By Danny Tye
Artificial intelligence has cemented its place as this decade’s defining technological development. The growth in automated technology, and the expansion in the number of tasks it is able to complete unaided, has threatened normality within the job market: the WEF predicts that by next year, 85 million jobs worldwide will have been disrupted or replaced altogether by AI.
With the revolution in economic production comes changes to social production. AI’s potential to satiate our emotional needs at a time of endemic loneliness has been well-publicised – AI chatbots are now being marketed as virtual therapists or “wellness coaches” as companies seek to take advantage of growing waiting lists to sell their automated services. Now, AI is being sold as a romantic partner too, with various online platforms, such as CharacterAI, Candy.AI and Replika fine-tuning the technology to provide – at a fee – AI partners with endless opportunities for customer optimisation to fit specifications. What was previously a figment of sci-fi writers’ imaginations has become reality – as millions of registered users have discovered, AI partners never tire of us and never speak out of turn. What’s more, if we don’t like their responses, we can rewrite them ourselves.
The tech world seems unable, or unwilling, to get a hold of this runaway train: an article in Futurism from late January described how OpenAI struggled to clamp down on erotic AI bots flooding app markets, in spite of a contractual ban. The phenomenon doesn’t seem to be going anywhere –– one AI romance app, Character.AI, boasts 20 million registered users, with several other platforms amassing millions of subscribers. Subscription costs and venture-capitalist backing seem to have cemented the technology for the foreseeable future, with Bloomberg predicting a growth of the generative AI market from $40 billion to $1.3 trillion over the next decade.