Ask the experts: How can I manage AI anxiety?

Do you feel worried, anxious or uncertain about the rise of artificial intelligence? The truth is, many of us are likely to feel a little uneasy about the rapid advancements in technology. Perhaps you’re concerned about your career or simply wondering what the future of creativity will look like. We know that AI will never fully replace humans but, with technology changing all the time, the unknown can naturally leave us feeling on-edge.

person sat on sofa working on laptop

So, can we learn to work with AI, and how might we manage anxieties around artificial intelligence? Here, personal and professional coach and business improvement consultant, Lir Cowman, answers your questions.

Is it normal to feel anxious about artificial intelligence?

Yes. Even the experts at the forefront of AI are a bit anxious, as we’re all still unclear about what lies ahead. This isn’t a small, predictable change like ‘better broadband speed’ – it’s a paradigm shift, so it’s harder to guess what the impact will be.

What makes it feel more stressful is that it feels close to all of us – everyone’s online and can interact with AI. It’s easier to understand its impact than, say, large hadron colliders or stem cell research. And because it touches all of us, the media uses it for clickbait – so it feels like it’s always in the news, often with extremist headlines.

However, the more extreme predictions – of nirvana and apocalypse alike – are the least likely. Most people, including the experts, are guessing it’ll have a lot of positive impact on humanity – but we’ll need to keep working hard to minimise the negative impacts.

How can we learn to work with AI?

The opportunities with AI are constantly changing. AI (in one form or another) has been part of our online lives for a long time – from the notorious ‘Clippy’ in 90s Microsoft Word, to the ad systems that try to guess what you want to see on websites.

For most, there will be some day-to-day impact which you might have noticed. It should get easier to find the information you want online, rather than having to read through pages of search results. 

Office workers might have found that Microsoft’s Copilot is getting good at analysing spreadsheet data and creating useful meeting notes, for example. Those in front of technology have been harnessing AI for many months to accelerate their work.

People work with AI in different ways. Stay open and treat it playfully. Experiment to see what benefits you can get from it. It’s not a hostile force, it’s a new tool.

Can coaching help me overcome AI fears?

Absolutely! Coaches work with fears of all sorts – from social anxiety to phobias – and we have a range of techniques to use. A coach would likely look at what’s underlying your AI fear and, through a questioning process, help you adjust your fear to a manageable level. Being constantly anxious about a threat that you can’t do anything about is not a good way to spend your one, wonderful life.

Interestingly, AI coaches – ‘coachbots’ – are becoming increasingly popular. I see these as a potential supplement to human coaching. They are by no means a replacement – a conversation with a human is fundamentally different to typing information to a chatbot, and AI won’t have the human insight that enables a coach to ask the questions that you need – they’re much more predictable and mundane. However, they are likely to be useful for cheap, practical, always-on coaching to help you whenever needed. 

Lir’s top tips for managing AI anxiety

  • Mindfulness is the top recommendation for anxiety – it helps you step away from being consumed by negative thoughts. Journaling, meditation and other techniques help you remember, “Don’t believe everything you think!”
  • Learning about AI is key to overcoming AI anxiety. If your knowledge is based on extreme headlines and it feels like a vast, horrible unknown, improve your understanding. If you’re worried your job is likely to be affected by AI, take action – work out how this might happen and how you can upskill. Feeling that you’re doing something about it helps.
  • Talk with people whose opinions you trust. Articulating fears helps reduce them, and hopefully, they’ll ask questions that help you shift perspective. And obviously, coaching will help a lot.
  • Fact check. Focus on reputable, research-based insights.
  • Shift perspective. Most of us get served information based on what we’ve previously clicked on – so once you start looking at negative AI news, you’ll keep seeing it. Start looking for the positive aspects of AI – there are lots of advances in science emerging thanks to it.

This article was originally published in Happiful Magazine (Issue 86, 2024). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app.

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Written by Emily Whitton
Emily is a Content Creator & Marketing Coordinator at Happiful and a writer for Life Coach Directory.
Written by Emily Whitton
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