back to article People who regularly talk to AI chatbots often start to believe they're sentient, says CEO

Numerous people start to believe they're interacting with something sentient when they talk to AI chatbots, according to the CEO of Replika, an app that allows users to design their own virtual companions. People can customize how their chatbots look and pay for extra features like certain personality traits on Replika. …

  1. DJO Silver badge

    Contrast

    But when dealing with service desk operators, there is often little to suggest they are sentient.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Contrast

      Where did you find service desk operators with as much as "little"?

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Contrast

        Where did you find service desk operators?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: service desk operators, there is often little to suggest they are sentient.

      but this is THE core part of their training! Service desk operators or any 'service' is a cost. The shorter, the less frequent the interaction between the 'valued customer' and the lower the need for support / service desk, the less cost, thus more profit, to the biz. Once you've trained valued customer to realize the 'support is not sentient, so no use, so no point contacting, so don't bother, through their short process of learned helplessness - you increase your margin, profit...

      ...

      and lose your customers, I hear you say? Aha! - but here you are wrong, the reason is simple: it's already a standard business practice across your whole sector, so your valued customer has nowhere else to go, check-mate.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Happy

    Illustrated in 1982

    "AI algorithms detect and analyse things like a person's eye movement, facial expression ..." it's documented extremely well in Blade Runner, you can see how well it works and how it tried to figure out if Rachel is a Replicant or a Lesbian ... in the movie AI is just Alien Intelligence.

    It took more than 100 questions and they were only able to guess - watch the whole movie and you can imagine that you can figure out the answer at the end. Essentially AI chatbots seem to have all the same issues that Blade Runner illustrates for Replicants.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Illustrated in 1982

      But she didn't know she was lying.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Illustrated in 1982

        Spoiler alert?

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Illustrated in 1982

      That's an interesting and essential stay out of jail free card right there, Version 1.0, and a valuable hedge for any and all making surefire bets they cannot afford to lose ....... Essentially AI chatbots seem to have all the same issues that Blade Runner illustrates for Replicants.

      40 years is absolutely ages for perfection to practise disguising its stealthy wares ..... and there’s nothing to say and suggest that developments weren’t perfected many ages long before even 1982, is there?

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    'Some' out of millions?

    " Millions have downloaded the app and many chat regularly to their made-up bots. Some even begin to think their digital pals are real entities that are sentient."

    'A few' per million folks will probably be found to believe almost anything. The comment is so vague as to be effectively meaningless as a statement of 'fact'. However, if it is a valid observation, it's another example of the big problem that besets the 'Chinese room' and the Turing test. The results of all three are utterly dependent on the perceptiveness of the observer.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: 'Some' out of millions?

      The results of all three are utterly dependent on the perceptiveness of the observer. .... Mike 137

      Such an absolute dependency on the correct raw and rare perceptiveness of a random human observer provides an unparalleled and far-reaching stealthy advantage to the subject in question and all manner of matters coincidental and yet to be even raised for further discussion and acceptance/realisation ....... by humans.

      1. redpawn

        Re: 'Some' out of millions?

        I have yet to determine if I am sentient, though I am often treated as such. Perhaps AI is my chance to find out.

      2. nintendoeats Silver badge

        Re: 'Some' out of millions?

        A chatbot commenting on a chatbot article. How poetic? Or more like, how the product of random chance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Some' out of millions?

      milions believe in God(s) too.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new here.

    "People can customize how their chatbots look and pay for extra features like certain personality traits on Replika. Millions have downloaded the app and many chat regularly to their made-up bots. Some even begin to think their digital pals are real entities that are sentient."

    To me it looks like imaginary friends v2.0. With the mobile paradigm and all that blah, blah. The only difference is old-school imaginary friends were free and were not dependent on battery life.

  5. nautica Silver badge
    Boffin

    I can fully believe that.

    "People who regularly talk to AI chatbots often start to believe they're sentient..."

    I'm just as certain that people who regularly talk to chatbots not only start to believe that they are sentient, but---also---often do not seek much-needed psychiatric care. After all, someone has to assure them that they just might be sentient.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @nautica - Re: I can fully believe that.

      Psychiatric care, is that some sort of palliative care for imaginary friends ?

