The use of AI in social interactions

As you know, AI has been a whole big thing. It has been interesting to watch it roll in waves, first something only the ultra-nerds talk about, then something most programmers are aware of, then it starts to appear in programming tools, and finally to where non-technical people I know are using it in their business life. It is a neat tool, though I personally do not really see a huge appeal in the work I do. Most of my time is spent thinking and understanding, not writing. That is to say, the bottleneck here is my brain, not my fingers. Still I have had a chance to play around with various models, and I can totally see the value. I have even considered adapting and using some tools for future projects. Unfortunately the bottleneck for future projects is neither my brain nor my fingers, but my free time. Social commitments take up time too!

Social interactions are a game made up of games. Call and repeat, variations on a theme, tell me a story, there are so many different ways people can go back-and-forth as they let off steam. There is some degree of competition involved in these games. Not direct competition, but friends competing with friends to make each other laugh, or to tell the most enrapturing story. This competition is also where you get to know people. Just think of card games like Apples to Apples, or Cards Against Humanity depending on your company. The word choice and selection tells you a little something about the people you are playing with.

Online interactions grow their own weird games to add to the social game. Chat platforms like Discord and Slack allow you to add custom emoticons, enabling a whole subculture niche and contextual communication that regular Unicode does not convey. Being on a computer of some sort also gives access to a rudimentary image editor. Be it MS Paint on Microsoft platforms, or on macOS, or other integrated editors in iOS and Android — anyone with a connection can edit an image. With that, anyone can make poor quality memes. Or at least I do.

Given a conversation about what to do when your partner makes too much kimchi, it can be fast to find an image of a mug, an image of kimchi, cut an oval of one and paste on to the other, and superimpose text saying “Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my kimchi.” Funny? Maybe not. But an invitation for others to try their own hand at making their own poor quality image edits. A game within a game.

In the past half year or so, I have noticed more people using AI as a part of social interactions. Friends, peers, coworkers, family members, it is a broad crosscut of the people I know.

“Let’s ask ChatGPT what to do.”

“I asked ChatGPT to generate a poem”.

“I had Midjourney generate a picture of kimchi in a mug.”

The novelty that AI presents can be seductive. When I first started playing with some local LLMs, it was very tempting to pester it for “generate me an X about Y.” A little bit of typing, and something decent and surprising appears before you. When you do not know what to say in a conversation, why not ask an AI?

I do not know if this is actually a problem. Maybe people will fall out of love with asking an AI for things they do not really want. Maybe I am off the mark entirely, and this is not a concern, but rather an evolution of social interactions.

I just want to feel like I am interacting with the same person when we face each other in the world, naked without our augments.