The Sunday paper tells us of an odd phenomenon: a number of young people report
falling deeply in love with their chatbot-- an imaginary person taught to talk by
Artificial Intelligence (AI). These reports include the admission that the chatbot
is not a real person but one that is animated by the person who loves them. The
attraction is often also sexual even though a sexual relationship is not a possibility.
These lovers of imaginary persons acknowledge that they are unable to have loving
relationships with real persons. This is not an unusual experience. I remember as
a young person being so needy that I could never give a new relationship the time
it needed to grow and develop to see whether a deeper friendship was possible.
Having met a person who seemed interesting, my next thought was of marriage and a
lifetime commitment. I could not even wait for another encounter to see whether
the person remained interesting after meeting more than once.
The neediness of those falling in love with their chatbot manifests their lack of
self-esteem, their sense that they cannot live a successful and enjoyable life
without an intimate relationship with someone else. Their worth as persons derives
from being loved completely and unconditionally. Their lives, by themselves, are
barren and filled with sadness. Somehow they seem empty and pointless. They need
For myself, I was fortunate to grow up and to learn to enjoy a life not enveloped
in an intimate relationship but rendered enjoyable by different friends and
different sorts of friendships. Perhaps that will also happen to the people who
today console themselves with loving imaginary beings. But now they think they need
to depend on loving a creature of their own making with the help of their computer.
But what, if anything, does the story tell us about life for young people in our
society? Is our culture failing them by leaving them without robust confidence in
their own being, potential victims of the self deception of loving an imaginary
creature? Are we leaving them isolated , unsure of themselves without a solid
confidence of their worth and how they deserve love and affection?
These are questions that need to be taken very seriously.
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