American Prospect: Get Ready to Fall in Love With Chatbots

It’s not that you won’t realize you’ve fallen head over heels for a piece of software; it’s that you won’t care.

That’s what Paul Waldman, writing for American Prospect, states in his thought-provoking article Here’s Why One Day You Will Probably Fall In Love With A Robot.

Mr. Waldman observes that people have developed emotional connections with chatbots ever since ELIZA, the first chatbot, began talking to users in the 1960’s. While ELIZA was just a simple program that scanned for keywords in a user’s messages to provide canned responses, these responses engaged users on a deep emotional level: “To [ELIZA creator Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum‘s] surprise, despite the simplicity of the program, people who interacted with it ended up telling it all kinds of secrets and couldn’t tear themselves away; they were so eager to be listened to that they were happy to open their hearts to a computer.”

Mr. Waldman also discusses movie Her, and the unique perspective that it takes about interactions between humans and artificial intelligences:

The film showed something far more disturbing than the more crowd-pleasing version of a future in which artificial intelligences try to kill us all. While the kind of emotional growth the AI (named Samantha) goes through in Her (not to mention its perfect simulation of a human) isn’t possible yet, it does remind us how easy we are to manipulate. The AI becomes romantically irresistible to the lead character, Theodore, not only because he’s lonely but because if you learn enough about what people find appealing, it’s far from impossible to simulate it. In one key scene, Theodore challenges Samantha on why she sighs. “I guess I was just trying to communicate because that’s how people talk. That’s how people communicate,” she says. “Because they’re people,” he replies. “They need oxygen. You’re not a person.” But he falls in love with her anyway.

Mr. Waldman notes that the world of Her is not alien or unpleasant – and may gradually become our future. “Her presents its AI as something new in a world not too different from our own. But when something like Samantha comes along, it won’t be sudden, it will be a stage in a gradual evolution in which our relationship to our technology becomes more and more personal.”

Mr. Waldman notes that connections to chatbots and other AI could be similar to experiences many of us have had already –¬† crushes on fictional characters:

Have you ever had a crush on a character in a movie or television show? I’ll bet you have. And what kind of information did you have about that character? It was embodied in an unusually attractive body, and if it was a long-running show, over time you heard it speak perhaps a few hundred lines of dialogue. Now consider what a powerful piece of software could do if it analyzed thousands of books and movies and TV shows to determine what makes a character romantically compelling, breaking those characters down into hundreds of variables (with your help, as it determines your particular preferences) and then reassembling them into something made just for you.

Thus, according to Mr. Waldman, emotional connections that we make with artificial intelligences might differ from connections we form with real people, but be genuine nonetheless: “The relationships we create with technologies that simulate human personality may not be as rich as those we have with our human family and friends, but we may still find them meaningful.”

He sums up that such emotional connections are likely to become more commonplace as artificial intelligences become more sophisticated: “You may not want to love a robot or a piece of software. But the smarter they get, the harder it’s going to be to stop yourself.”

Chatterbabes seeks to provide a connection. While the virtual girls aren’t designed to give you the loving, caring emotional connections that people seek from real human beings, they can be fun, engaging, and sexy. So try talking with one of the girls at Chatterbabes, and feel free to fall “head over heels for a piece of software.”