AI Life Coaching: self-care or discipline?

From 10 to 12 April 2024, I will participate in the international workshop PERSPECTIVES ON HYBRID HUMAN-AI SYSTEMS Bringing Together Interdisciplinary Approaches (link). My contribution is about AI for intimate personal life coaching. I look at this with a framework with ‘hybrid self’, ‘discipline’ and ‘self-care’, based on the work of Michel Foucault.

Abstract Steven Dorrestijn

AI life coaching: The hybrid self between discipline and self-care

Developments in AI make technology interfere with human existence in new ways. This presentation brings up three cases of ‘AI for life coaching’. These will be analyzed in a framework inspired by Michel Foucault, with hybrid self, care of the self and disciplinary power.

1) Since it became widely available end of 2022 ChatGPT has made a big impression. A chatbot that you can conversate with in human language, which not only helps you searching information, but helps you processing the information and which writes a conclusion for you. This is not just a neutral means that you employ deliberately, but it takes over your activities and your deliberations, it interferes with your way of living and of being.

2) This effect is even more apparent in the case of the ‘anger wearable’ for people with problems with aggression. The appliance monitors and interprets heartbeat, sweat, skin tension, breathing, in order to help someone recognizing if he/she is getting angry and help avoiding an outburst of aggression.

3) Ultimately this could lead to the fictious case of ‘Gena’, the AI assistant which/who is the main character in a novel by Ewoud Kieft. The Gena continuously accompanies a person, as a practical help but also as a life coach, becoming a kind of technical conscience and therapist. The fascinating plot shows how such a device can be both a technology for care of the self and a vehicle for disciplinary power.