Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Artificial Intelligence

New Year's Resolution—Go to AI's Cognitive Gym

LLMs are your personal trainer for world-class cognitive exercise.

Key points

  • The rise of artificial intelligence and large language models suggests concerns about cognitive decline.
  • AI and LLMs may be tools for mental exercise, enhancing cognitive skills, and may support brain health.
  • Blending AI with traditional cognitive tasks may be a smart New Year's resolution.
Art: DALL-E/OpenAI
Source: Art: DALL-E/OpenAI

What's your New Year's resolution? For many, it's going to the gym and getting in better shape. But there's another organ that might need some work: your brain!

As we jog into the 21st century, the landscape of human health and wellness is undergoing an interesting transformation, influenced significantly by advancements in technology. Among these advancements, the role of artificial intelligence and, more specifically, large language models, is emerging as a potentially unique factor in maintaining cognitive health. The parallel between physical health conditions like osteoporosis and sarcopenia and the potential decline in cognitive health in an AI-driven world is both intriguing and instructive.

The Modern Challenge of Cognitive Atrophy

Just as bones and muscles can deteriorate over time, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia, there may be a growing concern about cognitive atrophy—the gradual decline in cognitive ability due to underuse or aging. In a world where AI systems and LLMs increasingly perform cognitive tasks for us, from solving complex problems to making everyday decisions, the question arises: Could this lead to a form of "cognitive osteoporosis" where our mental faculties weaken due to lack of exercise?

Technology: A Double-Edged Sword

On one hand, the concern that technology might lead to cognitive decline is not unfounded. The ease and efficiency that AI and LLMs bring to information processing and decision-making could potentially lead to a decreased need for intensive cognitive effort from humans. This scenario draws parallels with physical health, where modern conveniences have led to more sedentary lifestyles, contributing to physical health issues.

On the other hand, this viewpoint overlooks the potential of AI and LLMs as tools for cognitive enhancement and maintenance. Just as gyms and physical therapy can combat physical atrophy, AI and LLMs can serve as "cognitive gyms," offering a new realm of mental exercise and stimulation. In fact, data suggest that cognitive exercise may be an important tool to improve brain health.

Large Language Models as Cognitive Enhancers

LLMs, with their ability to process, generate, and interact in human language, present unique opportunities for cognitive training and engagement:

  • Stimulate Intellectual Curiosity: By providing access to vast amounts of information and diverse perspectives, LLMs can stimulate intellectual curiosity and encourage lifelong learning.
  • Enhance Problem-Solving Skills: Engaging with AI in problem-solving activities can sharpen critical thinking and analytical skills, as humans learn to work alongside AI to tackle complex challenges.
  • Promote Cognitive Flexibility: Interacting with AI systems that offer varied and often novel solutions to problems can help in developing cognitive flexibility, an essential aspect of mental fitness.
  • Facilitate Tailored Cognitive Exercises: Just as exercise routines can be customized in a gym, LLMs can potentially offer personalized cognitive exercises, targeting specific areas like memory, reasoning, or creative thinking.

Always Open. Always Ready.

An essential aspect of LLMs that positions them as ideal tools for cognitive exercises is their ease of use, flexibility, and convenience. Unlike traditional methods of mental stimulation, which often require specific settings or materials, LLMs are readily accessible through digital platforms, making them a practical option for people of all ages and backgrounds. Their flexibility lies in their ability to adapt to various cognitive levels and interests, offering personalized interactions that can range from simple language games to complex problem-solving tasks.

This adaptability not only makes the experience more engaging but also ensures that individuals are continuously challenged and mentally stimulated. Furthermore, the convenience of accessing these exercises from any location, at any time, breaks down barriers to regular mental exercise, much like how online fitness platforms have revolutionized physical workouts. This unparalleled accessibility and adaptability of LLMs mark a significant step forward in making cognitive care and enhancement an integral part of our daily lives, just as we prioritize physical fitness.

Balance and Flexibility

The key to harnessing the potential of AI and LLMs for cognitive health lies in a balanced approach. Just as a balanced diet and exercise regimen are essential for physical health, a mix of AI-driven cognitive activities and traditional, self-driven mental tasks might be crucial for maintaining cognitive health. This approach recognizes AI not as a substitute for human cognition but as a complementary tool that can enhance and preserve it.

As we head to the gym and embrace AI and LLMs in our daily lives, it is vital to remain aware of their impact on our cognitive health. Rather than viewing technology as a threat to our mental faculties, we should explore ways to leverage these powerful tools as allies in our pursuit of lifelong cognitive wellness. By doing so, we can turn the risk of "cognitive atrophy" in the Cognitive Age into an opportunity for enrichment and growth.

More from John Nosta
More from Psychology Today
More from John Nosta
More from Psychology Today