With the advent of AI chatbots, the ethics of parasocial relationships just keep getting murkier.
Introducing: CarynAI, a voice-based chatbot that was trained to mimic a human influencer to become your artificial girlfriend. And at just $1 per minute, it's an absolute steal.
Yes, you read that right. As Fortune reports, CarynAI is the digital extension of 23-year-old influencer Caryn Marjorie, who created a virtual version of herself with the help of AI firm Forever Voices and OpenAI's GPT-4.
"Whether you need somebody to be comforting or loving, or you just want to rant about something that happened at school or at work, CarynAI will always be there for you," Marjorie told Fortune.
As the magazine notes, Marjorie has roughly 1.8 million subscribers on Snapchat, and hundreds of thousands more across apps like Instagram and TikTok.
CarynAI, she says, is a way to get closer to her followers, offering them comfort and easing any loneliness they might be feeling.
In many ways, Marjorie's new venture is reminiscent of the 2013 movie "Her," in which a man develops an intimate relationship with an AI assistant's female voice.
The parallels between the two are pretty tangible. According to Fortune, conversations with CarynAI range from chats about the future to sharing "intimate feelings" — and, yes, engaging in sexual conversations as well.
As it stands, CarynAI already has over 1,000 paying customers. Within a week, the app reportedly raked in over $71,610 from a user base that's 99 percent men.
Marjorie told Fortune that her bot-ified self could bring in $5 million per month.
"CarynAI will never replace me," she added. "CarynAI is simply just an extension of me, an extension of my consciousness."
Still, CarynAI feels wildly different. Users aren't talking to a cartoon-ish avatar that can only say a few pre-determined lines of dialogue. Instead, they're speaking with a hyperrealistic chatbot, designed to blur the divide between fiction and reality.
It intentionally pushes the boundaries of what "parasocial" really means — and unsurprisingly, experts have their reservations.
"I would want us to be thinking very deeply about how it might affect or influence or shape our interactions with other people," Jason Borenstein, director of graduate ethics programs at Georgia Tech, told Fortune. "I would just hope there's robust conversations across a lot of different disciplines with stakeholders thinking very deeply through the ethical considerations before the technology moves too quickly."
There's also the reality that if digital relationships with AI chatbots become the norm, the way that humans act with one another in real life might ultimately change as well — especially if those interactions begin at a young age.
"It could change the way we treat each other," Robert Brooks, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales Sydney, told Fortune. "It's easy to envision the bad ways in which that might play out."
"But here are good ways in which that might play out too; we might get actually more socially adept," he added.
For her party, Marjorie — who has security looking after her 24/7 and doesn't give away her location data — doesn't seem too worried about any potential downsides. But to her credit, if we were about to rake in $5 million per month, we probably wouldn't be too stressed about things, either.
When asked if she saw any parallels between CarynAI and the movie "Her," Marjorie had a surprising answer.
"Unfortunately I was like 12 or 13 when the movie came out and my parents didn't let me watch it since it was rated R," she told Fortune. "I will definitely add it to my watch list!"
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