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Accepted Contribution:

Staying human in a world of chatbots the risks generative AI poses to social development and relationships, and starting points for shaping the public debate  
Quirine van Eeden (Rathenau Instituut) Bo Hijstek (Rathenau Instituut)

Short abstract:

Generative AI can fulfil various roles when being deployed. Its ability to accurately simulate social behaviour could harm social development. This warrants a more prominent place in the public debate for questions such as social deskilling and dehumanization.

Long abstract:

Generative AI (GAI) can perform different tasks. We distinguish four roles. Firstly, as a learning tool, GAI can teach students about topics. Secondly, GAI can function as a production tool, generating text, images, audio and video. Thirdly, it can be a problem solver, generating advice based on fast calculations. Fourthly, GAI can provide an experience, to individuals that find it comforting or fascinating to communicate with a chatbot. In the latter lies the focus of this paper, as its impact is underexposed in the public debate.

The emergence of GAI may amplify the human tendency towards anthropomorphism, the attribution of human traits to non-human entities. Users are having intimate interactions with chatbots now capable of accurately imitating social behaviour, not just through text but also with unprecedented lifelike voices and imagery.

Although GAI can offer positive experiences, researchers have raised concerns about its social impact. The digitization of intimate social interactions could lead to diminished human contact, dehumanization and “social deskilling”. Here, GAI can be compared to smartphones, which have become ubiquitous and indispensable, and have caused people to isolate themselves from strangers and acquaintances alike, both in the public sphere and at home.

Addressing such ethical issues is complicated, though not inconceivable. Apart from regulation, governments, industries and societal organisations face the task of promoting technological citizenship. They must discuss whether and under which conditions GAI can be deployed. Therefore, the public debate on the impact of GAI on social development and human relationships needs to be stimulated.

Combined Format Open Panel P272
Making and doing relationships with AI, cyborgs, robots
  Session 2 Friday 19 July, 2024, -