By Mark Nuyens
6 min. read🔍 Analysis

As AI will start to become more present in our lives to the extent of becoming our friend, it's important not to lose sight over what it means to have profound human connections.

As a fan of horror movies, I recently watched the 2020 film 'Rent-A-Pal'. It revolves around a lonely character who finds companionship in a rented videotape, a story that unfolds against the backdrop of nostalgic '90s technology. What's fascinating is its parallels to our current age, where digital content, ranging from YouTube videos and podcasts to social media, may actually serve a similar purpose of providing social companionship.

The substitution of authentic human interactions with technology is something arguably dating back to the invention of the radio or television. Yet, in today's world, marked by a surge in loneliness, the consequences of replacing genuine social needs with online interactions seems to be more evident than ever. The illusion of such human connections usually leaves us feeling more isolated when the screen goes dark, exposing the emptiness of this digital exchange.

As AI may increasingly shape the way we consume content, as predicted in my previous article, one could imagine a future where AI companions evolves into a something of a "meta-physical" presence. These virtual entities, mimicking human traits in both voice and appearance, may very well establish deep connections with us, offering guidance and understanding based on our most intimate thoughts and experiences.

With the help of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) devices, AI companions might turn into indispensable life assistants, helping us organize our digital life, offer real-time insights and provide us with fresh information, all presented in an efficient and entertaining manner. The potential applications would range from helping with daily tasks to providing emotional support, possibly redefining concept like friendship and perhaps even consciousness.

This transformative evolution of AI companionship, however, will raise ethical considerations. The line between virtual and real relationships may blur to the extent that individuals form emotional bonds, even romantic connections, with these artificial entities. The societal landscape could witness a coexistence of extreme forms, from relationships with deceased loved ones to interactions with fictional characters or even celebrities.

These developments will force us to (re)consider if the benefits of AI companionship will outweigh potential drawbacks and ethical concerns. As numerous AI companies are racing to create indistinguishable and reliable human-like entities, society will need to reevaluate its fundamental values and expectations from digital companionship and the extent to which we desire to stay in control control over our digital existence and destiny.

However, the road to AI companionship remains uncertain. Until then, so will our answers about the way they will affect concepts of friendship and consciousness. With these events possibly playing out over the next couple of years, my own personal hope is that these developments will enhance our lives, allow us to work less, while ensuring the technology will contribute to our social life, rather than replacing genuine human interaction.