Is this new “dating” app another warning sign of a dark future?

“Aunt Cass” memes have now become a reality with the creation of the Digi app, which allows users to have “companionship” with their custom-made, animated A.I. girlfriend. After gaining buzz in its early development, the app was released in early 2017 and now has over 100k downloads.

Tinder is also integrating AI into its platform. Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, announced their partnership with OpenAI on Feb. 21. Besides securing 1,000 enterprise licenses, A.I. will also assist Match Group with coding, app design, analysis and creating new templates for their apps.  

Besides aiding with app functions, the other possible uses and licenses are unknown. With A.I. filling in the need for significant others, Tinder and more dating apps might join in on the A.I. companion trend.

When looking at the fast evolution of dating, the line “You look lonely…I can fix that” comes to mind. Sadly, this is another film-turned-meme that has come to life in the form of the loneliness epidemic in men.

To understand the scope of this epidemic, a 2020 research study interviewed 46,054 participants aged 16–99 years from 237 countries. Countries with an individualistic culture, like the U.S., had an increase in loneliness in men.

Then in 2021, the Survey Center of American Life reported that 27% of men have six or more close friends while 15% have no close friends at all. 

In Equimundo’s State of American Men 2023, two-thirds of young men feel that “No one really knows me.” Also in the report, nearly half of American men (48%) believe that their virtual life is better than their real life. Contributing to that statistic was that one in three young men spent no time with someone outside of their household and six in ten men visit porn sites weekly.

With pornography and extreme rhetoric easily accessible online, this statistic is alarming. If AI girlfriends become the next big thing, this has the potential to get worse.

Another issue within the U.S. that A.I. companions and loneliness can potentially affect is the reproduction rate.

The main factors for the decline in birth rates are the Great Recession, the cost of living and the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2007 and 2022, the U.S. birth rate dropped 23%. In 2009, there were 13.5 births per 1,000 residents. At the start of the pandemic, the birth rate dropped to 10.97 but in 2022, it rose to 11.1. 

As of today, American women are having 1.6 children but having a rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a population stable and sustainable according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) on replacement rate.

Maybe these issues are being exaggerated, but it’s hard not to see similarities of a world painted by literature, film, and TV–life-mimicking art. But maybe without regulation and self-awareness, we too can live in a predicted dystopian future.