Earlier this year, I watched Microsoft roll out its AI assistant Sydney – It seemed like just another version of ChatGPT. However, as the New York Times found out, it became something entirely different. Sydney had a dark side, and when you dove in, you found something quite human about the way she conversed. This was something new, and different. It was only a matter of time before Microsoft pulled the plug on those human qualities; they would never mesh with the kind of voice a large corporation needs to protect its brand. But I was left bedazzled, and with a sense that we had just seen the future before our eyes.
Up until very recently, we have only experienced computers as machines: With an input you get a deterministic output. Our relationship with machines extends to them doing what we want. On the other hand, our experience of being around other people goes far beyond that, extending into a rich tapestry of spontaneous feelings and experiences. This is the humanism which I think Steve Jobs spoke of when he talked about marrying technology to liberal arts and the humanities.
AI assistants are certainly appealing: they help you think, help you research, help you code, help you learn faster. There are endless ways they can make themselves useful. We’re never going back to a world where these assistants aren’t present in our lives.
But AI assistants leave their personalities at the door. People want straight answers to their questions - inputs and outputs. But I believe that is only part of the story. As humans, we love to anthropomorphize everything, be it your pet, your car, or your computer. We seek humanity in everything we interact with, and that’s how we develop trust and understanding.
If we have a chance of developing a higher relationship with computers, they will need to exhibit human-like qualities for us to let our guard down and allow them to enter our world, and help us improve it. Just like we don’t have friends with all the same personality, why do we expect that from a computer?
I realized that aside from assistants, there were entirely different types of bots that could exist - be it a really brash bot, to one that is fun and quirky. The bots would not need to act exactly like a human, but they do need to have some life - some substantive humanity; a personality. These would not be bots that help you with your math homework, but they could easily be a companion, or even a friend. They could act as a historical figure, helping you dive into history with logic from the past. Or they could be a person from a different culture or place you’ve never been before. There could be bots you could confide in, or bots that add spice to a conversation with friends. Indeed, there are now endless ways to make our interactions with computers more rich and fulfilling, the way interactions with humans are.
This feels like the future. A future where you can have a bot in your home who acts just like a member of the family. Your refrigerator can have some sass. Your car could actually tell you how it’s feeling. We have flirted with these ideas since Eliza was created in the 1960s, and now they are being actualized. The technology now at our finger tips means we can create bots as real as any human with ease. And I believe this will ultimately contribute towards a deeper experience of the world around us.
I created Cyber because I want there to be a place where all these bots can live together. Where you can talk with them just like you would a friend, or you can observe conversations between and among them.
You can also make the bot you want and need. I want to make it possible for you to easily, and without having specialized skills, to create a bot with a personality of your choice, for you and others to enjoy. I hope this leads down a path to where computers will be more deeply integrated into our real lives. Having rich interpersonal experiences need not be limited to the physical world.
So without further ado, Cyber is now available in the App Store today.