Addicted to AI Self-Driving Cars


By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider

The United Nations has now declared officially that video gaming can be an addiction. Indeed, video gaming addiction will now be listed in the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s been a long time coming, some say, and they are relieved that formal recognition of the addiction is now openly been declared. You might be an avid video game player that thinks this whole thing is a bunch of malarkey. You might be a video gamer that knows others that certainly seem addicted and now you know that you were possibly right. Or, you might be someone that says it’s a lot of something about nothing – who cares whether it is classified as an addiction or not, you might say, and consider this meaningless and undue hullabaloo.

What’s the story about video game addiction?

Well, for some players, it becomes an obsession that overtakes their lives. It admittedly is something that parents are more worried about than are the individuals themselves that are stricken by the addiction. There are parents that claim their video game addicted child or children have become anti-social and don’t meet or speak face-to-face with their peers. Parents say that their offspring have become sleep deprived and their day-to-day behavior has gotten sloppy and incoherent. They claim that their dearest is doing poorly in school and distracted from their academics by the non-stop playing time on the video games. Some parents even say that their child lacks vitamin D because they do not spend time in the sun anymore.

I realize that many teenagers scoff at all of this. They would say that they are actually very social oriented because they are playing multi-player games and interacting with others that are not just in the local city but are from around the world. These players would say that there’s nothing unusual about having a hobby and wanting to pursue it. They try to remind their parents that just because they didn’t have video games in their now bygone era, they did have other things like collecting stamps or building model ships, and why weren’t their concerns then about stamp addiction or model ship building addiction.

Furthermore, for those video game players that lead otherwise relatively clean lives, they say that classifying video game playing as an addiction makes a mockery out of “real” addictions such as drugs. Imagine taking the police resources and health industry resources that should be dealing with drug addictions, and parceling off a piece of those resources to help corral video game addiction. For every hour spent on trying to help video game addicted people, it is a potentially one less hour that could have gone toward those that really suffer from an addiction that is bad for them and harmful to others around them (most studies would say that drug addiction leads to crime and other adverse consequences).

The counter argument is that video game addiction is silently undermining us. It is not as apparent and nor as visible as say drug addiction. It is insidious. It captures people, especially young people, and yet they don’t realize it. If it then undercuts their education, if it undercuts their ability to interact face-to-face, we are gradually going to produce a next generation that will be incapable of running society and running themselves as adults. There is no barrier to entry per se, since you can just download a free game onto your smartphone and start playing. Getting illicit drugs takes more work and will be more readily detected and presumably stopped. Video game playing hooks you, and indeed many of today’s video games are free because they are monetized by advertising.

What does it mean to have an addiction? This is a question being posed by some that think the video gaming addiction is incorrectly being classified as an addiction. Sure, video gaming can get out of hand, but to then say it is addictive, well, that seems like a wild leap of logic for some experts and everyday folks too. If my child plays for a few hours per day, does that constitute an addiction? Suppose they play on some days but not others. Suppose they are reading their textbooks and doing schoolwork, while simultaneously playing video games. Heck, there are some on-line textbooks that now include video gaming as part of the instructional delivery of the content – does that mean my child is addicted?

Generally, the WHO addiction classification involves these major elements:

  •         Severity of the addiction
  •         Impairment due to the addiction
  •         Prolonged nature of the addiction
  •         Stickiness of the addiction

In the case of severity, if the video game player has become all consumed by video gaming, it presumably is severe enough to be possibly an addiction. If it impairs what otherwise might be considered a normal life, it could be an addiction. This might be the adverse impact on schoolwork and also inhibiting of social skill development. If the video gamer has been doing this for weeks or months on end, it is prolonged and thus not something that just flirtingly happened (like say they did this for a week during summer camp). The stickiness is basically how hard is it to stop. An addiction is normally accompanied by great difficulty in kicking the habit.

These factors are all to be considered in combination. If someone is not fully engulfed by these factors together, it is less likely that it would be an addiction per se. It could still be bad for the person, but just not classified as an addiction. The addiction classification helps to bring the attention to the presumed malady and makes it more readily recognized and dealt with.

Some even liken these kinds of addictions to what are called a cultural impulse control disorder. As an aside, I know an avid professional video game player that has turned his pursuit into a professional career, and he wears a hoodie proudly emblazoned with “I Have a Cultural Impulse Control Disorder” and it shows a picture of one of his favorite video games. That’s making light of something that others would say should be taken seriously. I suppose though that’s the maverick imagery that video game players have of themselves, namely that they dare to be different, one might say.

What does this have to do with AI self-driving cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are exploring ways in which humans might inadvertently become addicted to using AI self-driving cars. It’s an interesting behavioral aspect worthy of consideration.

Conversations with Wilson

Have you ever seen the movie Castaway that has Tom Hanks in it? If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read the rest of this paragraph since it is a movie spoiler. During the movie, he begins to anthropomorphize a volleyball, which he calls Wilson (of course, a branding opportunity). He seemingly believes that an inanimate object is a living person. He carries on conversations with Wilson, albeit a bit one-sided, and they are the best of buddies.

One concern for AI self-driving cars and the humans that will be occupying them are that some humans might begin to anthropomorphize the car. The AI will be interacting with the human occupants. A human rider begins to think they are speaking with a fellow human. Soon, the human becomes obsessed with their AI interaction. Eventually, it dovetails into an addiction. The human wants to speak to the AI and only the AI self-driving car. They withdraw from other humans. Etc.

If this seems overly farfetched, please be aware that some people have already started down this same kind of path with Siri and with Alexa. Also, there are cases of elderly that are homebound that begin to anthropomorphize their electronics in their home, such as a blood pressure machine that they use each day. It can happen. Now, that doesn’t mean it will happen for AI self-driving cars, and nor that it can happen with any great frequency. But, keep in mind that presumably someday there will be AI self-driving cars all around us, just as today there are 200 million conventional cars. This implies that some percentage of the human population might become “addicted” to the AI of their AI self-driving car.

See my article about natural language processing and in-car commands for self-driving cars:

Another aspect about the potential addiction to self-driving cars involves the possibility of using an AI self-driving car around the clock. It is predicted that AI self-driving cars will be put to use 24×7. Even if you aren’t using your own AI self-driving car, you might loan it to a friend or maybe use it for ridesharing to make a few extra bucks. You are presumably going to have your children use it, such as taking them to their dance practice or to their study group at school after-hours.

Some believe that there will be people that will essentially live in their AI self-driving car. You can sleep in it, and have it driving you to your far away work office or wherever else you want to go. You can work in it, presumably using the electronic communications to do a Skype or other kind of remote work activity. You can have it go thru a drive-thru to get you food. And so on.

Could this become a form of addiction? Some would say that it might be something done out of necessity. Rather than having a place to live, which maybe is costly for you, instead you pretty much live in your AI self-driving car. There might be special drive-up “car motels” wherein you are able to take a shower and use the facilities (like today’s full-service truck stops), but otherwise you are living and sleeping in your AI self-driving car. There is a fine line between doing this for economic reasons, and doing it because you are addicted to the AI self-driving car. In any case, it might be a form of addiction, and have gone beyond just a necessity.

See my article about the predicted non-stop use of AI self-driving cars:

See my article about the framework for AI self-driving cars:

If a person opts to neglect walking, riding a bike, and eschews all other forms of transportation, and only and always insists of riding in their AI self-driving car, it could be a sign that perhaps an addiction is being formed. We need to consider as stated earlier the factors of addiction.

Here’s the questions that would need to be asked about someone that might have an AI self-driving car addiction:

  •         What is the severity of their personal attachment to the AI self-driving car?
  •         Are they impaired in other aspects of their lives due to the attachment to the AI self-driving car?
  •         Is it a prolonged attachment or simply an intermittent one?
  •         Is it sticky in the sense that they seem to be unable to separate themselves away from their AI self-driving car?

Ridiculous, some would say. Crazy talk, others would argue. Nobody could fall into those behavioral traps, some assert.

When I present this somewhat novel idea at conferences, someone invariably says that there are automobile “fanatics” that love to care for their cars and know all about their cars. These people will spend endless hours tuning their car. They polish and shine their car night and day, wanting it to appear pristine. Are they suffering from an addiction? If we have people that do the same kind of thing with their AI self-driving car, are they ergo also “addicted” in the same manner (if you believe that this is a form of addiction)?

I come back to the factors involved when such a question arises. Possibly, it could be an addiction if the criteria of an addiction are satisfied by the nature of what the person does. Their behavior can exhibit addiction.

Let’s suppose for the moment that someone could become addicted to their AI self-driving car (go with me on this, even if you think it a preposterous notion). What then? Well, for any addiction, usually there are attempts to treat the addiction. Are there ways for the person to find happiness in life other than via their addiction? Do they understand their addiction? Can they assist in the treatment? Addiction is considered a mental health issue.

Believe it or not, there are now video game player “addiction recovery centers” that will help break someone of their addiction to video games. You’ve probably heard of drug addiction recovery centers, well, there are now ones for video gamers too. Perhaps we might in the future have AI self-driving car “addiction recovery centers” that will do the same for those addicted to AI self-driving cars.

There are some that say that if we are willing to agree that video game playing can be an addiction, it’s an easy step to then say that someone could be addicted to an AI self-driving car. Thus, no matter had nutty it might seem to suggest that we could have addiction to AI self-driving cars, you’d have to concede that if it can apply to video games then why not to an AI self-driving car.

Keen Interest in Video Games, Self-Driving Cars Correlated?

One audience member asked me if there might even be a correlation between someone that can get addicted to video games as to that same person being more readily addicted to AI self-driving cars. It’s an intriguing question. We don’t have enough AI self-driving cars on our roadways as yet to try and see if this can happen. Nonetheless, a keen interest in video games might somehow be related to having a keen interest in AI self-driving cars. That’s a research study probably a few years from now.

Let’s suppose then that you could become addicted to a self-driving car. Further, let’s suppose that it gets classified by WHO as an official addiction. For treatment purposes, will health insurers pay to help that person get proper treatment? That’s the same question being asked nowadays about video gamer addiction, but it’s too soon yet to know what the health insurers are going to do about video gaming. Whatever they decide, it might then be applicable to AI self-driving car addiction.

What leads someone to become addicted? That’s an ongoing argument that involves whether it is a kind of DNA biological predisposition or whether it is something learned. Maybe a person becomes addicted because it is in their blood. When they therefore have an opportunity to get addicted, they are predisposed towards it. This is often said about for example smoking. Of course, there are ways too that the aspect itself helps to entrap the person. If the thing itself has built-in addictive properties, it can turn someone that maybe is already predisposed into falling into and readily becoming a full-fledged addict. This might be said of the tobacco in smoking, and it might be said in the case of video gaming that how the video game is designed can lead to addictive behavior (offering rewards and points, similar to a gambling addiction).

For video gaming addiction, some lawyers are now lining up to see if they can go after the video game makers for producing a potentially adverse health related product. These lawyers are emboldened by the official WHO classification of video gaming addiction. It will make arguing their case before a judge and jury a lot easier to accept. One might wonder, accordingly, whether if there ultimately is an addiction to AI self-driving cars, will lawyers go after the auto makers for having designed and built something that is addictive? Or, maybe go after the tech firms that developed the AI systems? Maybe.

See my article about the product liability aspects of AI self-driving cars:

I realize that the idea that an AI self-driving car could be addictive just seems outlandish right now. Keep in mind that there are so few AI self-driving cars today that we don’t really yet know how their introduction will impact society. I am betting that if I asked you ten years ago whether a video game could be addictive, you’d likely have said no. You would have said that it could become a passion, but not an addiction.  Ten years later, guess what, it’s now an official addiction.

Please realize that I would not have even written this piece were it not for the WHO declaring that video gaming is an addiction. If out-of-the-blue I had voiced the notion that AI self-driving cars might become addictive, you’d have had no frame of reference for the idea. It would have been easy to dismiss the idea entirely. But, now that we seem to agree that video gaming can be addictive, we should be looking towards other aspect of our increasingly electronically invaded lives to see if we might be in store for more of the same.

Just think, we might have an addicted video gamer that is playing their video games while inside and being addicted to their AI self-driving car. That’s quite an overpowering kind of addiction.

Copyright 2018 Dr. Lance Eliot

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.