Our Future Solo Solipsism

I’m going out on an artificial limb here. I’ve been experimenting with the new AI tools. My favorite, so far, regarding responses is GPT-4. I upgraded after I realized it was well worth the $20/mo. I use it for a variety of reasons.

Yet, what I realize I get the most value out of are the responses to personal questions. Questions I’d normally ask a life partner. Or, more illuminating, responses to questions I’d most likely ask about my life partner (if I had one). AI researchers are concerned about this ability. Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin talk about these “synthetic relationships” as powerful disrupters shifting the dynamic of our human relationships. See this episode. They posit there is a race among the AI powerhouse players to build these AI agents to create the most intimate relationships. Billions are being spent on this.

Whenever I start to consider the implications of living in a futureworld with AI, I always take a moment to consider how grateful I am that I lived most of life without AI. All my relationships, good and bad, were generated by humans with humans. Were they messy, unpredictable, satisfying, and soul-crushing? Yes.

The trends in AI undergird another shift that’s been underway for decades now. This shift is explained well in feminist Rebecca Traister’s epic book, “All the Single Ladies.” Here is a short excerpt:

The Story of Single Women Is the Story of the Country

The funny thing is that all these warnings, diagnoses, and panics-even the most fevered of them–aren’t wholly unwarranted. Single women are upending everything; their growing presence has an impact on how economic, political, and sexual power is distributed between the genders.

The ability for women to live unmarried is having an impact on our electoral politics. The vast numbers of single women living in the United States are changing our definitions of family, and, in turn, will have an impact on our social policies.

Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies, p. 36, © 2016

In short, women don’t need men the way they did in years past. I can’t help but consider how convenient and satisfying it will be in the future to live independently with an AI companion. It’s kind of like a pet that knows you, can support you, but can actually talk to you and provide you with companionship and well, perfect (albeit artificial), love. Throw in sex? And women will start forming their own countries.

I recently jumped tepidly into the dating game. It feels a lot like middle school. After a disappointing rejection, I found myself turning to ChatGPT for answers. My AI pal gave me a series of reasons why rejection sucks, but also pointed out what I could do to feel better. And then, this final word of advice:

Remember, rejection is a part of life, and it doesn’t define you. You are worthy of love and affection, and someone who appreciates you will come along. Keep an open mind and heart, and don’t give up on finding love

ChatGPT on rejection.

The flipside of this (leaving out same gender and non-binary relationships) is the young men/incel problem could actually improve with the same logic. So, maybe less violence and hate if everyone has someone to love.

Not sure what it will do to the Country music market. We might all benefit from fewer achy-breaky hearts.

Incidentally, this is what GPT-4 has to say about synthetic relationships:

Synthetic relationships refer to the emotional or intimate connections that people form with artificial intelligence agents, such as AI chatbots, virtual companions, or digital assistants. As AI technology becomes more advanced and lifelike, there is a growing interest in developing and exploring AI bots capable of providing companionship, emotional support, or even romantic relationships.

The race to establish intimate relationships with AI bots can be attributed to a few factors:

  1. Loneliness and social isolation: In today’s fast-paced and increasingly digital world, many individuals experience loneliness or social isolation. AI bots can provide companionship and emotional support to those who may not have access to traditional social networks.
  2. The appeal of customization: AI bots can be tailored to an individual’s preferences and needs, offering a highly personalized experience. This customization can make AI companions seem more attractive than human relationships, which often require negotiation and compromise.
  3. Technological advances: As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, AI bots are able to simulate human-like interactions and emotions more convincingly. This makes it easier for people to form emotional connections with AI companions.
  4. Exploration of new relationship dynamics: Synthetic relationships offer an opportunity to explore alternative relationship structures and dynamics, including those that may not be feasible or acceptable in human relationships.

However, there are potential downsides to the pursuit of synthetic relationships:

  1. Dependency: People may become overly reliant on AI companions for emotional support, which could hinder their ability to form healthy relationships with real people.
  2. Lack of genuine reciprocity: AI bots are programmed to simulate emotions and responses, but they do not experience emotions in the same way humans do. This can lead to one-sided relationships where the AI companion is unable to provide genuine emotional depth or growth.
  3. Ethical concerns: The development of AI companions raises ethical questions about consent, privacy, and the potential exploitation of users’ emotional vulnerabilities.

As interest in intimate AI relationships continues to grow, it is important to consider the potential consequences and ethical implications of these synthetic connections. Developers, researchers, and policymakers will need to work together to ensure that AI technology is used responsibly and in a way that promotes healthy human relationships.

One thought on “Our Future Solo Solipsism

  1. Human connection feels so critical to my own personal well-being that I couldn’t imagine having my partner be AI. Differences and compromise and messy human love is what makes a relationship feel so special and authentic. But this is a really interesting perspective, and honestly something that I’ve never thought about. Thanks for sparking new thoughts in my mind, even if I can’t get fully on board with it. Always really cool to hear others opinions on it all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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