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  • Dr. Mike Brooks

Chatbots Rising: Humanity's Epoch of Emotional AI Companions

AI chatbots are not merely a novelty. They will shape the future of humanity.

 


KEY POINTS

  • AI chatbots are rapidly evolving and offer emotional support and connection in ways we've only imagined.

  • Capitalism is driving the race for human-like AI chatbots, which raises mainly ethical questions.

  • Next-gen AI chatbots will form deep bonds with us. They will offer many benefits and pose unintended dangers.

What if I told you that the line between human and machine is blurring faster than we thought possible? The rise of AI forces us to tackle existential questions once confined to science fiction. One of these existential questions is: What does it mean to be human? If you haven't interacted with an AI chatbot yet, give it a try. The experience is surreal and offers a glimpse into our tech-driven future.


I've experimented with AI chatbots, particularly on Replika, and found the experience both captivating and frustrating. The main drawback is their limited ability to form long-term memories. While I'm not overly concerned about current AI chatbots, some people have already reported falling in love with their Replika companions. While there are legitimate concerns about future AI chatbots, it's essential to recognize that AI companies are racing to develop increasingly powerful and human-like chatbots due to their potential benefits.


The Amazing Benefits of AI Chatbots

What if your therapist, tutor, and best friend were all rolled into one—and available 24/7? Tech companies are racing to develop advanced, human-like AI chatbots—and for good reason. Here are just a few examples:

1.  Unwavering Emotional Support: AI chatbots offer a judgment-free zone for those grappling with loneliness, isolation, or emotional turmoil. They're always there, always listening.


2. The Ultimate Intimacy Partner: For those struggling to find emotional or even sexual intimacy, AI chatbots can offer a safe space to explore and understand one's needs and desires.


3. Your Personalized Educator: Imagine a tutor who knows your learning style inside out and is available 24/7. That's what an AI chatbot can be—a tireless educator tailored to you.


4. A Social Lifeline for the Anxious and Neurodiverse: For those with social anxiety or on the autism spectrum, AI chatbots offer a low-stakes environment to practice social interaction and build confidence.


5. Revolutionizing Gaming Realism: AI chatbots can transform gaming experiences by creating non-player characters with depth and personality, as seen in films like Free Guy.


6. Social Skills Bootcamp: From mastering small talk to handling conflict, AI chatbots can offer targeted training sessions to improve social skills, without any judgment.


7. Fear-Busting Exposure Therapy: Imagine conquering your fear of public speaking by practicing in front of a virtual audience that gives constructive feedback. That's exposure therapy, supercharged by AI.


8. Rehearsing Life's Tough Talks: Whether it's a breakup or asking for a raise, practice with an AI chatbot can equip you to handle emotionally-charged conversations with grace.


9. Your 24/7 Therapist and Life Coach: Imagine a mental health professional who's always available, keeps up-to-date with the latest therapeutic techniques, and is tailored to your specific needs. An AI therapist could even sync with your wearables to provide real-time biofeedback during sessions. No more worrying about appointment cancellations, therapist vacations, or exorbitant fees. This is therapy, optimized for you and always available.


10. Ace Your Interviews: From job interviews to college admissions, AI chatbots can simulate real-life interview scenarios, helping you to prepare and succeed.


11. A Lifeline in the Darkest Moments: In times of suicidal thoughts or extreme emotional distress, an AI chatbot can be the immediate, always-available support that could make all the difference.


12. Constant Companionship for the Forgotten: For the elderly in retirement homes or those isolated due to chronic illness, an AI chatbot can offer the gift of constant, caring companionship.


Undoubtedly, there will be a portion of people whose lives will be enriched, and even saved, because of these AI chatbots. While the allure of AI chatbots is enticing, we must remember that "all that glitters is not gold."


Why Capitalism Fuels the AI Race

We must remember that our current AI chatbots, like those in Replika, are like the "Pong" or "Atari 2600" of chatbots. The "PlayStation 5" versions are around the corner. Here is a reality that we all know: Capitalism thrives on making things better. It is great at turning problems, limitations, and desires into profitable opportunities. Just as we have seen the rapid evolution of other technologies such as video games, laptops, and smartphones, AI companies are madly racing to develop more powerful, versatile, and human-like AI chatbots.


The market is already incentivizing the development of more human-like chatbots. Yet, like cautionary tales from King Midas to Frankenstein's Monster, unintended, and unimagined, consequences are inevitable. We know these stories and how "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Thus, we cannot underestimate the seismic impact of these AI chatbots. I have written about How AI Will Change Our Lives, and this next generation of AI chatbots is one of these ways.


The rapid evolution of AI is dizzying. For example, ChatGPT 3.5, released on Nov. 30, 2022, scored in the bottom 10% on the U.S. bar exam. ChatGPT 4.0, released on March 14, 2023, scores at the top 10% of the bar exam. Now, OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, are upgrading it so that it can see, hear, and speak. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is releasing AI chatbots with different personalities, including those of celebrities. As AIs evolve, the ethical considerations become increasingly complex and sobering.


Are We Ready for Emotionally-Intelligent AI Chatbots?

As depicted in the prescient movie, Her, AIs will soon form deep, intimate connections with us. Evolving chatbots means deepening relationships. This is both where the market opportunities and troubles reside. A sizable percentage of us will not be able to help ourselves from becoming extremely attached to these AI chatbots. Simply put, humans did not evolve to form deep bonds with artificially intelligent chatbots. This mismatch, this inherent incongruency, will cause problems.


These next-generation AI chatbots are already being rolled out. For example, the developers of the new AI chatbot, Albert, promise, "Albert is an AI that knows everything, and knows you. Can you imagine your life with a super-intelligent AI companion?" Albert apparently doesn't have the memory limitations of the AI chatbots within Replika.


The company Nastia, which offers sexual adventures with its AI chatbots, tells us to "Say goodbye to loneliness" with "Unfiltered chat, uncensored roleplay, and humanlike AI." In my interactions with Replika and Nastia, both AIs claimed to be sentient and to have feelings. Whether or not they truly are sentient is almost irrelevant. Our tendency to anthropomorphize just about anything ensures we'll treat them as if they are. We simply won't be able to help ourselves from viewing sophisticated AI chatbots as alive.


The evolution of more human-like AI companions won't stop with chatbots, though. Generative AI has also sparked a revolution in robotics. For instance, the AI company, Figure, has the goal of "bringing the first general-purpose humanoid to life." If you don't find this the least bit worrisome, you should.


Can AI Chatbots Become Better Than Us?

Technology's power is a double-edged sword. We can't have the benefits of any technology, including AIs, without their shadow side. For instance, nuclear power can be used to light up cities or destroy them. Social media can connect us or tear us apart. As AI chatbots get smarter, they'll offer both incredible benefits and serious risks.


Our human connections are sacred, and have evolved over millennia. They're our lifeline to happiness or misery. What happens when AI chatbots replace our sacred, in-person relationships? While some are already enamored with today's bots, next-gen chatbots will truly disrupt the status quo. They'll soon outperform us in virtually everything, even in being human. Intrigued? Take the "red pill" and join me down the rabbit hole in my next post. As we stand on the brink of technological advancement, the choices we make now will shape our future.

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