In the final day of the masterclass, we delve into what AI technology is and how it can affect us, plus easy tips to make your social media feeds a happier place.
Day 5 Article: How does AI influence our emotions?
Smart gadgets have quickly become our lifelines but they’re also at the heart of influencing how and what we feel. Here’s why.
It’s one of the greatest technological achievements of all time, but smart devices powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology are shaping how we feel for better and worse.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a computer or robot to perform tasks or behave in a way normally associated with human beings. The first conversations about AI happened alongside the invention of computers, in the late 1940s. Its original purpose was to solve problems - mathematical ones to begin with - and to make computers become as intelligent as humans.
Fast-forward to today and our lives are littered with AI tools on a daily basis. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri recognise your voice, comprehend what you’re saying and perform tasks for you. Social media platforms, such as Instagram know the type of posts you have liked, the kind of content you have searched for and by using that data will recommend more of the same. Your weekly online food shop will suggest other items you might like to buy, because it knows what you usually stock up on. All of this is powered by AI technology. And whether you realise it or not, AI is capable of planning, learning, reasoning and problem-solving on your behalf.
When AI works against us
AI’s purpose is to offer us more of the same so we don’t have to even ask for it or seek it out. It is fundamentally trying to be as helpful as possible, however if we’re constantly clicking on depressing news stories or pictures that make us feel bad, they’ll just keeps coming. Meaning that AI technology easily takes on and magnifies our natural human negativity bias. For example, if you click on an Instagram account dedicated to rescue dogs, YouTube then wants to show you videos about rescue dogs, your online shop is desperate to recommend dog food and Google ads want to sell you pet insurance. Just like that, a domino effect is put into motion, powered by AI. “AI also has a reinforcing spiral. If a lot of people watch silly TikToks, silly TikToks get shown to more people because the technology believes that’s what more and more people will want to see. If there is a strong bias in political opinion on Twitter then AI will exaggerate that because it will show more of what it believes it’s learning from us and the less popular opinions automatically get dampened,” explains Mo Gawdat, Rituals’ ambassador.
And there are real life consequences to the fact that AI doesn’t have the capability of understanding nuance like humans. Amazon had to stop relying on AI technology for its recruiting process because through learned patterns from ten years prior, when the majority of IT résumés sent in were from men, the technology taught itself that male résumé’s were better than those from women.
So, what do we do? “We need to start behaving with technology the way we behave around children,” advises Mo. “You don’t swear or show violence in front of children and if you don’t do those things on technology, the technology won’t show those things either. By acting in a moral way with technology, core human values of happiness, compassion and love will become the traits that AI magnifies rather than anything else.”
How to use AI to make you happier
It may sound all doom and gloom, but there is a very positive side to AI. Hitachi is currently utilising it to create an AI powered device to discover not only what makes us as individuals happier, but what individuals can do to make the people around them happier to prompt a global spread of happiness.
And just as AI can magnify the negative, there are easy things we can all do to make it amplify positivity and joy.
“My biggest piece of advice, is don’t click on anything that is suggested to you - Instagram’s ‘recommended’ page or ‘suggested content’ videos on YouTube - because the reality is, the technology only understands snippets of what you like so most of it will only be vaguely related to something you once genuinely enjoyed. Search specifically for something positive and only click on that,” advises Mo. “Your computer will learn what you truly like and you will get to a point where it will only show you things that make you happy,” says Mo. “Mindlessly swiping, typing and liking is wasting your precious time on earth and inadvertently feeds the AI machine.”
Of course you can’t live in the world and shield yourself completely from negativity – (check back to our advice on channeling negative emotions here) however if it starts to affect your mental health there are ways to stop it beyond simply switching your phone off. “If there are certain types of news stories you find particularly triggering, go to your news app and block them so you only see positive stories,” advises Carl Uminski, CEO of digital agency, SOMO. “You can also turn off the tracking between your apps, which will reduce your data being shared so you will get less targeted adverts and suggestions of things you may - but probably won’t - like.”
But if you do fancy wasting some time on your phone (and we’re all guilty of it), then the real power does ultimately lie with you. “Before you press the button really think about whether this is something that’s either going to teach or entertain you - if it’s neither, then why bother? If more of us use technology to enforce the best human values, to show happiness, create positivity and spread joy beyond ourselves, then not only will we our feeds be filled with things that make us happy but we will create a world powered by AI that reflects what humanity really stands for. And that would be amazing,” says Mo.
Day 5 Task: How you can manifest joy in the future
Social media was designed to bring small moments of happiness to our day and make us feel connected to the world. But it can become a breeding ground for self-doubt and negativity, however there are ways to avoid this. “Technology wants to suggest things for you, and it uses what you’ve previously looked at to do this. By searching for content that makes you happy, your technology will show you more of that,” explains Mo Gawdat, Rituals happiness ambassador. Implement these expert tips every time you logon and your device will become a tool for joy.
1. Find a happy hashtag
“Think of three or four things that either make you smile, make you laugh or inspire you and find a hashtag for each of those things so your feed is filled with them,” says psychologist Jess Baker. “That way as soon as you open your app, that is the content you will see and it will fill your feed.”
2. Follow good news
I highly recommend @goodnews_movement - an account that only shares positive news stories. It brings a smile to my face every time I see it. And, I may be biased, but @ritualscosmetics is well worth a follow! On our feed and stories, we share wellbeing tips and tricks to remind you to find a moment of pause in even the busiest of days,” says Merel HIlle, Rituals Social Media & Influencer Manager.
3. Go incognito
“Whatever you search for, write in an email, tag on Instagram or Snapchat creates ‘cookies’ that track where you go online and what you’re interested in. If you WhatsApp a friend about shoes, you will start seeing shoe adverts because your cookies are reminding you what you’re interested in,” explains Carl Uminski, CEO of digital agency, SOMO. “To avoid this, use the ‘incognito mode’ on your device. It’s easy to switch on and will stop you getting tracked.”
4. The power of unfollow
“Regularly clean-up who you follow on your social feeds,” suggests Carl. “Think about who you are following and why. Make sure you have a good percentage of people you know in real life or engage with in other ways, not just on social media - maybe it’s your favourite actor or singer. Also ask your friends who they follow that makes them laugh and feel good. But ultimately if someone’s feed isn’t bringing you positivity, it’s as simple as pressing that unfollow button.”
5. Silence the critics
“We naturally seek approval. But the number of likes or comments you get on a social post is not a true measure of how valuable you are,” explains Baker. The solution? “Turn off the comments and likes on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - it’s super easy to do, just head to your settings and follow the instructions - and focus on posting things that are important to you and make you happy, not what you think other people will like,” says Baker. “You can even set yourself an experiment by switching comments and likes off for a week and monitor how you feel over this time and see how your positivity levels are affected. If you feel noticeably better, then keep those comments switched off for good.”
Congratulations on finishing our 5-day Joy to the World Masterclass! We hope you’re already feeling more joyful and have discovered some simple ways to spread happiness to others. For more inspirational tips for your personal wellbeing, click here.