THREE WAYS CHAT­BOTS MAY BE AF­FECT­ING YOUR MEN­TAL HEALTH

May Be Af­fect­ing Your Be­ware! Theyʼre not hu­man.

Woman's Era - - Contents - Me­hak Sid­diqui

F rom vir­tual as­sis­tants such as Siri and Alexa to mes­sen­ger bots that help you com­mu­ni­cate with brands on­line, chat­bots are chang­ing the way we in­ter­act with com­put­ers to­day. In 2016, global tech lead­ers in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft CEO Satya Nadella and Face­book’s head of Mes­sag­ing Prod­ucts David Mar­cus said that chat­bots are the new apps. That is, just as apps were once the hot new thing that could solve all kinds of prob­lems for busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als, we’re now in the age of chat­bots.

A chat­bot is de­fined as a com­puter pro­gramme that you in­ter­act with through “chat”. The pro­gramme mim­ics con­ver­sa­tion with users to achieve a va­ri­ety of pur­poses, from help­ing to re­solve cus­tomer ser­vice is­sues to or­der­ing food, book­ing tick­ets, and even pro­vid­ing men­tal health coun­selling. As one can imag­ine, such func­tion­al­ity means that chat­bots make life eas­ier in myr­iad ways. In fact, re­search on the psy­chol­ogy of chat­bots sug­gests that users may be more open and likely to share in­for­ma­tion when in­ter­act­ing with a non­judg­men­tal ma­chine in­ter­face. For com­pa­nies, this means it is time to pri­ori­tise con­nect­ing with con­sumers through bots that can po­ten­tially pro­vide greater con­ve­nience than apps and web searches be­cause of their ca­pac­ity to bet­ter un­der­stand and re­spond to nat­u­ral speech pat­terns. Chat­bots pro­vide a per­sonal touch in an oth­er­wise im­per­sonal user in­ter­face but per­haps therein lie their lim­i­ta­tions too. Hu­man lan­guage is com­plex and there we haven’t reached the point of truly sim­u­lat­ing hu­man in­ter­ac­tions.

Con­sid­er­ing this, the ad­vent of chat­bots can po­ten­tially have deep psy­cho­log­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions on users. Here’s a look at some of the ways in­ter­act­ing with chat­bots can po­ten­tially af­fect the psy­cho­log­i­cal health of hu­man be­ings: Over-de­pen­dence

“Use it or lose it” im­plores a pop­u­lar adage about the brain. And with the in­creas­ing preva­lence of vir­tual as­sis­tants who can help us with al­most ev­ery­thing, it’s cru­cial to eval­u­ate how we are us­ing our mind-power. Chat­bots are al­ways avail­able and will hear us out pa­tiently and with­out judge­ment. How then can we re­sist de­pend­ing on them for al­most ev­ery­thing? This is po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous as it may cause a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in our prob­lem-solv­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing and de­ci­sion-mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the long run. More­over, we may develop un­healthy at­tach­ments to ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that can have pro­foundly dam­ag­ing ef­fects on our over­all life­style and per­son­al­ity. The 2014 sci­ence fic­tion film, ‘Her’ is a good ex­am­ple of this pos­si­bil­ity. De­creased em­pa­thy

Em­pa­thy is an all-im­por­tant hu­man trait of be­ing able to put our­selves in some­one else’s place in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand and re­late to them. In an in­creas­ingly glob­alised world, em­pa­thy is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore, par­tic­u­larly for lead­ers across all fields. Ex­ten­sive and pro­longed in­ter­ac­tion with chat­bots can po­ten­tially di­min­ish our ca­pac­ity to feel em­pa­thy, while in­creas­ing nar­cis­sis­tic and self-cen­tred ten­den­cies.

Ac­cord­ing to aca­demi­cian and re­searcher, Sherry Turkle, we’re de­sign­ing tech­nolo­gies that will give us the il­lu­sion of com­pan­ion­ship with­out the de­mands of friend­ship. That is, chat­bots make us used to get­ting our needs ful­filled with­out giv­ing any­thing in re­turn which can make us in­creas­ingly self-cen­tred. The con­ver­sa­tional al­ways-avail­able mode of chat­bots can cre­ate a sense of con­nec­tiv­ity and per­son­al­i­sa­tion but at the end of the day, they are still just ma­chines and not hu­man.

In­te­grat­ing them into our daily lives may mean that we grad­u­ally for­get how to in­ter­act with other hu­man be­ings and man­age the dy­nam­ics of real re­la­tion­ships. Over time, this can make us in­creas­ingly nar­cis­sis­tic and even an­ti­so­cial, which is in­deed a wor­ry­ing prospect. Over sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of real is­sues As men­tioned above, chat­bots can­not fully un­der­stand or re­spond to the nu­ances of hu­man lan­guage or emo­tion. There are high chances of them mis­un­der­stand­ing or over­sim­pli­fy­ing more se­ri­ous is­sues that users may be fac­ing.

For in­stance, the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar coun­selling bots that can serve as com­pan­ions to peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­ness may not pick up un­der­ly­ing emo­tions which may lead to ag­gra­va­tion.

Fur­ther, in the world of busi­ness, no amount of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances can teach young lead­ers the most im­por­tant and time­less skills of all – es­tab­lish­ing hon­est and sin­cere re­la­tion­ships that can be sus­tained over time.

Young peo­ple who grow too ac­cus­tomed to re­ly­ing on chat­bots may grow into moody and dys­func­tional adults who are un­able to re­solve is­sues with real hu­man be­ings.

De­spite such less-than-de­sir­able pos­si­bil­i­ties, chat­bots are here to stay and trans­form­ing the world as we know it.

As tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to progress at a rapid pace, we may well find ef­fec­tive ways of deal­ing with the lim­i­ta­tions and lever­age chat­bots to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture.

EX­TEN­SIVE AND PRO­LONGED IN­TER­AC­TION WITH CHAT­BOTS CAN PO­TEN­TIALLY DI­MIN­ISH OUR CA­PAC­ITY TO FEEL EM­PA­THY, WHILE IN­CREAS­ING NAR­CIS­SIS­TIC AND SELF-CEN­TRED TEN­DEN­CIES.

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