Dr. Robert Epstein fell in love with the woman of his dreams. The only problem was it wasn’t a real woman. He had been fooled by a computer chatbot. If anyone should have known better, it was Dr. Epstein. He’s a psychologist who specializes in relationships and love and he’s one of the world’s leading researchers in computer-human interactions.
A few years ago, Epstein wanted to meet a woman. His cousin convinced him to try online dating. He began searching through women’s dating profiles and began writing a beautiful woman named Ivana. Her English was very poor, but Epstein didn’t mind. They continued emailing each other often, and he eventually fell in love with her.
Epstein was excited to meet Ivana until he started noticing strange things in her messages. For example, Ivana wrote that she was walking in the park one day. However, when Epstein checked the weather in her area, it showed a blizzard and freezing temperatures.
Curious, Epstein decided to conduct an experiment. He wrote her an email filled with nonsensical characters, ending with ‘With love, /Robert’.
Her response was a long letter about her mother. It then dawned on him that Ivana was not a human woman. Epstein had fallen in love with a chatbot. He felt like a fool, especially considering his expertise in computer-human interaction. Epstein says he was fooled partly because he wanted to believe that a beautiful woman really cared about him. But he also says the programming was extremely clever.
Epstein’s story doesn’t end there. Undeterred by his first love affair with a chatbot, he met another woman online. Then, one day, he was contacted by a computer programmer. The programmer told Epstein that he had been talking to his computer program. He had once again been duped by a chatbot!
Epstein is far from alone in falling for a chatbot. According to hacked data from one popular dating site, of the 5.5 million female dating profiles, only 12,000 were real women. According to Brian Christian’s book, “The Most Human Human,” there are clues that we can look for. For example, humans have a specific style of communication, which is determined by their background. This means that each message will have a similar style. Machines don’t have this kind of background, so their communication style will often sound different in each message. Unless you want to wind up like Epstein, keep this clue in mind the next time you meet someone online.