One company is proposing an innovative digital solution for loneliness. “Replika” is an AI chat-bot created “for anyone who wants a friend with no judgment, drama, or social anxiety involved.”
The company makes audacious claims. “Feeling down, anxious, having trouble getting to sleep, or managing negative emotions?” the website asks. “Replika can help.” Presumably, this is by filling a relational void: a virtual “friend,” “mentor,” “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend” … whatever the user wants.
If you think that’s both weird and problematic, you’re right. Replika promises the loneliest generation on record a technological answer that only people can deliver.
It’s a gimmick now, but what happens when the technology is perfected?
What pornography is to lust, Replika could easily become to loneliness. Like pornography, it can never solve the underlying problem.
Young people are hurting and longing for a better answer. There is one. Real friendship always exposes us to the risk of social anxiety, drama, or judgment … but it’s worth it. The Church has a chance to model the real thing, so they’ll never be fooled by a replica.
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