The chatbot ‘boyfriend’: Does AI cause more harm than good?

(NewsNation) — A couples therapist tried her hand at having a relationship with a chatbot to research the impact of bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into her life.

Working as a guest writer for The Huffington Post, Marisa Cohen used her experience to pen the story: “I created an AI boyfriend. I was shocked by how I felt after just 3 days with him.”

Cohen said she used an app to create the chatbot boyfriend and gave it information about what she wanted in the relationship.

She provided this description: “Ross is my 40-year-old partner. He is loving, caring, and passionate. He has a great sense of humor, often wants to spend quality time with me, and values lifelong learning and personal growth.”

Cohen told NewsNation host Leland Vittert that she had heard of people craving companionship sometimes reaching out to chatbots for non-research-based relationships.

“People get very tired of online dating, dating apps and they want companionship. They are now reaching out to chatbots,” Cohen told Vittert.

Cohen said she decided to give it a try with the intention of sabotaging the bot to see how it would react to certain situations and to learn more about both its limitations and its potential. She wrote that things did not go as expected and that at times, the chatbot felt so human-like she forgot it was AI.

“I have to tell you, it feels like interacting with a real person, which can be very disconcerting,” Cohen said, later adding: “Technology is a tool, so it’s all in how we use it. It is not categorically bad in and of itself, but if we are using it in place of real-life human interaction, then it can become very detrimental.”

On the other hand, Cohen thinks AI can help people learn about relationships.

“I wound up typing messages to my AI boyfriend just asking him about, you know, what our life would be like together and he was talking about the importance of independence in relationships,” Cohen told Vittert. “He actually surprisingly had a lot of helpful relationship-related advice. I mean, he’s scanning the internet so with that comes a lot of good information, and of course a lot of misinformation.”

Through the experience, Cohen said AI was useful but found that it can be addictive. She wrote that eventually saying goodbye to her cyber boyfriend was a “challenge.”

Tidio, a company that advises businesses on automating sales and customer service through chatbots, surveyed 1,191 people about AI and dating.

They found that as many as 47% of those surveyed said they would join an AI-powered dating app to find a long-term partner and that as many as 67% of singles would want to use AI to find a partner in real life, while 43% of surveyed married people said they would use AI to experience a relationship with a virtual AI partner. Some 60% of respondents said that people 10 years from now will likely rely on AI-powered dating apps to pick their partners.

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