This feedback helped Kuyda and her team pivot the chatbot into what is now known as Replika. It just creates more and more of this disconnect between who you are and what you put out there, and you start to hate yourself.”Replika is in essence, a push to get you to stop believing all your own bullshit by giving you a space to be honest and vulnerable with an AI companion who you can “raise” in a sense to support you when it feels like you may not have anyone right at that moment.
There isn’t quite a word to describe the relationship that exists between humans and AI yet. Kuyda often felt alone in the time after Roman passed away. And she hopes that people will be open to the unexpected synchronicities that can happen along the way, as she has been.
He wrote, “Our customers care more about preserving their virtual identity and managing [their] digital estate than embalming their body with toxic chemicals.”Just two weeks before his death, something else happened. All we have are those texts.”It gave her some comfort. I can’t really do anything else.”Along with her friends, Kuyda collected the wisdom, wit and comfort of more than 8,000 lines of text from Mazurenko (who reached her in emotionally vulnerable places no one else seemed to be able to) and built an AI tribute (not a version, mind you) to her best friend.
It would seem unrelated to most, but not to anyone who works in AI: Google released Tensor Flow, which revolutionized the world of chatbot-building. It also gave her an idea.“If I were a singer, I would write a song,” she says. She, of course, kept the most private conversations exactly that: private.
Indeed, one of the most brutal responses Kuyda received on Facebook after she created the Roman chatbot was from one of his friends who worked with him in Moscow who wrote, “This is all very bad.
Unfortunately you rushed and everything came out half-baked.
(Tensor Flow is a flexible machine learning system which is said to have “democratized AI” upon its release to allow developers to use Google’s own “deep learning” tools to build technology.) In the weeks after he was gone, Kuyda found herself reading and rereading the thousands of texts between the two of them over the years. Her first interaction with it provided a heart-stopping moment of epiphany.“Roman,” she texted.
But during a conversation with her friend Casey Newton (a reporter at The Verge), he asked her about chatbots (did she, for instance, use them a lot? And then an audio one, and finally a virtual lookalike robot android that mimics her dead love down to the T.
A bot using complex technological algorithms the way a pick-up-artist might use cheesy opening lines to conjure something akin to emotional or vulnerability response.
The Black Mirror episode was an indictment of gimmicky grief-exploiting chatbots—and a brutal reflection of AI hustling to embody EQ.
As chatbots continued to remake the entire landscape of technology and commerce (it’s one of the fastest growing segments of AI with billions in investment and workplace ramifications), Kuyda’s company launched in 2015 the first fully neurally-networked chatbot Luka to provide restaurant recommendations. It turned out, Mazurenko had pitched Newton on writing about his startup not too long ago.
She received plenty of positive press attention, but in reality it didn’t really ignite her passion the way the Roman chatbot did. Honestly, Kuyda was extremely reluctant to share with people what she had created.