In the new Spike Jonze film, Her, a man falls in love with his operating system. In some ways it’s a commentary on modern society and our increasingly intimate relationship to technology; it’s about the smartphones we bring to bed and the computers we wear to work. But there is also a lot of truth to the idea that people might fall in love with the ever more intelligent machines that they spend a greater amount of time with each day. For many of the psychologists, social scientists, and experts in artificial intelligence who study this kind of relationship, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
The roots of this research date back to 1966, when an MIT professor named Joseph Weizenbaum created a computer program called Eliza, a “chatterbot” that mimicked a therapist by replying to what people said with leading, vaguely empathetic questions.
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