Unlike some AIs, Replika can’t answer trivia questions. It can’t order a takeaway. It can’t control your domestic appliances. What it can do is chat – about anything from your favourite book to how your day was. The software learns to imitate its user, aiming to produce more rewarding interaction. The more a person talks to their Replika, the more it sounds – and thinks – like them.
Straight away, there’s an obvious potential issue. An advanced chatbot, constantly reflecting someone’s own thoughts back at them, could create a personal echo chamber where even extreme or distasteful opinions become normalised. As our #WakeUpWednesday guide this week discovers, that’s not the only possible threat posed by the AI companion app Replika.