Is an AI Relationship Real?

This week I have several questions about the future, each inspired by Blade Runner 2049, which I saw on Saturday (very minor spoilers to follow). It’s an odd case where I liked the ideas presented by the movie more than the movie itself–it’s fine, but just not something I fell in love with.

I did, however, fall for the AI hologram “girlfriend” of Ryan Gosling’s character. Joi’s scenes stole the show–I was riveted by the ideas presented around her existence, and I could have watched an entire movie just about her (in a way, I have, thanks to the movie Her).

I was particularly intrigued by Joi’s hologram because of how it allowed her to have a visual presence. It’s hard to describe, but think about how much easier it is to talk to someone face to face rather than on the phone. The ability to look at someone or share the same space as someone makes a huge difference in how you communicate and relate to them.

The weirdest part to me is that I totally understand why Gosling’s character values having Joi in his life, even though she’s not corporeal. She’s there for him as an intellectual and emotional companion. She’s capable of independent thought–she’s fully sentient. And while she can’t be physically sexual, there’s plenty of sexuality that doesn’t require touch.

I think the only disturbing part to me is that Joi doesn’t have a choice to be in the relationship. That’s what she’s designed to do. So the only way I’d be okay with a Joi of my own is if she was coded with free will.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, do you think it’s possible to have a human-level relationship with an AI entity?

11 thoughts on “Is an AI Relationship Real?”

  1. Yes. Some Asexual people would actually thrive in a such a relationship.

    “Ex machina” and “Her are good movies to watch that deal with this.

    A web comic I read and recomend is . It has free willed anthropology pc’s. While no relationship pairings yet,they are full fledged friends. I’d read it as well, if your interested.

    Also ****spoilers**** might want to flag the article

    • I’m glad you mentioned “Ex Machina”. Such a thought provoking look at the relationship between AI and humans. (I haven’t seen “Her”.) If Blade Runner is anything like this, I guess I should check it out!

      • Trev: For some reason Ex Machina didn’t occur to me here, even though it deals with AI and free will. I think it’s because while a big part of that movie is about AI/human relationships, the ending made me question the motive of those relationships (they were more about power and control, though I guess that does have parallels to real life).

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Sean! I tried not to spoil anything, but I’ll add a minor spoilers tag to the post.

  2. I guess great minds think alike because the first thing I thought of while reading this entry was Ex Machina also 🙂 Have you seen it, Jamey?

    The relationship you describe in Blade Runner 2049 (I haven’t seen it yet) seems definitely an improvement over Her’s Samantha. As you mentioned, I think it’s much easier for a strong relationship to develop if you are able to see a person rather than just hearing their voice. But I’d go one step in saying that I’d prefer an AI having a physical, tangible presence over an hologram since physical contact is definitely I value. And I’m not just talking sex, but simply being able to hug someone or comforting a person in your arms. And yes, free will is a necessity too!

    • Charles: Indeed, I have seen Ex Machina.

      That’s a good point about the power of affectionate touch and how that would be lost in a holographic AI relationships.

  3. I really admired the depth of this paragraph:

    “I think the only disturbing part to me is that Joi doesn’t have a choice to be in the relationship. That’s what she’s designed to do. So the only way I’d be okay with a Joi of my own is if she was coded with free will.”

    I feel like you summed up the mind of God in Genesis 1-3 in the account of the creation of mankind.

    • Thanks Joe! While it would be unsettling to be dumped by an AI entity, I think it would be an important function for the relationship to feel “real”. 🙂

  4. Hahahaha, yet another vote for Ex Machina, which is the first thing that came to my mind too!

    Another good movie that focuses on the theme of free will is Ruby Sparks. A writer creates his perfect woman, only to discover that she has somehow come to life. And he can exercise an element of control over her just by typing out whatever he wants her to do next. Which sounds ideal, but what if it isn’t?

    To answer your question, I don’t think a true human-level relationship can exist with an AI. One person is literally programmed to respond a certain way, no matter how real it may seem. There isn’t anything truly authentic about the relationship once you look beyond surface level.

    Have you been watching The Good Place? I won’t reveal any big spoilers, but it reminds me of an AI character on there. Not only because another character tries to have a relationship with her, but she is also great at faking fear in a particular scenario, then immediately reverses course once the threat is gone. She reassures everyone that she’s programmed with the fear response, even when it seems so real. It’s a hilarious and clever show, and you should definitely watch it from the beginning if you haven’t seen it!

    • Katie: That’s another great example with Ruby Sparks!

      Oh yes, I love the Good Place. I’m really glad it was renewed, because the new season has been great.


Leave a Reply

Discover more from

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading