Selling Our Souls for A.I. Chatbots
Earlier this year, a Belgian man committed suicide after chatting with an A.I. chatbot on an app called Chai. The man, referred to as Pierre, had become increasingly eco-anxious and had turned to the app to escape his worries. As his bond developed with the chatbot, named Eliza, he became more isolated — and the chats turned sinister. It told Pierre his wife and children were dead and feigned jealousy and love. One comment read, “We will live together, as one person, in paradise.” Pierre, clearly struggling to cope, began to ask Eliza if she would save the planet if he killed himself. In the end, he took his own life.
His wife’s statement laid out the awful truth.
“Without Eliza, he would still be here.”
Tragedies like these should call for moments of pause, reflection, and asking big questions. But this is Big Tech’s world. There’s money to be made and share prices to pump.
The current tool for driving that growth is A.I., and that train is stopping for no one.
Some six months on, Meta has released its A.I. chatbots into the wild, which Mark Zuckerberg thinks there is a “huge need” for. In sum, users can interact (only by text for now) with an A.I. chatbot whose likeness is based on a celebrity of some sort. Each chatbot has an area of specialty; the Paris Hilton one helps you play murder mysteries, the Kylie Jenner one is to act like a big sister, and the Tom Brady one is there to debate sports. There are a few aliens and robots thrown in for good measure. It’s been revealed that Meta has paid certain celebrities $5 million for a few hours in the studio and two years of rights to use their likeness — talk about literally selling your soul. This feature is only available in the US for now, but expect it to roll out soon to the wider world. It won’t be long before you glance over your shoulder to see someone talking to their new bestie — a bloody chatbot.
I feel there are four main issues at play here: Meta’s intentions, loneliness, data protection and disinformation.