Between “Blade Runner 2049,” a film that depicts a world in which an AI girlfriend is capable of “syncing” with other women to engage in intimate interactions, and “Her,” a film that follows a man who falls in love with a female-voiced AI virtual assistant, it is clear that the idea of AI romantic relationships has piqued public interest before. But what once was a fictional idea of remarkable, futuristic technology is becoming a reality as AI technology is becoming more advanced. The latest news entails internet celebrity influencer Caryn Marjorie’s release of CarynAI — a chatbot that is meant to target her male fans and provide an AI girlfriend.
According to descriptions on Caryn AI’s official site, the design aims to create a more immersive experience for users by using algorithms that are personalized for different users’ needs. Everything in the conversations also remains confidential, which becomes a plus when this service is being marketed as safe and unique. In an NBC article about CarynAI, it was said that users pay one dollar per minute on the site and generated $71,610 in revenue within the first week of its testing, a clearly profitable conduit.
AI romantic partners are great supplements, especially in periods of economic recession. During economic turndowns, people develop depressive emotions, which affect their interactions with people in real life. Trusting others becomes harder during these isolating times and challenges the ability for one to form an in-person connection. But in this case, these people could turn to seek solace in virtual partners that satisfy their emotional needs.
The emergence of AI girlfriends could imply that people perceive building relationships in reality as involving high expenses and a social commitment. When engaging in romantic relationships with a human partner, there is likely a need to pay for gifts, share meals, and invest emotional energy, not to mention the need for social skills to attract and entertain another person. The affordability, low risk, and ease of AI relationships seem to curb these anxieties, but not without online discussions and debates about their social impacts.
One popular argument is that AI relationship sites could be the culprit for isolation between people if they gain more prevalence for being an option for those seeking emotional connections. Despite the permanent changes in lifestyles brought about by AI, younger generations and their social conventions are impacted, leading to a more uncertain future.
Recently, AI girlfriends have also become a hot topic in China’s internet space. As the revenue streams continue to grow, there is an increasing focus on enhancing and promoting services regarding AI girlfriends. What’s more, a team at a tech firm in China is working on developing a version of AI girlfriends that focuses on more customized and tailored services. This goes to show the widespread interest in AI relationships that spans further than just the influencer realm of Marjorie’s site. With this, the concerns we are seeing online could represent larger, mainstream anxieties for AI.
I can relate to the mentality of desiring AI girlfriends or boyfriends, especially in an increasingly online world, but I uphold mixed feelings when it comes to having virtual romantic partners displace humans in domestic and public spheres. In the long term, mistreatment of AI partners could incur both physical and mental violence or harm, as such online actions provide a space for less moral or legal consequences.
Additionally, there have been news reports on verbal abuse of AI girlfriends from users and instances of using AI face-swapping to create deep-fake pornography, including involving numerous celebrities. These activities could potentially be associated with psychological issues and misogynistic feelings. In this sense, individuals seeking out a space to express superiority and domination have exploited AI as an intermediary to fulfill distorted psychological needs while remaining anonymous. By providing a platform to unleash these grievances, it could be recognized how the emergence of AI girlfriends, or AI chat sites in general, exacerbated these social issues.
The functionality of AI relationship sites introduces many possibilities for future developments in our social and romantic realities. However, it is vital that society recognizes AI intangibly alters its norms and shapes individuals’ expectations of others in real life. Additionally, because this online sphere opens opportunities for violence and gives a platform for unhealthy interaction, there needs to be an implementation of regulatory policies to ensure the safety of users, as well as to separate the actions on these sites from having real-time risks.