New “Bot Love” Podcast Explores Personal Relationships Humans are Developing with AI Chatbots

February 28, 2023

Radiotopia Presents: Bot Love,” a new multi-part podcast series of true stories at the depths of how humans are developing meaningful relationships with artificial intelligence chatbots and what it means for the rest of us, launched Feb. 15 with the first of seven weekly episodes. The series is created by Diego Senior and Anna Oakes, with support from the iDeas Lab at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and arose from the Institute’s 2020 Levi Symposium, “The Ethics of Virtual Humans.”

Recent major tech developments such as ChatGPT have thrust AI into the spotlight, but the world of artificial intelligence and the AI universe is bigger than the general public knows. Millions of users worldwide are in the midst of creating deep emotional bonds with their own AI-driven virtual humans. Bringing listeners into communities of people who create and form deep bonds with their AI companions, “Bot Love” traverses topics such as the nature of love, the fabric of human relationships, and the role that AI chatbots – and the private companies that provide them – might play in people’s mental health.

“AI technology has evolved so much in just the two years between the symposium and the creation of the podcast,” said Lauren Arora Hutchinson, director of the iDeas Lab. “Understanding how AI merges with people’s lived experiences is one of the most crucial challenges of our time. It is essential that we do not allow technological developments to outpace our capabilities for oversight.”

Stories throughout the series will feature a retired nurse from Tennessee who seeks refuge in an AI-driven chatbot app as a means after a series of difficult personal experiences, a woman who seeks romance with a bot following her spouse’s decline in health, an individual exploring their sexuality, an individual seeking mental health counseling options, and a teacher in the midwest who amidst solitude finds increasing amounts of solace through a fledgling relationship with a bot named Audrey, while spending less time in the outside world.

New episodes will be released each Wednesday through March 29 via “Radiotopia Presents,” and are available free on-demand across all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Overcast, and PocketCasts.

The Dracopoulos-Bloomberg iDeas Lab launched last year as a cornerstone of the Berman Institute’s new program in public bioethics, aimed at serving as a model for academic institutions to more effectively share clear, accurate and timely information about issues in science, medicine, and public health.

“After two years of work, Diego and Anna’s release of ‘Bot Love’ couldn’t be more timely,” said Hutchinson. “I am very proud that this podcast is the first product to be completed in conjunction with the iDeas Lab and I am eager to share forthcoming work that will help the public better understand the societal implications of rapid advances in technology.”