Humans are building meaningful relationships with AI chatbots. What will the consequences be?
Sophie Bushwick: Welcome to Tech, Quickly, the part of Science, Quickly where it’s all tech all the time.
I’m Sophie Bushwick, tech editor at Scientific American.[Clip: Show theme music]
Bushwick: Today, we have two very special guests.
Diego Senior: I’m Diego Senior. I am an independent producer and journalist.
Anna Oakes: I’m Anna Oakes. I’m an audio producer and journalist.
Bushwick: Thank you both for joining me! Together, Anna and Diego produced a podcast called Radiotopia Presents: Bot Love. This seven-episode series explores AI chatbots—and the humans who build relationships with them.
Many of the people they spoke with got their chatbot through a company called Replika. This company helps you build a personalized character that you can chat with endlessly. Paid versions of the bot respond using generative AI – like what powers Chat GPT – so users can craft a bot that is specific to their preferences and needs.
Bushwick: But what are the consequences of entrusting our emotions to computer programs?
Bushwick: So, to kick things off, how do you think the people you spoke with generally felt about these chatbots?
Oakes: It’s a big range. For the most part people really seem very attached. They feel a lot of love for their chatbot. But often there’s also a kind of bitterness that I think comes through, because either people realize that their relationships with their chat bots, they can’t find that fulfilling a relationship in the real world with other humans.