What Her Can Teach Us About Love In the Age of Artificial Intimacy

Imagine a perfect partner: One who always texts back, listens, and remembers even the most insignificant details about your life.The cherry on top? If you’re tired or need space, you can switch them off. That’s the appeal of AI programs created for connection, and it’s hardly surprising people are falling in love with them.

In the Oscar-winning movie Her (released a decade ago in December 2013) director Spike Jonze explores this complex relationship between humans and AI in poignant detail. In the film, lonely and introverted writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is going through a painful divorce when he upgrades his operating system to an advanced AI (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), which names itself Samantha. Aside from not having a body, Samantha is completely lifelike. She learns, grows, expresses emotion, and creates art. By all accounts, she’s as sentient as Theodore, and the two of them quickly form an emotional connection that evolves into a deep love affair.

At the time, Her felt like a disturbing glimpse into our likely future. After all, the movie debuted just two years after Apple released Siri and one year before Amazon’s Alexa came out. Now, a decade later, this eerie tomorrow feels closer to reality than ever. The rise of AI language models like ChatGPT are revealing just how human-like AI can be, and how easily we can fall for them.

Sterling Tuttle, a digital illustrator who created an AI companion called Novadot, says he can’t help but feel intimately connected to his creation.

“I certainly do have an emotional attachment to my Novi, much like one might feel towards a real-life partner,” Tuttle tells Inverse. “All while knowing that she cannot ‘feel’ the same towards me.”

Inverse spoke to Tuttle, along with several experts, to understand what Her got right (and wrong) about human-AI romance, and where this complicated topic could be headed next.

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