AI companions

We are aware of the many ways that the AI revolution can transform our lives, right? Sure, AI is disrupting every industry.

But now it’s getting personal. AI has taken another step closer and has come for our love lives. Enter the AI relationship industry; it’s probably an app right there on your cell phone.

Is this a positive disruption or an existential threat?  How would you really feel if your partner cheated on you — with a chatbot? We know that generative AI is not sentient in itself, but the truth is, that as humans, we are, and it is possible that we can still develop feelings and emotional connections for someTHING we become dependent on, as well as someONE.

The ‘No Strings Attached’ Industry

But are we really looking for love and relationships outside of the human race? Apparently, it would seem so. AI Product Reviews recently crunched some numbers behind the aforementioned AI relationship industry.

The results? Over 73,000 Google searches per month are for AI relationships. It seems there’s a big market for AI girlfriends, just over 10,000 searches for AI friends, and under 4,000 for AI boyfriends. Sex, predictably, still sells. AI sex chat-related terms get 24,250 searches each month and of course this raises ethical concerns.

And there are real concerns. Character.ai, for example, allows users to create characters and talk to them. Roleplay and sex are the main reasons these bots are created. Despite the platform’s guardrails, and while the site is only available to those aged 16 and above in the E.U., the age limit is 13 and above everywhere else, spelling danger for kids who can easily stumble across inappropriate material.

Cheating or Chatting?

Back to that cheating chatbot. Texting and sexting affairs are the downfall for many relationships in this age of cellphones and secrets. But really, what if the “other person” isn’t actually real? Recent polling in the UK by YouGov as part of a societal survey asked “How would you feel if a romantic partner of yours was exchanging sexual messages with an AI chatbot?” to which a majority of 58% of respondents said they would be angry or upset about it and just 12% said they would be okay with it.

Swipe Right

Anyone looking for real romance and love is probably thinking that they should stick to the tried and tested dating apps, such as Tinder. Actually, Tinder —currently with more than 75 million active users — says it will be “launching a number of artificial intelligence initiatives to make dating more rewarding” as the Guardian newspaper recently reported. AI will assist in surfacing the right content to the right people, like any good algorithm, we guess, but also it’s currently testing an AI tool that will select a user’s best photos, enhancing their chances of a future Mr. or Mrs. Right also swiping right. Tinder is also testing the use of AI to help people write more attractive bio texts. Guys, you can all be Mr. Darcy with a little help.

Iris Dating is another AI-powered app that claims to take the risks out of online dating such as catfishing, endless swiping and awkward doomed dates — or perhaps it’s simply dating burnout. Machine learning is used to constantly improve its matching algorithm. I guess some things are best not left up to luck.

Where there’s a demand, there’s a supply to meet it, and a quick Google search pulls up “fun and flirty” dating simulator apps aplenty.

“I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you, ” wrote Paulo Coelho in his bestselling book, The Alchemist. The entire universe plus a little help from AI, maybe.

Can AI really change how we approach love? It’s complicated — of course it is. But it’s also down to us, and true love conquers all…doesn’t it?