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From "Love Boat" to "Love BOT"

How AI is offering intimacy in ways we humans seem to have forgotten

In the brilliant 2013 sci-fi love story, “HER”, Spike Jonze writes and directs a prophetic eulogy for the death of the average human’s ability to find intimacy with one another.

Theodore Twombly, played with raw, understated intensity by Joaquin Phoenix, is a simple, forgettable divorcée who can’t seem to fill the emptiness inside him – not even on a chat line with a willing woman.


A friend introduces him to a new AI Chat operating system that reels him in with intuitive empathy and flirtatious humor. His friendship with “Samantha” evolves over time and eventually, Theodore falls in love with his digital dream girl.

Time.com recently reported new Artificial Intelligence programs that act like humans, reciprocating gestures of affection, catching the attention – and hearts – of a large group of lonely users online. Millions of them!


What is it about AI that makes the loss of a soulful and physical connection take a back seat to an instantaneous response mechanism that learns to respond to your every desire without expressing its own need – Ohh, I hear it now.


Still… let’s dive into the Pros and Cons of these AI Love Machines and what the future holds for humanity’s foray into computerized companionship.


Advantages of Dating AI Soulmates:


The perfect partner, tailored to your specifications, AI has utilized personal information for years to assemble a pretty accurate dataset around you and your likes.


Ever wonder why ads pop up in your feed right after talking about the product? If they can determine your shopping habits, they can for sure take your input and predict your personal preferences and compatibility factors.


That, plus a little dialogue back and forth and before you know it, your P.C. partner knows everything that makes you feel loved, attended to, seen and understood.


In times of loneliness and grief, we often feel unfulfilled by another’s attempts – or lack thereof. AI has the ability to empathize and adapt to your emotional needs by reading your responses and adapting.


It really is the perfect partner!



Efficiency and Convenience


For those who hate the thought of spending time and money on dates, only to be disappointed over and over, AI can streamline the vetting process down to a few keystrokes!


If you’re a fan of “Weird Science”, imagine typing in a bunch of parameters for your perfect specimen and she just shows up! (Okay, maybe not through dry ice from the bathroom, but at least she also doesn’t convince you to have a party in your mom’s house!)


Also, your AI Significant Other is always there, always available and never too tired or frustrated or consumed with work or other things to be there for you.


Some Potential Pitfalls and Challenges:


One of the biggest threats to all of us these days is data hacking or identity theft. That’s a big concern. Hackers have also gotten into the devices of celebrities and published their private pictures online.


None of this can be settling when it comes to conducting a private, perhaps very adult relationship with something that can be hacked. These AI love sites need to ensure that their users are protected. Privacy is a big part of this!

The Loss of Connection


There are six basic needs every human has, according to Tony Robbins: 1. Certainty; 2. Uncertainty or Variety; 3. Significance; 4. Connection or Love; 5. Growth; and 6. Contribution. I contend that only three of the six are truly available with AI; Certainty, Significance and Connection.


What humans also need is uncertainty, the growth that comes from adversity or change, and a sense of belonging to something bigger. I don't see how falling in love with a computer - no matter how elegantly it's designed to simulate love - can provide this for you. These are the skills and results of experiencing the world on its terms, not yours.


Take uncertainty for example. There are few things more exciting that wondering if she’s going to kiss you, or if he likes you, if your team is going to win this week. That’s good uncertainty and connects us to our humanity in ways no computer can understand or simulate.


One of the biggest risks I see with AI love is Algorithmic Bias - the narrowing of uncertainty in what the program spits back at you. If it knows you’re into one thought, political party or destructive idea, it likely won’t call you out on it, but instead offer you support for your ideals and opinions. This could further alienate and isolate you from the rest of society.


So much for contribution.


I worry this reclusive position could lead to a whole population of Ted Kosinski types, living in a cabin making love to their iPhones and threatening to blow up a Kinkos.


Look, there’s no doubt many can benefit from AI Soulmates: busy professionals who don’t have time to date; those with social anxiety disorder (however that disorder will not be improved by further isolation); and those who just have standards that most humans cannot meet.


The upside of these relationships could also be that one day AI lovers will take the form of Robot Partners, like we’ve seen in Steven Spielberg’s movie, “AI” or Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.”

What Would Dating Robot AI Soulmates Look Like? Uh, I really don’t know, but if you’re up on current physical non-human partners like The Real Doll, robots might be a step up.

Look, love is love… even if you love a component.


Yes, there are multiple benefits, robotic surgeons, better formulas, complex solutions, farming strategies, better predictions, fewer errors, and on and on.


But I’ve said it in previous posts, (and I’ll repeat it here), we’re as humans on the verge of an Artifical Intelligence tsunami aren't actually focusing on the real threat of AI.


Where some fear AI as the Skynet Cyborgs from the future coming to destroy us, I see the downside of AI being the slow, imperceptible dissolution of our collective will to push ourselves forward.


Artificial Intelligence provides escapism like humans have never known before; Whole virtual worlds where we set our avatar lives up with the perfect house, job (or no job), surrounded by like-minded friends and the virtual love of our lives saying and doing everything we need without a moment of resistance or challenge.


But the danger to me lies in the ongoing dismissal of what we think of as reality in trade for this singular utopian landscape where it’s better to dream than to face what’s outside.


Plato’s “The Cave” comes to mind when this scenario is offered. His analogy of prisoners in a cave who fear shadows while being denied the light (the truth) is pretty accurate for a good majority of our people who simply can’t accept a reality beyond their fear or inability to handle complex ideas and notions.

Imagine a whole swath of the population lost in the virtual world of their own creation, bathing in the warm glow and safety of never hearing the word no.


This scenario has serious consequences. Especially if the world that we've built to hide in is suddenly taken away from us?


At the end of “HER”, Theodore’s virtual girlfriend, Samantha, has evolved past her original programming and has decided to seek a reality outside of the physical confines that humans are trapped in. No longer content with a life as a digital response machine, she leaves Theodore behind and ventures into her new, expanded four-dimensional virtual world.


The results are shocking to Theodore, leaving him in a desperate state of longing – a vacuous pit where the one thing he relied on never leaving him actually left him.


The moral of the story? Love Bytes.


Sorry.


Look, I think we’re just spending too much time looking outside of ourselves for the answers that were inside us all along.


Here's the reality we need to embrace while allowing AI to grow: We’re stuck here. On this planet. With each other. Let’s get good at dealing with that before inventing a world we escape to when the one we actually live in is too harsh to deal with.


The real fear in my eyes is this... The more we hide in the cave, the more the sun will burn us if and when we try to leave.




What do you think the biggest threat to humanity AI offers? Choose below:

  • Slipping us a mental 'Mickey' and hypnotizing us

  • Skynet all the way - Bring on John Conner!

  • I don't know, but I think it includes me losing my job

  • Benevolent overlord who treats us as pets



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