scorecardThe rise of AI girlfriends is making male loneliness worse and risks ruining a generation of men, a professor says
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The rise of AI girlfriends is making male loneliness worse and risks ruining a generation of men, a professor says

Beatrice Nolan   

The rise of AI girlfriends is making male loneliness worse and risks ruining a generation of men, a professor says
Tech2 min read
  • The availability of AI girlfriends is making male loneliness worse, Professor Liberty Vittert says.
  • AI-powered virtual companions have been on the rise since the pandemic.

Liberty Vittert, a professor of the practice of data science at Olin Business School, always asks her class of mainly 18-year-old students what social-media apps they are using at the start of the year.

She says the question helps her gauge what's popular with young people. So, when one of her male students said he had an AI girlfriend she was taken aback.

"It surprised me that he came out and said it so openly," she told Insider. "I think AI girlfriends have been around for a while but they've become increasingly more mainstream so people are willing to talk about them."

AI virtual companions have been on the rise since the pandemic but recent developments in generative AI have put them in the spotlight.

Replika, a popular app that provides AI-powered digital partners, has surged in popularity in recent years. The app hit more than 10 million users in 2022 after seeing a 35% increase during the global pandemic. In the last year, several Replika users have reported being in love, engaged in an exclusive relationship, or even married to their AI partners.

In May, when Caryn Marjorie created an AI version of herself, which was designed to be a virtual girlfriend, she was flooded with subscribers willing to pay to have a relationship with the bot. Within a week, she had 1,000 paying subscribers and a waitlist of more than 15,000 people.

Vittert published her thoughts on the phenomenon in an op-ed in The Hill titled, "AI girlfriends are ruining an entire generation of men." The article theorized that the next step is an AI girlfriend that can "meet all of your needs."

"It's not a virtual girlfriend, it's a girlfriend that by definition learns from you, what you like and what you don't like," she said. "The AI girlfriend never has a bad day so these men have these perfect relationships and never have to deal with the ups and the downs of a real relationship."

Vittert says the very nature of an AI girlfriend risks men choosing the bots over a real relationship, which could eventually lead to more single men and affect birth rates in the US.

While virtual partners can be a form of companionship, Vittert says they can also isolate people.

"These AI girlfriends are enabling this silent epidemic of loneliness that we've seen amongst young men," she said, pointing to the higher proportion of single men than women in the US.

"We see females always report having more close friends or having wider groups of friends," Vittert said. "They don't seem to be as psychologically prey to this AI lifestyle as men."

Data from Pew Research Center showed that in 2022, 34% of women were single compared with 63% of men. Men also report having fewer close friends than women, something that worsened during the pandemic.

"The prevalence of these AI girlfriends has increased so dramatically over the past couple of years," Vittert said. "They're also getting advanced quickly.

"We're going from AI girlfriends who you text with to ones you can send pictures with. There's this very quick blend of the physical and the emotional."




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