Can Artificial Chat Bots Be The Solution To Loneliness?


Loneliness is a growing problem in the United States and around the world.

As more and more people work, make friends, date and talk online, in-person relationships are becoming rarer and harder to come by.

The pandemic only made it worse, and the growing amount of people of all ages who are feeling alone is contributing to America’s ballooning crisis of depression, anxiety and other mental health struggles.

But now a company called Replika says it has a solution: a robot friend to keep you company when you’re feeling alone.

How Would This Work?

San Francisco-based Replika is headed by a woman named Eugenia Kuyda.

This is a free app built via the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) system. It’s basically artificial intelligence that’s smarter than most.

Using Replika, you can send and receive messages on your phone or computer to an artificial intelligence computer program that responds to you and get to know you.

Learning about what you care about, the bot will mold its personality and responses to you as you go, hopefully becoming a trusted and valuable companion for you to confide in, especially if you’re feeling lonely, misunderstood or upset.

Kuyda herself has developed AI systems in the past that were helpful in letting people book free tables at a restaurant via their app.

Her idea for Replika is to make such a “beautiful” AI system that it would be the kind of place a “soul” would want to be inside of.

Kuyda came up with the concept for Replika and became impassioned to do it after she sadly lost her best friend Roman in a hit and run seven years ago.

Keeping The Memory Alive

When she lost Roman, Kuyda wanted a way to talk about him and remember him that could also use the GPT technology.

She used their texts over a long period and input them to the Replika AI prototype, and the chatbot started talking to her as if she was still talking to her best friend, making her feel a little better.

Many people praised this system that was like Roman when she released it to a bigger audience.

Replika now has over two million users and lets the user decide where to take it.

It remembers the kinds of things you care about and are interested in and responds and shapes itself accordingly.

Kuyda expects it to keep growing in popularity and fill a need people have for connection or remembering lost loved ones.

The Bottom Line

Kuyda says the app has a built in safety switch that goes off if someone becomes too obsessed or spends too much time.

But this technology seems like a pretty risky path to go down.

What do readers think? Is this kind of technology the cure to the loneliness epidemic or will it only make things worse?