‘With data showing an increase in singles and loneliness…’
I did a double-take reading that first text line describing a new AI-powered smartphone app. We’re creating an estimated 1.15 trillion megabytes of data day – how can data loneliness possibly set in?
Sure, some people show an increase in loneliness these days, even that feelings of loneliness can be increased by overcrowding and population density. Of course, other many social and environmental factors impact social inclusivity, or the lack thereof, as described in a research paper titled Lonely in a crowd: investigating the association between overcrowding and loneliness using smartphone technologies.
But can data be lonely? Does data do the singles scene? Is data single or taken already (well, it’s plural, actually). Is dating a datum fun? So what about double-dating or maybe a group encounter with a bunch of data?
And, by the way, just for the record, not to be too personal on the first date, but what is data’s gender?
The English singular and plural, datum and data, are gender-neutral words. In French, the noun is feminine: les données is the plural. In Spanish, the word is masculine: los datos.
Dating can be confusing enough without it being hard to tell male or female. It’s not always cisdata these days; transgender data must surely be added to the inclusive dating scene.
Yes, there’s important data to enter when setting up a dating profile.
Much as you might set up your Tinder account and create a personal bio in the hopes of getting good matches and great dates, statistical engineers and information scientists have described the five top qualities of data in its personal profile: good data shows reliability and timeliness (always a good dating strategy!). Data shows its best side when it’s accurate, complete, and relevant.
OK, well… as a date, data sounds dependable, if not exactly hot!
That’s when I really started blushing.
Of course, the news about that new AI-enabled dating app is not that data can get a date, but that we can. Research shows we need to: we are suffering a pandemic of loneliness. Many people have lost confidence on the dating scene for various reasons, and even the desire to date and build intimate bonds with another person may be waning.
That’s one reason why creating a safe, non-judgmental place for folks to build their relationship and intimacy skills and rediscover the joys of a first date and the rewards of falling in love is the real goal of the developers of Blush, the new artificial intelligence dating app described in that text I read – and had to re-read.
Blush comes from the development people behind Replika, an app they describe as an “an app that cares” and an AI friendbot for millions of people around the world.
Like many AI-enabled tools and bots, the apps generate realistic text and conversation from a giant LLM, or large language model, and a corresponding neural network that has machine-learned how to communicate based on literally billions of parameters and contexts. (Not surprisingly, for an online tool with such capabilities, built on such raw materials, privacy is an issue. Jurisdictions and data protection agencies around the world, Italy among them, are prohibiting Replika from using the personal data of users.)
The new Blush app lets people work on small talk and flirtatious moments by generating conversations with the user, conversations often enhanced by the user’s own words and thoughts as gleaned from emails, texts or other inputs to the LLM.
In a new feature being added to the app, it will generate suggestions to the age-old dating conundrum: “What do I say next?”
Like a modern-day digital Cyrano de Bergerac, Blush offers up AI-generated response suggestions. App users can select a possible reply, explore its impact on the conversation, and hopefully have easier chats and more meaningful interactions.
It’s the training on user feedback from successful conversations rather than scripted simulations, the company describes, that helps Blush create connections that can lead to personal growth and emotional well-being, even when trying to find one’s way through an already complex dating scene.
“[W]e believe that AI can enable romantic exploration, boost confidence, and increase our awareness of relationships,” said Rita Popova, the Chief Product Officer at Replika.
She’s confident in saying so because in part the development team worked with clinicians and psychologists to develop the Blush bot’s interactions and responses in ways that encourage users to open up, be comfortable and honest with the app in order to give it more ways to learn and respond.
“As someone who has dedicated my career to improving mental health and creating innovative solutions, I am honored to collaborate with the talented designers of Blush to help users embrace their true selves and confidently explore their relationship patterns and identity,” announced Melissa McCool, a licensed psychotherapist, clinical consultant for Blush, and Chief Product Officer at Ellipsis Health, where direct consultation and therapy for people confronting anxiety, trauma, and PTSD is available.
Blush also offers a curated library of articles about dating and building relationships, developed in partnership with the consulting therapist, offering practical tips and ways to practice dating techniques in conversations with Blush characters.
The Blush app is available in the App Store; free features include dialogue and memory recall. A premium version is available $99/year with added connection and communication tools.
Luka, the application development company behind Replika and now, Blush is a venture-funded private company, headquartered in San Francisco, with investors that include Khosla Ventures and ACME. It was launched in 2017 by Eugenia Kuyda.