Monday, February 20, 2023

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.