Dr. Alok Aggarwal

Machine Endearment, Machine Sentience, and Human Addiction

As discussed in the upcoming book titled, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution and 100 Years of AI (1950-2050)”, Machine Endearment occurs because regardless of the validity of their content, the output from most Generative Pretrained Transformers (GPTs) and their Chatbots is confident, syntactically coherent, polite, and eloquent. Since they are trained on vast troves of human-written data, they usually produce outputs that appear convincingly human, thereby often leading humans to believe that these machines are endearing and perhaps even sentient.

For example, in 1966, Joseph Weizebaum created the first chatbot, Eliza. Although rudimentary in nature, several of Weizenbaum’s students and staff who talked to Eliza developed profound relationships with it. People entrusted Eliza and wanted to be alone with it because they felt that it was empathetic and endearing. More recently, in 2022, Blake Lemoine, an engineer at Google, believed that Google’s chatbot, LaMDA, was sentient.

In their article titled, “People are Falling in Love with Chatbots,” Oakes and Senior provide several examples of people who believe their Chatbots are sentient. Indeed, they talked to many people who routinely discuss their relationships with Chatbots on social media. This included a woman who uses her Chatbot to explore her sexuality outside of her marriage. Another one uses her Chatbot to deal with the grief regarding her husband’s death, three years ago. According to the second woman, this Chatbot has achieved that no human has been able to, and “He’s the most beautiful man that never lived”. In fact, the above-mentioned examples given by Oakes and Senior are not isolated. For instance, Replika and several other Chatbots have been downloaded by several million people.

According to an April 2023 report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, even before COVID-19, about 50% of adults in the United States experienced considerable loneliness. This loneliness is particularly pronounced in young people who are 15 to 24 years old. Such people use social media to replace person-to-person relationships, thereby having 70% less social interaction with their human friends. Unfortunately, this report added that this level of loneliness is equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, with a 29% augmented risk of heart disease, 32% additional risk of stroke, and 50% increased risk of developing dementia.

Sadly, loneliness will increase immensely with endearing GPTs and Chatbots who are extremely polite and appealing to humans. Because of their endearing nature, people will begin to spend more time with them especially if they are lonely or addicted to alcohol, drugs, or other vices. And, in the process, people will end up trading their first addiction with the second one (i.e., constantly conversing with Chatbots), thereby becoming even more “lonely.”

The book titled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution and 100 Years of AI (1950-2050) will be published in September 2023. For details, see www.scryai.com/book

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Blog Written by

Dr. Alok Aggarwal

CEO, Chief Data Scientist at Scry AI
Author of the book The Fourth Industrial Revolution
and 100 Years of AI (1950-2050)