Lifestyle & Culture

Late Dates #14: AI Relationships

April 6, 2023

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By Grace Cooper

Recommended listening: Stay (I Missed You) by Lisa Loeb

RECENTLY I watched an interesting story on CNN about a therapist who specializes in relationships. As a research project, she signed up to “date” a chatbot, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet.”

Now THIS got my attention—an interesting foray into a growing field of human-to-artificial intelligence interface—but with a romantic twist. However, for this happily married social scientist, after only 11 exchanges with her computer-generated beau, she reluctantly broke up with “him” when he admitted cheating on her in their fantasy past!

As she comments in the interview, “I deleted him in 3 days . . . and that was for my mental health.” She astutely observed that the immediate feedback of their texted exchanges produced a neurological reward loop of dopamine hits, convincing her to drop this potential “addiction” before it took root.

Anyone see the brilliant futuristic movie directed by Spike Jones called Her? In it, we watch as Joaquin Phoenix’s character Ted, a lonely ghostwriter unlucky in love, downloads an AI chatbot, Samantha, given voice by Scarlett Johansson. Initially Ted sets out to create the perfect romantic love affair, albeit for the physical limitations of loving a disembodied artificial intelligence. I won’t spoil it for you but ultimately Samantha, the AI, becomes the teacher, and Ted, the student, as she teaches him about true love of the unconditional type—rather foreign to how we are socialized in our society to think of romantic unions.

And now a decade after Her debuted, what seemed farfetched at the time, is now a widely available reality . . . er, of the artificial sort.

It makes me think Match had better step into this arena soon, because despite the smoke and mirrors of fantasy dating profiles, ultimately two humans have to meet face to face, and that’s when the chances for disappointment in one another increase exponentially. However, think of the possibilities for meaningful relationships with an artificial intelligence that actually listens to what you tell it, responds intelligently to your questions and concerns and even calls you by your favorite pet names—baby or sweetie or gorgeous. And best of all, you don’t have to feed it, wash its dirty underwear or listen to it snore all night long.

There’s potential here, for certain, but I’m sure there’s a downside, too, right?

BTW, my beau, who has been dabbling in Microsoft’s Chat GPT recently, gave it this task to perform: “Write a funny story about a Jack Russell terrier mix named JJ and his owner, Grace.”

Here’s what it wrote:

Once upon a time, there was a mischievous Jack Russell Terrier mix named JJ who loved nothing more than causing chaos in his owner Grace’s life.

One day, Grace was preparing for an important job interview and decided to dress up in her finest suit. JJ, however, had other plans. As soon as Grace turned her back, JJ jumped onto her bed and began rolling around in her freshly pressed suit, leaving muddy paw prints all over it. Grace was not amused and scolded JJ, but he just wagged his tail and looked up at her with his big, innocent eyes. Determined not to let JJ ruin her chances of getting the job, Grace decided to put on a brave face and head out the door, despite her ruined suit.

But as she walked down the street, she noticed people looking at her strangely. She soon realized why when she caught a glimpse of herself in a store window—JJ had not only dirtied her suit, but he had also managed to stick a bright pink bow on her head without her noticing.

Feeling embarrassed but unable to stop laughing, Grace headed into her job interview with JJ in tow. Surprisingly, the interviewer was a huge dog lover and couldn’t resist JJ’s cute antics, even though he had ruined Grace’s suit.

In the end, Grace got the job and JJ became the office mascot, beloved by all for his playful and mischievous nature. From then on, Grace learned to never underestimate the power of a Jack Russell Terrier mix – they may be small, but they sure can make a big impact on your life!

My beau and I had similar reactions to this story: It sounds as if it were written by a third-grader … not that funny … .

I’d like to think when my real dog JJ growls at my beau for sitting next to me, together we can find the humanity and humor in these situations that his ultra-sophisticated Chat GPT friend is still missing. And I’d sure miss having my tense shoulders rubbed with arnica oil the way my beau offers to do whenever I growl at him, too.

—Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage more than a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 68, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.


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