May 17, 2022
Tech anxiety? You’re not alone and what you can do about it

Dr. Alan Watkins
7 minutes

If World Information Society Day adds to your anxiety that you’re falling behind others when it comes to tech adoption, you’re not alone. Doom-laden headlines in the media don’t help either. Some predictions estimate that 20-50 percent of all jobs will disappear because of developments in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next 10-30 years. No wonder some of us are we concerned.

The headlines might be inducing anxiety, but I am optimistic, and here’s why…

It’s not happening as fast as you may think

While the future predictions of what an AI-world will look like are probably realistic, the timeline for change has been exaggerated. Ray Kurzweil, for example, predicted that we will hit singularity (the moment when the computing power of an average laptop will exceed the computing power of the entire human race) by 2035. In fact, AI experts now estimate that moment to come in around 2070. We’re not doubting that change will come, but it’s not happening as fast as you may think.

Computers aren’t going to have consciousness anytime soon

It’s important to distinguish between specific AI and general AI. Specific AI is algorithmically driven and accelerating very fast. It’s the kind of technology that enables machines to drive cars, to diagnose better than physicians, to organise the logistics of an entire trucking company across a country, win a game chess, etc. General AI, on the other hand, is the ability of AI to mimic human thinking in a much more fluid way rather than just following algorithms and offering superfast search functionality. General AI is proceeding much more slowly. Admittedly, once we can code human consciousness into a machine, we will see a second explosion in the AI evolution, but that’s a considerable way off.

AI can work with us, not against us

With AI, we have the opportunity to create a symbiotic relationship that accelerates human evolution. We are already using our mobile phones as extensions of ourselves. Gone are the days that we need to remember anyone’s phone number. The memory on our mobile phone takes care of that and many more bits of information such as addresses, where we were last week and even what we had for dinner. But as AI progresses it will increasingly become a learning and development aide. Not just because we access information that helps us ‘knowledge up’, but because smart apps can guide us to become a more able human being. The first and easiest way to achieve this is of course through fitness type apps that track our steps, our exercise regimes and, on our request, prompt us to do more. But this will be increasingly augmented by apps that do the same for our mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as our moral and social development. Such apps can drive us forward, help us evolve as a species and become much more sophisticated human beings.

However, and here’s my only word of warning, this positive prediction can only be realised if the people developing AI applications have ego maturity and sophistication themselves.

Reducing tech anxiety with the power of the mind

How AI and other technologies develop and how well they help us develop ourselves really depends on the quality of our own thinking. Our thinking about ourselves, each other and technology. I am inspired by the quality of the human mind in general and some human minds in particular. We can, if we code our future apps well enough, accelerate our own ego maturity, emotional regulation and social capability. This increased sophistication will not only help us manage the fears presented by the doom-laden predictions, it will also help us build the critical thinking capabilities and emotional intelligence required to ensure technology is a force for good in the world.

As a first step, individuals can start to understand their current stages of development and what may lie ahead on their personal journey. For more details on this, see 4D Leadership where I explain how relationships can evolve for the better and what the more advanced stages of human development are. AI can take such maps of human development and help us make faster progress in our relentless pursuit to become who we are all truly capable of becoming.

Author //

A physician and neuroscientist, Dr. Alan Watkins is recognised as an international expert on leadership and human performance.
Over the years he has coached thousands of individuals to greater levels of performance, transformed organisational cultures and helped leaders discover new ways to succeed. Alan has become a confidant to many of the world’s top leaders over the past 22 years.
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