      Asking for an imaginary friend who would like to know but he is too afraid to ask.

  6. FeepingCreature

    > These systems are not sentient, however, and instead trick humans into thinking they have some intelligence. They mimic language and regurgitate it somewhat randomly without having any understanding of language or the world they describe.

    This is an overreach. It's like you're saying "People who claim that ultralight planes can beat the speed of sound are being scammed. These toys merely imitate flight and can barely manage hops of a dozen meters."

    Yes, language models are probably not conscious. However, no, language models don't "regurgitate language randomly without having any understanding of the world." These models routinely set records on benchmarks of commonsense understanding. That they don't have a reliable, easy grasp of basic physics, the relations between objects, causality, placements, etc. does not mean that they have none.

    Language models probably have some limited understanding of the world. As they are scaled up and redesigned, this understanding will expand.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      These bots are not understanding the world any more than I would demonstrate understanding of something by rephrasing a Wikipedia article. I could take that text, written by someone who understands it, and use my knowledge of language to move the words around in a way that seems natural. Hopefully, I'd do it without making the facts incorrect, though AIs fail to meet that requirement all the time and somehow you don't appear to think that counts. In any case, any correctness seen in the result was generated by someone else. The chatbots we've seen the workings of don't read text to understand its meaning, but instead read it to copy chunks that are hopefully relevant.

      1. FeepingCreature

        I think that some people go "oh a demonstration of an error, this means the LM doesn't really understand what it's saying", and I go "one times in three, the correct answer comes out - do you get that this would be impossible if the model didn't have understanding?"

        You cannot demonstrate ignorance, only knowledge. If you give the model an input and the wrong answer comes out, that might mean the model doesn't know - or it doesn't understand what you're asking it, or it's answering a different question than you think you're asking.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @FeepingCreature - Maybe

          you're spending too much time talking and listening to machines. The model does not understand anything, all it does is applying rules when searching in the vast amount of data it has amassed.

          1. FeepingCreature

            Re: @FeepingCreature - Maybe

            I don't see why "all it does is applying rules to data" means it doesn't understand anything. Applying rules to data is Turing complete.

            1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: @FeepingCreature - Maybe

              You don’t seem to understand what “understand” means.

              1. FeepingCreature

                Re: @FeepingCreature - Maybe

                There's an old saying:

                Q: When will we know how to build AI?

                A: Never. If we knew how to do it, we wouldn't call it AI.

                I think there's a tendency to exclude algorithms that seem "too simple." Language models can generalize over arbitrary patterns. They can assign multiple meanings to symbols, correlate different concepts, and apply them in novel contexts and in novel ways. They don't have introspection, sure, and they don't have arbitrary recursion, granted, and they don't have online learning, fine, but I don't view those as necessary to understanding per se. Nobody is saying that GPT-3 is a general intelligence. But as I understand the term "to understand", it does understand some things.

              2. nautica Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: @FeepingCreature - Maybe

                "You don’t seem to understand what “understand” means."

                "What do you mean by mean?"---Bill Clinton

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          "one times in three, the correct answer comes out - do you get that this would be impossible if the model didn't have understanding?"

          It wouldn't be impossible. It has the answer, written by someone else who has understanding. It correctly found the right snippet. It's like a person who doesn't know how to write code but finds a Stack Overflow post that actually wrote what they want. They don't understand the code, or they could have written it themselves, but when they paste it in, it works. When the model gets the wrong snippet, it has no clue that it's messed up.

          You're ascribing something that is the entire point of the model to understanding, but no understanding is needed to produce that result.

          1. FeepingCreature

            Yeah but the model can solve problems that it's never seen before, as long as they're structurally similar to a problem that it has seen. That's why I think it has some level of understanding.

            Ultimately, if you apply enough abstraction, anything that any human being does can be reduced to "find the right past-experience to refer to." That's not literally what we're doing, but then again it's not literally what a language model is doing either; it's not like it actually searches StackOverflow as you query it.

  7. Tron Silver badge

    I'm afraid I can't allow you to pay your gas bill, Dave.

    The truth may be that these people have shallow, vapid friends who have the verbal and intellectual complexity of chatbots. So they don't notice any difference when they are talking to silicon.

