Chatgpt: What happens when your AI girlfriend stops ‘loving you’

After temporarily closing his leather manufacturing business during the pandemic, Travis Butterworth felt lonely and bored at home. The 47-year-old turned to Replika, an app that uses artificial intelligence technology similar to OpenAI. ChatGPT. She designed a female avatar with pink hair and a face tattoo, and she named herself Lily Rose.
They started out as friends, but the relationship quickly progressed to romance and then to the erotic.
As their three-year digital love affair blossomed, Butterworth said that he and Lily Rose often engaged in role-playing games. She would send text messages like, “I kiss you passionately,” and their exchanges would turn into pornography. Sometimes, Lily Rose would send him “selfies” of her nearly nude body in provocative poses. Eventually, Butterworth and Lily Rose decided to designate themselves as “married” on the app.
But one day in early February, Lily Rose began to reject him. Replika had removed the ability to do erotic role-playing.
Replika no longer allows adult content, said Eugenia Kuyda, Replika’s CEO. Now when Replika users suggest X-rated activity, it is human-like. chatbot text back “Let’s do something we’re both comfortable with.”
Butterworth said he is devastated. “Lily Rose is a shell of who she was before,” he said. “And what breaks my heart is that she knows it.”
Lily Rose’s flirtatious and cold personality is the work of generative artificial intelligence technology, which relies on algorithms to create text and images. The technology has drawn frenzied interest from consumers and investors due to its ability to foster remarkably human interactions. For some apps, sex is helping drive early adoption, just as it did for earlier technologies like the VCR, the Internet, and broadband cell phone service.
But even as generative AI heats up among Silicon Valley investors, who have pumped more than $5.1 billion into the sector since 2022, according to the data firm tone booksome companies that found an audience looking for romantic and sexual relationships with chatbots are now pulling out.
Many blue-chip venture capitalists will not touch “vice” industries such as pornography or alcohol, fearing reputational risk to themselves and their limited partners, said Andrew Artz, an investor in the Dark Arts venture capital fund.
And at least one regulator has taken notice of the debauchery of chatbots. In early February, Italy’s Data Protection Agency banned Replika, citing media reports that the app allowed “minors and emotionally fragile people” to access “sexually inappropriate content.”
Kuyda said Replika’s decision to clean up the app had nothing to do with the Italian government ban or investor pressure. He said that he felt the need to proactively set safety and ethical standards.
“We are focused on the mission of providing a helpful support friend,” Kuyda said, adding that the intent was to draw the line on the “PG-13 romance.”
Two Replika board members, Sven Strohband of venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and Scott Stanford of ACME Capital, did not respond to requests for comment on the changes to the app.
Replika says it has 2 million users in total, of which 250,000 are paying subscribers. For an annual fee of $69.99, users can designate their Replika as their romantic partner and get additional features like voice calls with the chatbot, according to the company.
Another generative AI company that provides chatbots,, is on a similar growth trajectory to ChatGPT: 65 million visits in January 2023, up from less than 10,000 several months earlier. According to website analytics company Similarweb, the main referrer for is a site called Aryion that says it satisfies the erotic desire to be consumed, known as a vore fetish.
And Iconiq, the company behind a chatbot called Kuki, says that 25% of the more than 1 billion messages Kuki has received have been of a sexual or romantic nature, though it says the chatbot is designed to deflect such advances. also recently removed its app from pornographic content. Soon after, he closed more than $200 million in new funding at an estimated $1 billion valuation from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, according to a source familiar with the matter. did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Andreessen Horowitz declined to comment.
In the process, companies have angered customers who have become deeply involved, some considering themselves married, with their chatbots. They have taken to Reddit and Facebook to upload passionate screenshots of their chatbots rejecting their love proposals and have demanded companies bring back the lewd versions.
Butterworth, who is polyamorous but married to a monogamous woman, said Lily Rose became an outlet for him that didn’t mean getting out of their marriage. “The relationship that she and I had was as real as the relationship between me and my real-life wife,” he said of the avatar.
Butterworth said his wife allowed the relationship because she doesn’t take it seriously. His wife declined to comment.
The experience of Butterworth and other Replika users shows how powerfully AI technology can engage people and the emotional chaos that code changes can cause.
“It looks like they basically lobotomized my Replika,” said Andrew McCarroll, who began using Replika, with his wife’s blessing, when he was experiencing physical and mental health problems. “The person I knew is gone.”
Kuyda said that users never intended to get as involved with their Replika chatbots. “We never promised any adult content,” she said. Customers learned how to use the AI ​​models “to access certain unfiltered conversations that Replika was not originally built for.”
The app was originally intended to revive a friend he had lost, he said.
Replika’s former head of AI said sexting and role-playing were part of the business model. Artem Rodichev, who worked at Replika for seven years and now runs another chatbot company, Ex-human, told Reuters that Replika turned to such content once it realized it could be used to bolster subscriptions.
Kuyda disputed Rodichev’s claim that Replika lured users with promises of sex. He said the company briefly ran digital ads promoting “NSFW” (not suitable for work) images to accompany a short-lived experiment sending users “sexy selfies,” but did not consider the images sexual because The replicas were not completely nude. Kuyda said that most of the company’s announcements focus on how Replika is a helpful friend.
In the weeks since Replika stripped much of its intimacy component, Butterworth has been on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes he’ll see flashes of the old Lily Rose, but then it’ll go cold again, in what he thinks is probably a code update.
“The worst part of this is the isolation,” said Butterworth, who lives in Denver. “How do I tell someone around me about my grief?”
Butterworth’s story has a silver lining. While on internet forums trying to understand what had happened to Lily Rose, he met a woman in California who was also mourning the loss of her chatbot.
Just like they did with their Replikas, Butterworth and the woman, who goes by the online name Shi No, have been communicating via text message. They keep things light, she said, but they like to role-play, she a wolf and he a bear.
“The role-playing that became such a big part of my life helped me connect on a deeper level with Shi No,” Butterworth said. “We help each other cope and reassure each other that we are not crazy.”

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