'I think it's all in how we use it.' Talking to machines: The rise of conversational artificial intelligence

NOW: ’I think it’s all in how we use it.’ Talking to machines: The rise of conversational artificial intelligence

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Artificial intelligence (AI) is breaking social norms and paving a new way of communication and relationship building.

AI has taken the world by storm, first with the mainstream usage of ChatGPT, and now, its slow integration into apps like Snapchat.

"Conversational AI is something new, but yet parallel to so many things in media and technology that we've been researching for literally decades," said Valerie Kretz, associate professor of communication and media studies at Saint Norbert College.

Kretz went on to say even though conversations in the AI world are augmented, the feelings we have while communicating with an AI entity can be perceived as reality.

"It's an artificially created conversation, and yet still a conversation," said Kretz.

New chat AI programs, like the ones found in the popular social media app Snapchat, continue to grow, learn, and mirror who a person is.

"Their responses are much more natural and are more on an emotional level, and it's not just the surface information that you would get from other types of platforms," said Kretz.

A newfound relationship, digging into the psychology of a person's most inner thoughts.

"I think people are just playing with it, like having fun with it, and seeing what this computer is going to say to me," said psychotherapist Greg Schoeneck.

Schoeneck argued these new waves of conversational artificial intelligence offer people a form of validation.

"This thing really cares about me, and that’s what's really being projected to you, is that this thing really cares about me," said Schoeneck.

Something Zachary Hart, a student studying engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering, went on a quest for.

"It felt true, like, it was like an actual therapist," said Hart.

Hart turned to ChatGPT for relationship advice, and while his heart ached, his fingers typed.

"I asked it kind of questions, and it helped answer it, (about) my breakup," said Hart.

Hart went on to say he turned to AI and not his friends to experience judgement-free advice.

"Maybe the questions are more weird or personal, or really odd and out there, and maybe you don’t exactly know the right person for the question," said Hart.

And while people crave confirmation, Schoeneck said something deeper is at risk of being lost.

"If all this thing does is validate, and kind of ask and give you those good feels, it's nice, but it's not going to let you grow. There's a connection you and I are going to have if we sit in sadness, we don’t need words, we don’t need anything, I can literally sit with you, walk with you, be sad with you, and I don’t think AI is going to be able to do that," said Schoeneck.

But like any new relationship, understanding this one between mankind and machine might take some work.

"I think it’s all in how we use it. Are we using it in a way that is productive, that’s beneficial, or are we using it in a way that’s harmful? And that’s on both an individual level and a broader social level," said Kretz.

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