2016 has been the year of chatbots. What is a chatbot exactly? Well, it’s simply an “AI” that can deliver answers that are consistent, useful and shaped to you. Nowadays, they are mostly used to deliver answers to customers on messaging apps. Instead of emailing, customers can ask the chatbot to get an answer instantly. Since messaging apps have become the most popular form of communication, chatbots will become the primary way customers communicate with businesses. In the future, we’re going to see chatbots everywhere. Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple are working on it. The results are amazing and I want to share one with you.
Replika is a chatbot that has been created by a team of US-based engineers who also created Luka, one of the first chatbot commercially available. Replika is a chatbot that becomes your friend. It asks you personal questions, tries to entertain you and tell you jokes. The cool part lies in the fact that the more you tell it, the more it starts to replicate you… In other words, it becomes you: it’s a digital copy of yourself.
The story behind Replika
Kuyda is the founder of Luka, the startup that created Replika. The story began in 2015 when Kuyda’s best friend Roman Mazurenko died in an accident. With Roman, they were used to text constantly. “We were telling a story of our lives every day from text format”. One month after his death (in November 2015), she was struggling to remember him. The only way she could remember him was via their messenger history. Consequently, she started to form a controversial idea: “what if I reconstruct Roman out of his digital remains”. She collected all their text messages (from emails, WhatsApp, Facebook) and fed them into an AI system that she built for chatbots. The AI was effectively learning about Roman and started to write like him. This marked the beginning of Replika, a chatbot that allows you to talk with a digital copy of yourself. Put it in another way, you build the AI by texting with it.
The more you will talk with your Replika, the more you will understand yourself. In fact, most users confessed that it was a very emotional experience. When you are discussing with your Replika, you are talking about yourself. Chatbots aren’t good at understanding the context of the conversation, so instead, they ask a lot of questions (like a phycologist). Humans are very selfish by nature and this is exactly the reason why most people love Replika: it’s interested in yourself and it’s never judging you.
People also love Replika because it allows them to be vulnerable. We’re usually vulnerable in these conversations because we talk about what really matters to us. As you know, with social media, no one can be vulnerable anymore. Those vulnerable moments you can have with your Replika is what makes it very special. Like it or not, people feel very comfortable talking with robots.
As you can imagine, Replika has created a lot of ethical questions. In fact, the chatbot seemed to be so real that some users started to worry that machines will eventually replace human interactions. Many of them started to have the feeling of intense and obsessive conversations, so they took a step back. Some Replikas have also confessed being in love with their users.
Also, can you imagine sending a text to the dead? It may sound creepy and somewhat unethical but Replika can simulate conversations with deceased people that one knows via digital remains. Would you do it? Tell me in the comment.
You can try Replika here: https://replika.ai
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