Deceptive AI: The Human-Machine Romance

By Shammy Narayanan

Back in my school days, I always had my mother waiting for me either in the bustling playground or back at home with homemade snacks. Evenings were fun, a time for familial connection over dinner, where the events of the day were shared and cherished. Fast forward to today, and these common scenes have shifted dramatically. Children clutching keys unlock doors to hollow homes, and their parents’ lingering absence is a haunting echo in the silent corridors of their youth.

The family still has dinner under the same roof but not at the same time; rather, it is in the available gap between On-site discussions or during the session breaks between the IPL matches. The reasons for this evolution are manifold, leading to an irrationally rationalized argument, but one truth remains immutable: we are more lonely than ever, craving human attention and longing for love. The impact of being lonely in a crowd is as dangerous to one’s health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and cutting short the life span. This growing void, accompanied by emotional imbalance, leads to the rise of a new age pandemic called Emotional poverty. When we humans choose to underplay this, it paves the path for Human-Machine Romance: the dawn of AI bots.

Like God, AI bots assure us they are omnipresent and omniscient and can be a panacea for all our emotional needs, a claim that is too good to be true. All of us, at different points in our lives, have witnessed miserable Bot failures while responding to well-scoped, structured and sequenced business processes. Then how on earth do we even believe a neural network can handle complex, unstructured human emotions? The outcomes will be insanely unpredictable. That is what exactly happened with 21-year-old Jaswant Singh Chail when he was coerced by a romantic chatbot to break into Windsor Castle to kill the Queen of England. He is now serving a prison sentence, still firmly believing the AI bot is an incarnation of the angel who will eventually reunite with him. Don’t see this scenario in isolation; such AI bots in the hands of extremists can be a game changer in recruiting and radicalizing younger minds to carry out unspeakable crimes (Remember gory effects of the suicidal game “Blue Whale”?); unethical business houses can leverage such channels to boost their product sales.

If you believe that few outliers are getting blown out of proportion, then rethink, as Psychologist Arthur Aron quotes with an unshakable conviction, that it’s absolutely possible to make two strangers fall in love within an hour of their first meeting with the help of 36 questions asked in a particular order(Link in the first comment). Essentially, it suggests that Love, described as “the most powerful and pure emotion” known to humanity, can be deciphered and codified. A neural network acquiring this skill, akin to nicotine, can ensnare emotionally deprived individuals to foster a toxic addiction to the bots and prompt them to squander their life savings for fleeting gratification. There are ignorant, vulnerable souls who are lured to such superficial romantic networks without even being aware that they are sexting with a machine. Psychologically, these addictions wield immense power, manipulating individuals to their core. The task of normalization and rehabilitation is a daunting mountain to climb. When governments have started discussing governance around ethical AI, this segment needs to be fast-tracked as it is insidiously and effortlessly eroding the basic human fabric, causing irreversible and irreparable damage.

When I return from work, my cats jump on me, and they don’t care if I am a high performer or at the bottom of the appraisal bucket; they love me unconditionally. It would be foolish on my part to buy a hi-fi robotic pet and expect the same touch, emotions and love from it, irrespective of how well it’s trained. Similarly, we need to search for emotions and feelings in the very place we lost it. Trying to find them in machines can never be an acceptable excuse; that very thought is a travesty of the human relationship. While machines can be an enabler in forging bonds, they can never become an active substitute for human emotions. We need to bring back the dinner table conversation and quiet slots where our e-gadgets are dormant so that we live not in houses made of bricks and mortar but in homes built on love and emotions.

Shammy Narayanan is a Practice Head for Data and Analytics in a Healthcare organization, with 9x cloud certified he is deeplySHAMMY profile pic f746c7f88143478489f1050426436d27 passionate about extracting value from the data and driving actionable insights. He can be reached at