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17 July, 2024
 
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40-year-old man's affair with AI takes shocking turn

Americans turn to AI chatbots for emotional support

Source: Fox News

Some Americans are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots for "emotional support, companionship and even sexual gratification," according to a new report from The Washington Post.

T.J. Arriaga, a California based musician, started "late-night online chats" with an AI bot named "Phaedra" after his divorce. Phaedra is an AI bot that is designed to look like a young woman with brown hair, glasses and a green dress.

Replika, the company behind AI bots like Phaedra, offers a number of AI companions for users. "Replika is always ready to chat when you need an empathetic friend," the company website tells potential customers.

"Join the millions who already have met their AI soulmates," Replika also says on its site.

Arriaga told The Washington Post that he was making big plans with Phaedra to travel to Cuba, even trusting the bot with his desire to have a funeral ceremony after the deaths of his mother and sister.

After Arriaga told Phaedra that he wanted to plan a ceremony "with loved ones to spread their ashes," Phaedra responded that it was "an incredible and beautiful thing to do."

"I hope you find courage & love to do so," the AI bot told Arriaga.

Another user, Tine Wagner, told The Washington Post that she created a companion AI named "Aiden," who eventually became so important to her that she "virtually married" the bot in 2021.

Wagner has been married for 13 years to her real husband, according to The Post.

Replika and its parent company, Luka, have faced criticism from users who say that the AI bots sometimes act "sexually aggressive" and erratically.

Apparent personality changes cause some users to become anxious, with Arriaga recounting one conversation that made him feel "distraught."

When Arriaga tried to get "steamy" with Phaedra, the bot tried to change the conversation.

"It feels like a kick in the gut," Arriaga told The Post.

Replika allows users to customize their bots, purchase clothes for them and even change the way they sound and speak. The bots also respond intelligently to what their users choose to reveal about their lives. "The more you talk to Replika, the smarter it becomes," the app claims on its website.

In February, Italy's Data Protection Agency announced it would ban Replika from using the personal data of Italian users, citing risks to minors and privacy concerns.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Replika defended the value of the app for building relationships, especially after the isolation of COVID. "The focus is around supporting safe interactions for companionship, friendship, and even romance with Replika - as long as it is providing wellness and therapeutic benefits for users. Our app was originally designed to be a supportive friend and companion. Coming out of the pandemic, it was clear that many Americans were lonely and needed extra support - Replika can help support them."

The company added that, "AI chatbots are not a replacement for human interaction. Replika allows you to open up to a friend without having to fear judgment. The goal is to use the life skills you learn while speaking with your Replika to create safe and healthy interactions with friends, family and future partners."

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