fostering dependency on our phones for these conveniences.
Lastly, as we’ve touched upon, human nature plays right into the hands of AI and phone dependency.
We unconsciously become addicted to the quick, accessible solutions AI offers, and seek out the dopamine hits it supplies through social connections, information, and other AI-driven experiences.
This dependence can foster anxiety when separated from the technology, compelling us to seek out more of the dopamine rush that AI provides.