- Concerns mount over young men's increasing preference for AI chatbots over real relationships.
- Rapid advancements in AI companions merge physical and emotional dimensions, drawing more users into virtual relationships.
October 9, 2023: The trend of AI-powered virtual girlfriends in the US is escalating rapidly. Experts are alarmed, highlighting that this might be fueling a concerning rise in loneliness among young men.
According to a report by The Hill, Liberty Vittert, a respected data science professor at Olin Business School, expressed her concerns about AI girlfriends exacerbating male solitude.
During a classroom interaction with her 18-year-old students about their choice of social media platforms, Prof Vittert was taken aback when a male student revealed he had an AI girlfriend. “It surprised me that he came out and said it so openly,” she remarked. With AI girlfriends becoming more mainstream, discussions about them are now less taboo.
Multiple apps now offer virtual girlfriend experiences that simulate “perfect” relationships. Replika, a leading name in this domain, boasts over 10 million users.
Since the onset of the global pandemic, the app has witnessed a 35% growth.
Some Replika users claim to have developed deep emotional connections with their AI counterparts, with reports of virtual engagements and even marriages.
Describing the nature of the AI girlfriend experience, Prof Vittert explained to The Hill, “The AI girlfriend never has a bad day, learning everything from what you like and dislike, giving men these ‘perfect’ relationships without the inevitable highs and lows of human interactions.”
Worryingly, the professor noted that many men are opting for chatbot relationships over real human interactions.
This, she fears, may lead to an uptick in single men, potentially impacting birth rates. She termed this as a “silent epidemic of loneliness.”
The professor emphasized that women generally report having more close friends, making them less susceptible to this AI allure.
Data from the Pew Research Centre in 2022 indicated a disparity between single men and women. While 34% of women reported being single, a staggering 63% of men identified as single. Furthermore, men, on average, had fewer close friends compared to women.
The professor expressed concern about the rapid advancement and increased prevalence of these AI companions. “We’re transitioning from simple text-based AI girlfriends to ones allowing picture exchanges.
There’s a quick merging of physical and emotional dimensions,” Vittert said.