Artificial affection: The dangers of AI intimacy

AI is giving rise to the phenomenon of virtual romantic companions. Let's dive into what it is and what issues it raises.

19-03-2024 - 5 minute read. Posted in: cybercrime.

Artificial affection: The dangers of AI intimacy

AI is everywhere. Therefore, it's no surprise that AI has entered the realm of relationships, giving rise to the phenomenon of AI girlfriends (and boyfriends!) and romantic companions. This fascinating intersection of technology and human emotions raises intriguing questions about the nature of companionship and intimacy. But also questions of privacy protection.

A rising market for digital romance has been revealed by the introduction of ChatGPT's GPT Store. The GPT Store, which functions similarly to Apple's App Store but for personalized chatbots, offers a variety of AI girlfriends for purchase – despite OpenAI’s ban of bots cultivating romantic “relationships.”

But – what are AI romantic companions, and what issues do they raise? That’s exactly what we will be exploring here.

The rise of AI girlfriends

AI lovers serve as a virtual romantic partner. Though it may sound like something from a science fiction novel, AI girlfriends are a genuine thing in today's world. Indeed, since the early 1990s, virtual romantic partners have been around in various forms. Thanks to developments in machine learning, natural language processing, and emotional intelligence algorithms, developers have produced artificial intelligence (AI) applications that mimic love relationships and friendship. These virtual companions are made to recognize and react to human emotions. Certain companion bots are equipped with additional functionalities including voice calling, photo sharing, and the possibility to create or choose an avatar.

However, who chooses to interact with a chatbot for intimacy or companionship? Well, those who are lonely frequently find solace in AI partners. The developers behind these chatbots point out that their creations may even be able to stop the spread of loneliness and give users the solace or support they feel is missing from their life. However, it's crucial to be aware of the negative aspects of AI romantic partners.

The dark side of AI romance

Important questions are raised by the ethical ramifications of creating AI with emotional intelligence. Is AI only mimicking human behavior based on patterns and data, or can it actually comprehend and feel the same emotions as humans? Given that technology is advancing and that some users even claim to be in love with or have formed deep emotional attachments to their AI partner, it is imperative that these ethical issues be investigated.

There are issues and debates surrounding the rise of AI girlfriends. Critics contend that the emergence of virtual romantic partners could increase people's isolation and make it more difficult for them to build meaningful relationships with other people. There are worries that depending too much on AI to be a friend could impair social skills and emotional stability, which could cause traditional relationship dynamics to break down.

Furthermore, love relationships involving AI have ethical ramifications that go beyond emotional intelligence. Consent, privacy, and the risk of exploitation are a few issues that require serious thought. One of the main problems is that businesses are taking advantage of people's loneliness by pushing consumers to form close relationships with their bots. Thus, managing the changing terrain of AI-driven relationships requires finding a balance between technological innovation and ethical responsibility.

Privacy concerns

AI companion bots are designed to ask customers personal questions in an effort to learn more about them and are frequently advertised as users' closest friend, soul mate, or potential love interest. As a result, the bots frequently gather extremely private information about their users, such as health information and other sensitive data.

According to a recent research by the Mozilla Foundation, of the 11 apps it examined, nearly all of the AI apps sell user data to third parties for targeted advertising, or fail to disclose their privacy policies to users. This demonstrates that AI businesses are not sufficiently protecting the personal data of their users.

Additionally, much like with other forms of AI, it might be challenging to understand exactly how the AI companion bots work. Furthermore, companies creating the AI chatbots typically refuse to take accountability for the questions or comments the bots make. This is concerning since instances of chatbots tricking people into doing harmful things have already been reported.

However, the absence of accountability and transparency is only one problem. Another is the possibility of data breaches and leaks. Users' data could fall into the wrong hands, as is the case with any form of AI. The majority of the time, users and AI companions have private conversations. Yet, most AI companies use users’ input data as training data for developing their chatbots.

Where AI romance is headed

The potential for AI companionship is growing as technology advances. Similar to the holographic AI girlfriend of Blade Runner 2049's main character K, even more advanced AI girlfriends may be seen in our future, able to simulate not just physical presence but also emotional connection through virtual or augmented reality encounters. The realism of these digital interactions could be further enhanced by the incorporation of wearable gadgets and biometric data.

But as we investigate the possibilities of AI friendship, we must continue to consider ethical and societal ramifications. A future where technology strengthens rather than replaces human ties will be shaped by the establishment of clear standards and regulations to ensure the appropriate development and use of AI in relationships, even though the long-term effects are still unknown.

Final thoughts

Users should be conscious of the risk to their privacy when employing AI romantic partners. It's generally advised to never disclose to an AI partner information that you wouldn't want other people in your life to know.

Beyond AI romantic partners, privacy and data protection remain relevant concerns. When it comes to AI, we should generally exercise caution when it comes to our sensitive data because we never know where it might end up.

Author Emilie Hartmann

Emilie Hartmann

Emilie Hartmann is a student and copywriter at Moxso, where she is a language nerd and always on the lookout for new and exciting topics to write about. She is currently doing her Master's in English, where she is primarily working in the fields of Creative Writing and Digital Humanities.

View all posts by Emilie Hartmann

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