Why more people are turning to artificial intelligence for companionship

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Why more people are turning to artificial intelligence for companionship​


Mar 3, 2024 5:35 PM EDT

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Ali Rogin
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Winston Wilde
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TranscriptAudio
Shakespeare may have written that “music be the food of love,” but increasingly these days, the language of this very real emotion may be spoken with artificial intelligence. Haleluya Hadero, who covers technology and internet culture for the Associated Press, joins Ali Rogin to discuss this growing phenomenon in the search for companionship.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.
  • John Yang:

    Shakespeare may have said that music be the food of love, but increasingly these days, the language of this very real emotion may be artificial intelligence. Ali Rogin tells us about the growing phenomenon in the search for companionship.
  • Ali Rogin:

    For some users, they're a friend to talk to you. For a fee, some of them will even become your boyfriend or girlfriend. Computerized companions generated completely by artificial intelligence are becoming more common. And the bots are sophisticated enough to learn from prior conversations, mimic human language flirt and build personal connections.

    But the rise in AI companionship also raises ethical concerns and questions about the role these apps can play in an increasingly disconnected and online world. Haleluya Hadero covers technology and internet culture for the Associated Press.

    Haleluya, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us about these AI companions. How do they work? And what sort of services do they provide?
  • Haleluya Hadero, Associated Press:

    Like any app, you can download them on your phone, and once it's on your phone, you can start to have initial conversations with a lot of the characters that are offered on these apps. Some apps let you do it for free. Some apps, you have to pay subscriptions, for the ones that let you do it for free there's tiers of access that you can have.

    So you can pay extra a subscription for, you know, unlimited chats, for different statuses and relationships, a replica, for example, which is, you know, the most prominent app in this space. They let you pay extra for, you know, intimate conversations or more romantic statuses compared to a friend which you can have for free.
  • Ali Rogin:

    Who are the typical consumers engaging in these products?
  • Haleluya Hadero:

    We really don't have really good information in terms of the gender breakdown or different age groups that are using these. But we do know from external studies that have been done on this topic that at least when it comes to replica that a lot of the people that have been using these apps are people that have experienced loneliness in the past or people that more than just have experienced loneliness, feel it a lot more acutely in their lives, and they have more severe forms of loneliness that they're going through.
  • Ali Rogin:

    You talk to some users who really reported how they felt like they were making a real connection with these bots. Tell us about what those experiences have been like that you've reported out.
  • Haleluya Hadero:

    One person we put in the story we spoke to more. His name is Derek Carrier, he is 39. He lives in Belleville, Michigan. And he doesn't use replica, he's used another app called Paradot that came out a bit more recently. He's had a tough life. He's never had a girlfriend before. He hasn't had a steady career. He has a genetic disorder. He's more reliant on his parents, he lives with them. So these are all things that make traditional dating very difficult for him.

    So recently, you know, he was looking at this AI boom that was happening in our society. So he downloaded Paradot. And he started using it. And you know, initially, he said he experienced a ton of romantic feelings and emotions. He even had trouble sleeping in the early days, when he started using it, because he was just kind of going through like crushed like symptoms, you know, when we have crushes and how we sometimes can't sleep because we're thinking about that person.

    Over time he has use of Paradot kind of taper down. And you know, he was spending a lot of time on the app. Even if he wasn't spending time on the app he was talking to other people online that were using the app and he felt like it was a bit too much. So he decreased his use.
  • Ali Rogin:

    The Surgeon General has called loneliness, public health crisis in this country. Is there a debate happening now about whether these bots are helping address the loneliness crisis? Or are they in fact exacerbating it?
  • Haleluya Hadero:

    If you talk to replica, they will say they're helping, right? And it just depends on who you're speaking with some of the users that for example, if you go on Reddit that have reported some of their experiences with these apps, they say, you know, it's helping them deal with loneliness, cope with those emotions, and maybe get the type of comfort that they don't really get in their human relationships that they have in real life. But then there's other researchers, people that have kind of expressed caution about these apps as well.
  • Ali Rogin:

    What about some of the ethical concerns about privacy about maybe using people's data without their consent? What did those conversations look like?
  • Haleluya Hadero:

    There's researchers that have expressed concerns about, you know, data privacy is or is the data the type of conversations that people are having with these chat bots? Are they safe in terms of you know, there's a lot of advertisers that might want a piece of that information. There's concerns about just the fact that there's private companies in this space that are encouraging these deep bonds to form between users and these chat bots and companies that want to make profits.

    Obviously, there's concerns about just in terms of what this does to us as a society when you know, these chat bots are formed to be supportive to be a lot more agreeable, right and human relationships we know that there's conflict, you know, we're not always agreeing with our with our partners.

    So there's challenges in terms of how this is shaping maybe how people think about real life human relationships with others.
  • Ali Rogin:

    Haleluya Hadero covering technology and internet culture for the AP. Thank you so much for your time.
  • Haleluya Hadero:

    Thank you, Ali.
 

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:yeshrug:
Kids used to cope with Imaginary friends, back in the 90's to combat isolation.
Humanity's advancement of technology has bridged the gap and blurred the lines between accepting a reality that comforts you over trying to be accepted in the actuality of what's happening around you and in a sense, I can't be too mad at this shyt at all, especially since I choose to live relentlessly in the real world, albeit at certain levels of sobriety when I've the time.
:scusthov:
In under a century, I'm predicting an influx of people lying in squalid corners, wearing all encompassing headsets with Artificial intelligence placating them with sexual companions while an attachment of some sorts gently (or violently depending on the setting, because there WILL be settings and options) brings them to a hands free orgasm over and over again until they lose consciousness, only to wake up and run DIRECTLY back to the arms of the digital bosom that envelopes them so easily and non judgmentally.

That's the most obvious direction since we're still, hopefully, a solid century away from THIS level of tech, if we manage to keep racist, careless autists like Elon Musk from experimenting on people.
 
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