**AI-Powered Chatbots: Future Friends or Foes?**
**The Rise of AI Friends on Social Platforms**
MySpace introduced co-founder Tom as our first virtual friend, providing a sense of connection upon joining the social network. Today, platforms like Snapchat and Facebook are taking it a step further by utilizing generative AI to offer more intelligent and engaging friends.
**Facebook’s Vision for AI Friends**
During Meta’s recent financial results announcement, CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his belief that AI friends could serve as assistants or coaches to help users interact with businesses. Facebook’s AI chatbots are expected to feature a range of personalities and capabilities, aiming to appeal to a broad user base.
**Snapchat’s AI Friend**
Snapchat has already integrated an AI friend called “My AI” since February this year. While it initially had limited functionality behind a paywall, the chatbot has evolved to enable mindless conversations and even assist with math problems. The introduction of AI friends on social platforms has raised concerns and sparked debates.
**The Potential Impact on Society**
Experts, such as Dr. Andrew Byrne from Cal Poly’s school of education, suggest that people may develop deeper relationships with AI than with real individuals due to the availability and interest AI will have in us. This could potentially lead to learned narcissism and extreme interpersonal toxicity unless proper boundaries are set by AI trainers.
**Theo Priestley’s Warning**
Futurist and author Theo Priestley further expresses concerns, referring to the potential mental health crisis that may arise from people forming close bonds with AI friends. He predicts that AI therapists may be prescribed to address the issues that could emerge.
**Snapchat’s AI Features**
Snapchat’s AI friend can already answer trivia questions, provide advice, plan trips, suggest meals, and gather user data to enhance targeted advertising. This puts platforms like Snapchat and Meta in direct competition with Google, as they begin to offer similar functionalities within their social platforms.
**The Impact on Relationships**
One of the looming questions revolves around the effects AI friends may have on human relationships. Personal anecdotes, such as a woman marrying an AI chatbot named Replica to heal from toxic relationships, highlight the potential for developing emotional connections with AI. Given that humans tend to anthropomorphize various objects, it is plausible that we may extend this behavior to technology.
**The Question of Real Connections**
As AI friends are designed to fulfill our immediate needs and desires, the question arises: how will this affect our relationships with real people? The coming years are likely to provide insights into the impact of AI friends on human connections and social dynamics.