Recent times have witnessed a sudden surge in the rise of virtual artificial intelligence (AI) girlfriends in the US. However, experts say that it is enabling the silent epidemic of loneliness in the generation of young men.
Liberty Vittert, a professor of the practice of data science at Olin Business School, said she was taken aback when one student said he had an AI-generated girlfriend.
"It surprised me that he came out and said it so openly. I think AI girlfriends have been around for a while, but they've become increasingly mainstream, so people are willing to talk about them," she told the Insider. She noted that the availability of AI girlfriends is making male loneliness worse.
Rise Of AI Girlfriends In The US
There are several apps that serve as a platform for young men to find virtual girlfriends. Replika, a popular app with 10 million users, which saw a 35% increase during the pandemic, said that users have reported being in love, engaged, and even married to AI-generated partners.
Professor Vittert shared her thoughts in The Hill, “AI girlfriends are ruining an entire generation of men. The articles theorised that the next step would be the introduction of an AI girlfriend that would “meet all of your needs.”
"It's not a virtual girlfriend; it's a girlfriend that, by definition, learns from you—what you like and what you don't like," she wrote. "The AI girlfriend never has a bad day, so these men have these perfect relationships and never have to deal with the ups and downs of a real relationship."
She added that the nature of an AI girlfriend risks men choosing bots over real relationships, which could eventually lead to more single men and reduce the birth rate in the US. While these virtual partners can provide a form of companionship, they can also isolate people, Prof. Vittert said, citing the higher proportion of single men than women in the US.
She pointed out that women always report having more close friends or having a wider group of friends, and they don’t seem to be as psychologically prey to the AI lifestyle as men.
The Pew Research Centre in 2022 found that 34 percent of women were single, compared to 63 percent of women, adding that men have fewer close friends than women.
Professor Vittert said that the prevalence of AI girlfriends has increased drastically over the past couple of years and that they are also getting advanced quickly.
"We're going from AI girlfriends who you text with to ones you can send pictures with. There's this very quick blend of the physical and the emotional," she noted.
Men Abusing Their AI-generated Girlfriend
In a shocking revelation, there have been reports where men create AI-generated girlfriends, act abusively towards them, and boost their toxic interactions on Reddit.
According to Futurism, one user said that he would “berate her every time she would try and speak up.” He added that it went on for hours. Another user shared that “they had a routine of him insulting the chatboy and then apologising and being nice the next day.
Some users bragged about name-calling their AI-generated girlfriends with gendered slurs, engaging in violent roleplays with them, and even falling into the cycle of abuse, much like in real-world abusive relationships. Extremely problematic and toxic content has even been posted on Reddit and later removed by moderators.
Suggested Reading: Would You Let Artificial Intelligence Choose Your Partner?