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With an international epidemic of loneliness, artificial Intelligence, or AI, may offer technology-based social interaction and companionship. That’s according to robotics expert Tony Prescott, a professor of cognitive robotics at the University of Sheffield. Prescott explains his hypothesis  in his new book The Psychology of Artificial Intelligence.

According to the 134-page book description, Prescott explores multiple aspects of the psychology-AI relationship, asking how closely AI can resemble humans and whether this means AI could offer lonely people some form of self-awareness. The book also explores some of the ethical, mental health and societal risks of AI as a companion, such as bias in AI algorithms, and the consequences for the long-term future if AI does surpass humans in important ways.

Prescott explains: “In an age when many people describe their lives as lonely, there may be value in having AI companionship as a form of reciprocal social interaction that is stimulating and personalized. Human loneliness is often characterized by a downward spiral in which isolation leads to lower self-esteem which discourages further interaction with people. 

“There may be ways in which AI companionship could help break this cycle by scaffolding feelings of self-worth and helping maintain or improve social skills. If so, relationships with AIs could support people to find companionship with both human and artificial others.”

Diving deeper into the book’s contents, Prescott investigates such pressing questions:

  • Are computers really like brains?
  • Will AI surpass humans?
  • Can AI be creative?
  • Would giving AI a robotic body enable it to create new types of intelligence?
  • Could humans piggyback on AI to extend their own intelligence?

Prescott concludes, “As psychology and AI proceed, this partnership should unlock further insights into both natural and artificial intelligence. This could help answer some key questions about what it means to be human and for humans to live alongside AI.”

This story originally appeared in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.