44 Comments

Yeah sure but where did you get the image of the Wehrmacht Waifu

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I really enjoyed this essay. As an older woman, I follow you to keep up with the "kids" so to speak. A few things that came to me while reading this. 1) the fascination with the killers. Reminded me of a woman I knew in the 90s who wrote to inmates. She was their penpal and weirdly fantasized about them. Like the online only relationships you describe at the end of this essay, these were her "boyfriends" that she'd maybe one day meet. She had one in particular that she was devoted to and painted an entire fictional narrative over him. There are some women who become penpals with inmates and then marry them. Been happening for a while, today's virtual creations are an extension of the beauty and the beast fantasy so many women have. The bad boy that we tame, the evil one that we make pure, the monster who ravishes us in the night against our will. 2) AI boyfriends will be a replacement for erotica and romance novels, or like them. I agree. Totally. It's simply the next step. Women are so creative in this way. Will it replace men? No. If anything, this sort of stuff relieves the other partner in the relationship from having to be our all and everything. I'm a novelist, I live in other worlds. That allows my husband to veg out on the couch and watch football and I don't even notice ;-) Consumers of such entertainment are doing the same. In this case, they get to become content creators as well (which is why women love to write fanfic). Anyway, great post!

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Jan 18Liked by Katherine Dee

I could see this becoming "merch" for relevant properties. Have a big long series like Bridgerton or Reacher that people engage with? Now the author can create relevant AI personalities as either a stand alone product, or sell them as overlays in Replika or something like that, only $9.95 a month!

Heck, could extend this beyond romance. Where's my Marcus Aurelius GPT trained on Stoicism providing daily guidance? Oh, actually someone built that already - StoicGPT. I couldn't find anyone doing the Bridgerton one yet though...

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I feel like there's a contradiction between "humans can form durable romantic relationships with each other via text" and "relationships with AIs will always be a poor substitute for humans".

Why couldn't an AI make an average person fall for them via text, if a human can? Heck, robotics has been making some impressive strides; which is more "real", an online relationship with a human or an embodied one with an advanced AI?

Maybe you think this is an AGI-complete problem, and we'll have bigger fish to fry than caring about relationship troubles when we have human+ AI. Which might be true. But LLMs are already weakly general intelligences, capable of everything from persuasive writing to tool use; compelling-to-the-average-person romance might not be out of the question for them, if not now then soon, perhaps.

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If the ideal boyfriends/girlfriends become essentially near-infinitely replicable, it seems very likely that their desirability would also decrease. Having a great mate would inspire the same envy in others that having a great porn or romance novel collection would. AI mates would be the ultimate test of whether we like sex and love more for their own sake or for the social prestige they bestow upon those who have them.

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Jan 18Liked by Katherine Dee

I really enjoyed this one. I also like this subject because it's an opportunity to explore different parts of the self that those excluded from dating don't have a window to otherwise. What type of partner do I prefer, what types of dates do I enjoy, how does a particular romantic interaction make me feel, etc. It's not a 1:1 replication of the experience, but it's still engaging grounds for experimentation.

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The comparison that comes to mind is fake plastic plants. Pretty much everyone prefers real plants, but if you don't have time or discipline to keep a plant alive, then you can get a fake plant and squint. You can go on vacation whenever you want and you'll never come home to see it wilted.

Someone can try to justify how they're actually just as good as a real plant, and conjure up a kitsch aesthetic out of them, but everyone knows a fake plant can never be a real plant. When we see an ambiguously fake-ish looking plant, we quickly want to ascertain if whether or not it's real.

Keeping a fake plant alive doesn't give you a feeling of accomplishment, and it doesn't give the same feeling of interconnectedness and dynamism of a real plant, not to mention beauty. But still, a lot of people will take a fake plant.

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Jan 18·edited Jan 18Liked by Katherine Dee

"...how many are merely coping?"

Why merely?

Lots of people feel excluded and hopeless in the sexual marketplace. The more engaging the available substitutes become the more these people will remain with those substitutes. This is already happening, as you point out. But as these technologies become more lifelike and personalized, they will become increasingly popular. They will lack some human element, but they will also be insulated from many human risks. This technology could be world changing, and not in ways many would consider good. But if personal sexual choice is limitless so long as it is consensual, the current default norm, then expect this technology to be a major factor, if not the predomiant one.

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