These days we can have a reasoned conversation with a humanoid robot, get fooled by a deep fake celebrity, and have our heart broken by a romantic chatbot.

While artificial intelligence (AI) promises to make life easier, developments like these can also mess with our minds, says Joel Pearson, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of New South Wales.

We fear killer robots and out-of-control self-driving cars, but for Professor Pearson the psychological effects of AI are more significant, even if they’re harder to picture in our mind’s eye.


The technology’s impact on everything from education to work and relationships is massively uncertain – something humans are not generally comfortable with, Professor Pearson tells RN’s All in the Mind.

“Our brains have evolved to fear uncertainty.”

What will be left for humans to do as AI improves? Will we feel like we have no purpose and meaning — and will we suffer the inevitable depression that comes with that?

There’s already cause for concern about the impact of AI on our mental wellbeing, Professor Pearson says.

“AI is already affecting us and changing our mental health in ways that are really bad for us.”

Humanoids and chatbots

One of the pitfalls of AI is our tendency to project human characteristics onto the non-human agents we interact with, Professor Pearson says.

So when ChatGPT communicates like a human we say it’s “intelligent” – especially when its words are articulated by a natural-sounding voice from a robot in the shape of a human.

Shift this dynamic to AI companions on your phone and we see just how vulnerable humans can be.

You might have heard about a chatbot called Replika, which was marketed as “always on your side” … and “always ready to chat when you need an empathetic friend”.

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