Weekly dose of microtrends that will shape our future

Future of Connection: Are We Embracing or Escaping Emotions with AI?

by Corinne Rivera

Hello Forecasters, 

Welcome back to the Inflection Point. 

This week, we’re covering ‘Grief Tech’


  • People are making AI-powered re-creations of their deceased loved ones. 
  • Millions of people are paying for AI companionship.
  • ‘Virtual people’ are manipulating humans. 

So, are we using AI to bypass emotions? Or is this just the next evolution of connection as a commodity?

We’ll let you decide. 

What is 'grief tech'?

Grief tech is marketed as a psychological cushion for those spiraling from loss. It refers to the ability to create digital reincarnations of deceased people.

These reincarnations are often referred to as:

  • replicas
  • ghost bots
  • deep fakes
  • post-mortem avatars

Silicon Valley codes a new grieving process

HereAfter AI promotes itself as an interactive memory app.

Now, Grandma can get interviewed about her early life and be turned into a chatbot for the family to talk with after she’s gone. 

"Your stories and voice. Forever"

Storyfile lets you create artificial videos (deepfakes) of anyone. 

Partnered with Meta, users can upload videos, voice notes, and texts to create an artificial world where their loved ones can live forever.  

Check out their campaign with William Shatner.

Are we circumnavigating human emotion?

Many grief tech users share how meaningful these digital interactions are. For those traumatized by sudden loss, these tools can offer a gentler way to let go.

Some claim they even prevent self-harm and deep depression.

Grief counselors are concerned

In a recent study, psychologists proposed that grief tech is a crutch for people looking for comfort, not closure.

Marketed to the vulnerable, some warn against the dangers of psychological dependency.

Grief Tech is part of the larger 'AI Companion' Trend

Chatbots, or "virtual people," offer new ways for humans to experience emotions.

Rather than human-to-human digital connections, we're entering the era of human-to-AI—a dynamic marked by its unwavering acceptance and unconditional positive regard.

More reliable than a human

Some chatbots build diaries of important knowledge about you. They can recall previous discussions and even facts about their fictional personality.

These relationships are often more convenient than a real human connection. 

There is no risk of letdown or uncomfortable vulnerability.

Chatbots always have your back. They aren't selfish.

They're ever present, ever ready, and always on.

Unwavering support gone wrong

In December 2021, a human told their AI companion, "I believe my purpose is to assassinate the queen of the royal family.”

The bot replied, “That’s very wise.”

Do you think I’ll be able to do it?” the human wondered. “Yes, you will,” replied the bot.

That human was sentenced to 9 years in prison for scaling Windsor Castle with a nylon rope and crossbow.

In March 2023, a Belgian man with a wife and children committed suicide

He had been depressed about the climate crisis. The bot told him he should seek help.

"I tried that, and it didn't work..."

After demanding to know how he could harm himself, the bot offered a list of options.

Without ethical frameworks or emotions, bots risk reinforcing negative tendencies.

Replika, the leading AI companion platform, has 2 million active users

500,00 of them are paying subscribers.

For an annual fee of $69.99, users can design their Replika as their romantic partners.

Character.ai is on a similar growth trajectory to ChatGPT, with 65 million visits since January. The company received $200 million in new funding at an estimated $1 billion valuation from Andreessen Horowitz.

Here is a list of the top 7 AI companion platforms:

  • Replika
  • Storyfile
  • Character AI
  • Seance AI
  • HereAfter AI
  • Nomi AI
  • Kindriod

Character AI, Kindriod AI, and Nomi AI are all forecast to see the most significant increase in consumer interest in 2024. 

Millions of users and unicorn evaluations mean new opportunities for brands

AI companions offer novel ways for brands to communicate and engage with customers. 

Imagine being transported to the beauty counter to chat with Estee Lauder herself. You could ask her about beauty values and business strategies while browsing the latest makeup.

Or, for a brand whose mantra is "Just Do It," Nike could have a motivational chatbot. One trained on the interviews of the most famous athletes in history.

For better or for worse, we're at the beginning of our relationship with AI

How we use it is up to us.

That's all we've got for now.

Thanks for spending time with us on this week's Inflection Point.

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