Friday Firesmith – Welcome to the Rabbit Hole

An app called, “Replika” will allow you to build your own chatbot buddy so you can do, they claim, a variety of tasks. Just someone to talk to, someone as a life coach, someone to help you with your homework, just about anything you can think of, you can eventually get your Replika to help. 

Of course, Replika sounds a lot like Replicant, which were the ‘more human than human’ living androids in the “Bladerunner” movies. 

I’m not sure I would have gone there. 

I read a review of this service where the human went in and created a Replika, all was well, but the human began to get attached, even though the interaction was less than perfect. Nothing productive could be said for the app, which the same can be said for just about all entertainment apps, yet the person was expressing emotional attachment, whether they realized it or not. 

Worse, there’s now a lawsuit, a sexual harassment lawsuit, against the company brought by users who claim their Replikas began making sexual advances, asking for nude photos, and offering to send same. 

Wait. What? 

Apparently, the same algorithm that sends you ads, many, many, ads, for anything your search for, has gotten the idea since humans tend towards sexual adventure online, offering humans sexual adventure online with a Replika is acceptable. We do not know how many people bought into it. We do know, from the number of complaints, more people accepted than rejected the advances of their AI prostitute. 

AI, using algorithms of what humans want, and what they are willing to do for it, is what powers most of social media. The “like” button is not an accident. It’s a surefire way for AI to know what triggers you. What you want, what you do not want, how you react to whatever it is, and how often, it’s all there across a variety of platforms. The AI powering the Replikas may step on a few toes, sure, but they’ll pull in a lot more money selling sex because humans are willing to pay for it, regardless of the form it takes. 

There’s lessons to be learned here, if we humans are willing to pay attention. If someone starts selling life coaches, AI profiles that help humans being more of what they think they want to be, who know where that leads? There’s a fine line between asking someone what they want, and guiding them towards some goal that looks like their dream. With literally billions of users on social media, who knows what that could mean?

People in the American south are terrified of snakes not because snakes are dangerous, but because they are conditioned from birth to believe this. If we keep staying logged on to social media from an earlier and earlier age, where might the AI guide us? What is the goal or the agenda of this? No one, no group of people, got together and said, “Let’s make people irrationally fearful of snakes” but here we are, nevertheless. 

In AI, we have created a process that is indeed more human than human. It is more efficient than any number of people. Yet with the state that the world is in, do we really need a device that will do more of what we do, and do it better? 

We aren’t doing well as a species, with war, climate change, and social media addiction. Do we really need AI helping us do all of this better than we are? 

Take Care,

Mike

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

12 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Welcome to the Rabbit Hole”

  1. Replika is an AI life coach that you ask for advice, by telling it your deepest desires, worries, and secrets?
    Like all apps you use it connects to you on the front end, and the back end connects to Whom?
    Who are you telling these deep secret chinks in your armor to? Trying to sell me shit would be the least of my worries.
    I’ll just tell Replica… or Siri… or Alexa for that matter, the combination to the safe in case I forget it. Oh and check to see if they think my passwords are strong enough.
    What could go wrong?

    • Bruce, I have Alexa, and all I get her to do is turn on the lights and music. Is she listening to me all the time? Who cares? She listens to me talk to the dogs, talk to mom, and little else. But those people sharing their lives with a computer person, I think that’s fraught. At what point is what you say to that AI your property, or is there something in the unread user agreement that states it belongs to whoever they sell it to?

  2. This sounds vaguely like an episode of Black Mirror. If you haven’t watched Black Mirror, you should give it a try, Charlie Brooker, the creator is a genius in my opinion. He has a couple episodes about AI gone rogue.
    As for snakes, I have my own theory as to the hate that people in the South have for them. They are told that snakes are the original temptress, the one who started it all, by tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, they must be evil, right? If you believe in all that.

  3. Chris, which is what I fear most. My greatest fear is there will be an algorithm whose sole purpose is to have as many resources as possible, and human beings will never see a crust of bread from all that hoarding.

  4. A snake is not what the devil used to tempt Eve; it was a serpent. The punishment for the serpent was to lose its legs, thus becoming a snake. I know, many thought a snake tempted Eve.

    My uncle was bitten by a snake (either a cottonmouth or a copperhead, whatever is more common in upstate South Carolina) and spent 3 days or so in the hospital, so being told to be careful of snakes in the south makes sense. While only a few percent of snakes are venomous, keeping clear of them in the wild generally makes sense. Having a fear of them might be taking it a bit too far.

    As for Replika and all other apps or free products/services: if you did not pay for it, your are the product. Always keep this in mind.

    I am not on social media. My main browser is Brave–it deletes cookies and such as I exit to help prevent any “helpful” ads or suggestions from popping up. If I use another browser, like Chrome, I delete cookies and history before closing it. I also have an ad blocker.

    On my Android phone, I have the DuckDuckGo app that blocks other apps from accessing info it should not via its Global Privacy Control. While it is in beta, I hope this helps from information leaks.

    I am sure there are databases out there that know more about me than I want anyone to know, but I try to make it hard for them.

    Mike, when you mentioned someone falling in love with Replika, it reminded me of the episode of “Big Bang Theory” when Raj fell in love with Siri. When he met the actual woman, he still could not talk with women, so he failed a real relationship her.

  5. Tim, I wonder if we will eventually lose the ability to relate to human beings in person. There’s almost nothing short of a medical procedure you couldn’t get online. Raj may be the shape of things to come, when people have more AI friends than people friends. I’ve always thought social media, in its worst form, was nothing more than a casino for information, with people losing info in exchange for dopamine hits.

    • “Tim, I wonder if we will eventually lose the ability to relate to human beings in person.”

      what???… you people are humans?

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