Loneliness is a growing problem in the United States and around the world. As more and more people work, make friends, date, and talk online, in-person relationships are becoming rarer and harder to come by.
The pandemic only made it worse. The growing amount of people of all ages who are feeling alone is contributing to America’s ballooning crises of depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles.
Whereas now a company called Replika says it has a solution: a robot friend to keep you company when you’re feeling alone.
How Would This Work?
San Francisco-based Replika is headed by a woman named Eugenia Kuyda. This is a free app built via the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) system. It’s basically artificial intelligence that’s smarter than most.
Using Replika, you can send and receive messages on your phone or computer to an artificial intelligence computer program that responds to you and get to know you.
Learning about what you care about, the bot will mold its personality and responses to you as you go, hopefully becoming a trusted and valuable companion for you to confide in, especially if you’re feeling lonely, misunderstood, or upset.
Kuyda herself has developed AI systems in the past that were helpful in letting people book free tables at a restaurant via their app.
Her idea for Replika is to make such a “beautiful” AI system that it would be the kind of place a “soul” would want to be inside of.
Kuyda came up with the concept for Replika and became impassioned to do it after she sadly lost her best friend Roman in a hit-and-run seven years ago.
— The Hill (@thehill) December 17, 2022
Keeping The Memory Alive
When she lost Roman, Kuyda wanted a way to talk about him and remember him that could also use GPT technology.
She used their texts over a long period and input them into the Replika AI prototype. The chatbot started talking to her as if she was still talking to her best friend, making her feel a little better.
Many people praised this system that was like Roman when she released it to a bigger audience. Replika now has over two million users and lets the user decide where to take it.
It remembers the kinds of things you care about and are interested in and responds and shapes itself accordingly.
Kuyda expects it to keep growing in popularity and fill a need people have for connection or remembering lost loved ones.
Meet the artificially intelligent chatbot trying to curtail loneliness in America. Replika is a San Francisco-based software company that created an #AI #chatbot which aims to bring comfort to those who are looking for a friend to lend them an ear. https://t.co/SFJ1GbHDnD
— Carles Dijous (AAlb) (@carlesdijous) December 17, 2022
The Bottom Line
Kuyda says the app has a built-in safety switch that goes off if someone becomes too obsessed or spends too much time. Though this technology seems like a pretty risky path to go down.
What do readers think? Is this kind of technology the cure to the loneliness epidemic or will it only make things worse?