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Here Come the AI Companions

The Internet ushered in a wave of virtual living and connectivity. Is this the next inevitable step?

The popular social media influencer Caryn Marjorie recently launched “CarynAI,” an artificially intelligent companion that her millions of followers can interact with every day. Marjorie told the Washington Post that she doesn’t have the bandwidth to respond to all the requests she gets from her predominantly male fanbase, however much she wishes to. She furthermore wants to cure them all of their loneliness. She’s on track to make 5 million dollars a month from CarynAI.

The bot makes it possible for fans to have a “relationship” with a simulated version of Caryn. Conversations are designed to “wind down” after an hour, but there’s no time limit. One of Caryn’s reps said users are spending hours interacting with CarynAI. The project was developed by Forever Voices, which has a fascinating (and telling) backstory. Taylor Lorenz writes,

John Meyer, CEO and founder of Forever Voices, said that he created the company last year, after trying to use AI to develop ways to reconnect with his late father, who passed away in 2017. He built an AI voice chatbot that replicated his late father’s voice and personality to talk to and found the experience incredibly healing. “It was a remarkable experience to talk to him again in a super realistic way,” Meyer said. “I’ve been in tech my whole life, I’m a programmer, so it was easy for me to start building something like that especially as things got more advanced with the AI space.”

-Taylor Lorenz, CarynAI, created with GPT-4 technology, will be your girlfriend – The Washington Post

The company responsible for CarynAI was started as a way to cope with loss; now it’s proliferating a fantasy bot that’s designed to “cure loneliness” among solitary men.

Gary Varner, who covers issues in arts and culture at Mind Matters, recently reviewed the 2013 movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johanssen. In the film, the young professional Theodore (played by Phoenix), newly divorced, “falls in love” with his artificially intelligent operating system (O.S., played by Johanssen). He misses his ex-wife in the film, but comes to appreciate the O.S. for its sophisticated perspective of the world, apparent depth of empathy, and understanding of who he is as a person. The only problem is that “she” is fake, and also “in love” with hundreds of other O.S. users. This discovery shatters Theodore, but brings him back to reality; he writes his ex-wife a heartfelt, honest letter, and emotionally connects with a real woman at the end of the film.

Lorenz adds in her piece on CarynAI,

While Forever Voices is focused on creating AI companions based on real people, other experts believe that there will come a time when you don’t need real people at all. Already, there are fully virtual influencer characters. For instance, Lil Miquela amassed hundreds of thousands of followers after launching in 2016, despite the fact that she was only a computer-generated model made to mimic the personality of an Instagram lifestyle influencer. But Lil Miquela’s posts and personality were manually created by Trevor McFedries and Sara Decou, co-founders of Brud, the company that created her.

The Internet ushered in a wave of virtual living and connectivity. Is this the next inevitable step? And is it one we should even think about taking? Sadly, it seems millions of lonely souls already have.

Peter Biles

Writer and Editor, Center for Science & Culture
Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is the author of Hillbilly Hymn and Keep and Other Stories and has also written stories and essays for a variety of publications. He was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma and is the Writer and Editor for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.

Here Come the AI Companions