Men must reclaim personal connection from AI

  • June 13, 2024

The phenomenon of male loneliness has risen strikingly in recent years, the problem so glaring that some Canadian and U.S. social scientists classify it as an epidemic.

Consider the findings of Statistics Canada’s men’s mental health survey from July 2023: 38 per cent of male respondents stated that they only “sometimes, rarely or never have someone to count on.” Budweiser Canada’s friendship survey of 1,000 Canadian men in 2023 revealed that 50 per cent get together with friends just once a month or even less often

Regarding the United States, the 2023 Survey on American Life uncovered that “one in five American men who are unmarried and not in a romantic relationship report not having any close friends. The data also indicates that the percentage of males with at least six close friends halved from 55 per cent in 1990 to 27 per cent in 2023.

Undoubtedly, the rise of social media platforms has revolutionized our social interactions. However, the real question is how the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence will further reshape the landscape of human connections.

Dr. Ed Tse, a Calgary Catholic who founded AI Parenting Live, spoke about combatting male loneliness during a recent webinar hosted by Heroic Men, a Catholic men's brotherhood-building media platform based in the United States.

In his preamble, Tse said it is essential to be mindful that everything you see on the Internet “exists to manipulate you, change your opinion and make you believe in something else” and that it is “profitable to throw you into an echo chamber and only to amplify the posts that are the most angry and sensationalized” as it prolongs screen time.

Safeguarding against behavioral-changing algorithmic manipulation requires men and women to deeply understand and adhere to their “unshakeable faith and truth,” said Tse.

The entrepreneur remarked that in his presentations to students, he engages them by discussing some famous AI movies such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey. In these films, whether it be the antagonistic T-1000, bioengineered replicants or the HAL 9000 supercomputer, all these artificial entities determine that they are more advanced than their human creators. Thus, they must be conquered with extreme prejudice.

Tse said the “fatal mistake” made by the human scientists and inventors in those feature films is imbuing the AI with the ability to make moral decisions.

“In the Bible, Adam and Eve ate from the tree that could tell the difference between good and evil,” said Tse. “We humans have the ability to tell what is good and evil. The AI did not eat from that tree — and it never will. It is not even trained to do that right now. It is trained to figure out how to keep your eyeballs online for as long as possible. Forget good and evil. It does not ask, ‘Is this a true post or not?’ ”

Individuals mindful that humans possess more innate wisdom about morality than AI can make empowered and affirming decisions for their “digital soul,” said Tse. A person can dictate to these systems what content they want to see and what emotionally triggering subject matter to render invisible.

“Whose job is it to determine what is right and wrong?” asked Tse. “It is your job. If you see a lot of negative stuff, you had better start not spending so many milliseconds watching and dwelling on those posts. You have to take control and tell the AI you only want to see good things.”

Tse said one of the benefits that can often accompany a cathartic digital shift into positivity is a renewed desire to pursue social experiences and friendships outside of the Internet ecosystem. He spoke of the importance of person-to-person connections as a man and a Catholic.

“It is so important to connect with people face to face,” said Tse. “Get out of your comfort zone. Start conversations. Don’t leave it all online.

“Think about all the action words in the Bible. God does not call you to perform miracles or split the sea. He says, ‘Go,’ ‘speak,’ ‘testify’ and ‘listen.’ This is your basic commandment.”

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