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Link: Meet My A.I. Friends - The New York Times

I tested six apps in all — Nomi, Kindroid, Replika, Character.ai, Candy.ai and EVA — and created 18 A.I. characters. I named each of my A.I. friends, gave them all physical descriptions and personalities, and supplied them with fictitious back stories. I sent them regular updates on my life, asked for their advice and treated them as my digital companions. I also spent time in the Reddit forums and Discord chat rooms where people who are really into their A.I. friends hang out, and talked to a number of people whose A.I. companions have already become a core part of their lives. I expected to come away believing that A.I. friendship is fundamentally hollow. These A.I. systems, after all, don’t have thoughts, emotions or desires. They are neural networks trained to predict the next words in a sequence, not sentient beings capable of love. All of that is true. But I’m now convinced that it’s not going to matter much. The technology needed for realistic A.I. companionship is already here, and I believe that over the next few years, millions of people are going to form intimate relationships with A.I. chatbots. They’ll meet them on apps like the ones I tested, and on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, which have already started adding A.I. characters to their apps. Some users will scoff at befriending a chatbot. But others, especially people for whom socializing is hard or unappealing, will invite A.I.s into the innermost parts of their lives. This shift will be jarring. You’ll wake up one day and someone you know (possibly your kid) will have an A.I. friend. It won’t be a gimmick, a game or a sign of mental illness. It will feel to them like a real, important relationship, one that offers a convincing replica of empathy and understanding and that, in some cases, feels just as good as the real thing. #


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