The rate at which Artificial Intelligence (AI) is developing is nothing short of staggering, with the creation of advanced technology transforming many aspects of modern life.

In the last year we’ve seen the launch of chat bots such as Chat GPT exploding onto the scene, leaving many concerned and even incredulous as to the potential power of AI. So much so that a large number of leading tech developers have themselves expressed their own fears that it could be used for malicious purposes and may threaten people’s jobs.

This sense of anxiety is starting to trickle down into the workplace, as employees, particularly within certain industries, are becoming nervous about their own job security. A report published earlier this year by Goldman Sachs revealed that AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, replacing a quarter of work tasks in the US and Europe.  In this age of AI where computers are being programmed to act and respond as if they were human, people are growing increasingly concerned that their own skills and experience will become defunct.

Of course, there are sectors in which the march of computers has already taken over jobs, such as retail and telecommunications, and there’s no denying the financial sense this can make to businesses, when you consider the cost of paying a supermarket cashier versus installing a computer checkout. However, the reality is, there is nothing more frustrating than calling your mobile phone provider only to be greeted by an AI that misinterprets your request and keeps asking you to repeat yourself. At times there is simply no substitute for human interaction and it is vital that as a society we don’t forget that. Not only is it important for people’s mental wellbeing to communicate with other humans, but life is largely about relationships, it’s what gives it meaning, and this is something that AI can interfere with.

AI use within therapy

Within the mental health and wellness sector, there are multiple examples of how technology can support and even enhance services. When speaking to patients, online consultations can work well, providing a safe and convenient method of communication which some people actually prefer, particularly young people who are well-accustomed to speaking via screens.

Of course, there are some instances where face-to-face consultations are by far the most effective, particularly in high-risk cases where seeing people in person may be crucial to developing a full picture – you can miss certain things when communicating via a screen.

However, of greater concern is the idea that AI could replace human beings in the role of therapist or clinician. The concept that a teenager in distress could chat to a mental health bot and feel they are being properly cared for and looked after is unlikely to be realised. Yes, you can share information which can be analysed using certain algorithms, however if you’re looking for reliable and trustworthy support, nothing can replace human beings in terms of emotional intelligence and empathy, certainly not an artificial exchange with AI.

How to mitigate AI anxiety in the workplace

Firstly, it’s worth emphasising that any specific guidance around anxiety would depend on the individual and their specific circumstances in the workplace. However, for those who are concerned about how AI might impact their job security, I would offer the following guidance:

  1. Speak to your colleagues and manager

Have an open and honest conversation with your peers to discuss your concerns and whether they are shared more widely within your team and across the organisation. If there is a real sense of anxiety, it’s important to discuss this with your line manager to understand whether your job is likely to be at risk or not, and if so, what your options are and what you could do to secure your position within the company.

  1. Look at your skillsets

If you are genuinely concerned about the future of your job, it is worth looking closely at your skillsets and any transferable skills you have developed, which could help to identify ways in which you could diversify and expand your role. It’s all about demonstrating value and commitment to your employer.  It might be that someone with strong customer service skills can transition into a marketing and communications role. The truth is that all of our jobs are evolving so it makes sense to consider how to evolve with it.

  1. Explore apps and online resources

There are a number of useful and trustworthy apps and websites that I often recommend to patients, which they can browse in their own time to support their learning about specific conditions or concerns. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of information out there on the internet and unless it comes from a reputable source it can be hard to determine what is reliable information and what isn’t. 

As a good starting point, I often refer clients to the Royal College of Psychiatrists website which has lots of useful information about mental health-related conditions and medication. MindEd is connected to the RCPsych and is a great example of online content containing useful information around mental health for parents, young people and professionals, while the YoungMinds website provides reliable information about medication and other issues related to youth mental health. 

  1. Seek advice from a professional

Finally, anyone with serious concerns about AI and its potential impact can seek advice from a professional. If your anxiety is having a severe impact on your daily life and affecting your work, it is worth talking to an expert in the field who can point you in the direction of the right information and support.

The truth is, the development of AI can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. It needs to be done thoughtfully, cautiously, and within an ethical framework. At present, there is no guidance around what you can and can’t do in the field of AI, so as a society we need to continue the debate and come together to put in place regulations in order to safeguard our security both within the workplace and across our daily lives.

Dr Jon Goldin
Dr Jon Goldin
Consultant Psychiatrist at The Soke
Dr Jon Goldin is a Consultant Psychiatrist at the private mental health and wellness clinic The Soke, where his areas of specialism include: Children & Adolescents; Eating Disorders; Depression; ADHD; Anxiety; Self-harm and School refusal. In addition to his role at The Soke, Jon is an Honorary Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Great Ormond Street Hospital.