    The similarity to people who believe in the supernatural is apt. Both groups could do with watching some science documentaries to bump up their IQ to somewhere near average and using fewer recreational drugs.

    If you aren't sure when on the phone to what was, many years ago, 'customer service' (and some UK government depts are using them already), chatbots will talk over you on the phone and tend to speak well, without regional accents, contractions or colloquialisms. Their tone is measured and they never laugh. They sound nothing like call centre staff, but because you are phoning a call centre, you assume they are human by default.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Their tone is measured and they never laugh.

      I used to have a boss like that.

      Total shit.

  8. Blackjack Silver badge

    As someone who has actually talked to several chatbots because reasons I can honesty say I have become convinced that no, they aren't smart.

    Be it from some WhatApp taxi thing, needing help in something or just a chatbot program I downloaded to fool around, no they aren't people. And no they are not smart. Many are so badly made you need help to get them to help you. Like the time I was ten minutes trying to get the stupid AI to call me a taxi when a simple phone call would have done it in 30 seconds or less.

  9. spireite Silver badge

    Wife,/ AI

    I think my wife is AI actually.

    I base this on the fact she talks bollocks for no apparent reason regularly

    1. Totally not a Cylon

      Re: Wife,/ AI

      Has she mentioned 'the colonies' yet?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wife,/ AI

      Could the reason be that she married a misogynist?

  10. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    “ Those who manually change their date of birth to register as over 18 have the option of uploading a video selfie, and Yoti's technology is then used to predict whether they look mature enough”

    Change their date of birth? Wonder how that works.

    Also, it’s not “predict”. It’s “estimate”/“judge”.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    people start to believe they're interacting with something sentient when they talk to AI chatbots

    When I talk to God I do believe HIM/HER/WHATEVER to be sentient, why else would I talk to God?! I might just as well talk to my plants!

  12. Ken G Silver badge

    I have begun to believe the people I talk to are sentient

    But I'm still waiting for evidence.

  13. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Do they never learn?

    It's obvious, if a girl looks like she's 21, she's really 15.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Do they never learn?

      the formula is simple:

      Men are men

      Women are men

      Couples are men

      Underage girls are FBI agents

  14. mevets

    ai vs ai.

    Do chatbots who regularly talk to chatbots often start to believe they're sentient?

    What about dogs? I think my dog is sentient; I talk to her a lot. It takes up much of my day. Can I get a chatbot to take over for me?

    Also, I don't get the AI angle. What does artificial insemination have to do with any of this, or is this only with porn chatbots?

  15. Jan K.

    "Millions have downloaded the app and many chat regularly to their made-up bots..."

    Get away from your computer before it's too late! Get out!

    Good grief...

    On the other hand... I commute across the meadows twice a day and talk to a... buzzard. :)

    "Good morning, gorgeous!" or some other nonsense like that. He's now so accustomed to me, that he no longer takes off!

    It's good, life off-line...

  16. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Alternative headline

    "People who don't know the difference between 'sentient' and 'sapient' are often easily confused."

  17. TimMaher Silver badge
    Windows

    Reporters from CNN...

    Tested the software on their own faces.

    For some reason I read that as “Tested the software on their own faeces.”

    Probably estimated to be over seventy years old.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    My cat is sentient

    But I wouldn't trust it to make rational decisions or hold a conversation

    An AI chatbot is just a glorified echo chamber Eliza. You don't actually need a large library to fool users into believing they're dealing with a human

  20. nautica Silver badge
    Boffin

    'Artificial Intelligence' ranks right down there with spoon bending, telekinesis, ear candling...

    I wonder: to how many people it has occurred that the phrase, "Artificial Intelligence", is one of the more elegant examples of an oxymoron.

    "My artificial flowers died because I didn't artificially water them." [paraphrase]---Dave Barry

    The only people who believe in 'artificial intelligence' are the Artificial Intelligentia.

    "I have found that the reason a lot of people are interested in artificial intelligence is for the same reason a lot of people are interested in artificial limbs:‭ ‬they are missing one.‭"--‬David L. Parnas

  21. nautica Silver badge
    Happy

    I didn't bring the subject up...YOU did.

    "We're not talking about crazy people or people who are hallucinating or having delusions," the company's founder and CEO...told Reuters.

    Methinks he protesteth too much.

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