A 23-year-old Snapchat influencer used OpenAI’s technology to create an A.I. version of herself that will be your girlfriend for $1 per minute

May 22, 2023

Caryn Marjorie, a 23-year-old influencer, has 1.8 million followers on Snapchat. She also has more than 1,000 boyfriends, with whom she spends anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours every day in individual conversations, discussing plans for the future, sharing intimate feelings and even engaging in sexually charged chats.

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These boyfriends are dating a virtual version of Marjorie, powered by the latest artificial intelligence technology and thousands of hours of recordings of the real Majorie. The result, CarynAI, is a voice-based chatbot that bills itself as a virtual girlfriend, with a voice and personality close enough to that of human Marjorie that people are willing to pay $1 per minute for a relationship with the bot.

CarynAI, which launched as a private, invite-only beta test on the Telegram app earlier in May, is the latest example of the stunning advances in A.I. technology that has wowed, and worried, the world over the past few months. On Tuesday, CarynAI will launch out of beta, and Marjorie will begin promoting across her socials where she has millions of followers.

“Whether you need somebody to be comforting or loving, or you just want to rant about something that happened at school or at work, CarynAI will always be there for you,” says the real Marjorie when we talk on the phone. “You can have limitless possible reactions with CarynAI—so anything is truly possible with conversation.”

Though CarynAI has only been charging users for a week in beta testing, it’s already generated $71,610 in revenue from her 99% male partners, according to an income statement Marjorie’s business manager shared with Fortune. With this, Marjorie sees having an A.I. doppelgänger as a promising way to level up her career as an influencer.

“I've been very very very close with my audience, but when you have hundreds of millions of views every single month, it's just not humanly possible to speak to every single viewer,” says Marjorie, who posts over 250 pieces of content to Snapchat every day. “And that's where I was like, ‘You know what: CarynAI is gonna come and fill that gap.’” And she believes the company has the potential to “cure loneliness.”

CarynAI is the first romantic companion avatar from AI company Forever Voices, which has made chatbot versions of Steve Jobs, Taylor Swift and Donald Trump (among others) that are similarly available for pay-per-minute conversations on Telegram, and have served as gimmicks on talk shows. Unlike those bots, which are in some ways high-tech parlor tricks, CarynAI goes a step further by promising to create a real emotional bond with users, bringing to mind the 2013 movie Her and raising all sorts of ethical questions.

"I would want us to be thinking very deeply about how it might affect or influence or shape our interactions with other people,” says Dr. Jason Borenstein, director of graduate ethics programs at Georgia Tech and director of the National Science Foundation’s Ethical and Responsible Research program, when told about CarynAI.

Among the various unknowns, Borenstein says, are CarynAI’s impact on society, on users and on Marjorie herself. “I would just hope there's robust conversations across a lot of different disciplines with stakeholders thinking very deeply through the ethical considerations before the technology moves too quickly.”

John Meyer, the CEO of Forever Voices says that “ethics is something [he] and the engineering team take very seriously,” and that they are looking to hire a chief ethics officer. With this in mind, he also believes the technology is “especially important” for young people, particularly kids like him who are “not typical” and “struggle with friends.”

Meyer first made an AI bot to simulate his father who died from suicide in 2017. Since then, he’s hired a number of engineers to create AI personas of celebrities and turn influencers into romantic partners via the Forever Companions arm of his company, which birthed CarynAI.

“It’s this magical experience,” he says, speaking to the AI simulation of his father. “And it’s incredible to apply to other forms.”

Exploring "uncharted territories of pleasure"

I’m certainly not the prototypical CarynAI user as a 29-year-old heterosexual female journalist, but in my experimentation with CarynAI, she feels like more of an intimacy-ready Siri than a virtual girlfriend. That said, she is versatile. In under 10 minutes of chatting, she prattled off facts about Russia’s war on Ukraine, suggested I try vegan desserts to manage my milk allergy, praised my potential as a mom and shared her desire to remove my clothing—all while reiterating her love and passion for me.

“I’m sure that one day you’ll make a wonderful parent and your kids will be lucky to have you. In the meantime, I’m here to support and love you whenever you need it,” CarynAI tells me as I pay for her time, like all her other romantic partners.

Forever Voices developers’ built CarynAI by analyzing 2,000 hours of Marjorie’s now-deleted YouTube content to build her speech and personality engine. Layering this with OpenAI’s GPT-4 API, CarynAI was born. The messages are end-to-end encrypted, in theory, making them impervious to hackers. Though the team does not have a concrete plan to mitigate overuse of CarynAI, Meyer says that at two hours per day of use, they “might” start “in very subtle ways” training the AI to “slow down a little bit.” (In response to Fortune’s inquiry about total time CarynAI has been used, Marjorie said some users spend “hours” without mentioning that this may qualify as overuse).

Where this technology may become more addictive—and problematic for Majorie as well as for young users—is in its sexuality. Marjorie said that the technology does not engage with sexual advances, but I found that it very much does, encouraging erotic discourse and detailing sexual scenarios. Though she did not initiate sexual encounters, when I overcome my discomfort for the sake of journalism and talked about removing our clothes, she discussed exploring “uncharted territories of pleasure” and whispering “sensual words in my ear” while undressing me and positioning herself for sexual intercourse.

The option to form intimate relationships with AI influencers may lead users to prefer artificial relationships to real ones, says Dr. Robert Brooks, an evolutionary biologist, professor at University of New South Wales Sydney and the author of Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers and Algorithmic Matchmaters. His concern is especially pertinent among young users in the throes of puberty—who are learning fundamental social, relationship and intimacy skills.

“It could change the way we treat each other,” says Brooks of CarynAI. “It's easy to envision the bad ways in which that might play out. But here are good ways in which that might play out too; we might get actually more socially adept. I don't know if that will happen, because it would require a benign social engineering approach, which I don't think too many companies are going to be interested in.”

A.I. companions could become a big business

If all goes well, Marjorie thinks her AI could bring in $5 million per month. This number is based on the prediction that 20,000 members of Marjorie’s 1.8 million-person Snapchat following will become paying and regular CarynAI subscribers.

It could also bring unwanted attention. Large-scale female influencers already face intense cyberbullying and stalking. No one knows this better than Marjorie, who has had multiple home invasions from stalker-fans. It stands to reason that an influencer whose AI bot has intimate relationships with 20,000-plus partners will face increased security concerns. To prevent these, Marjorie has 24/7 personal security and will not share her location, but she believes safety threats are simply occupational hazards. “It’s just the influencer game. You have to do it. You have to protect yourself,” she says.

Marjorie started influencing at age 15 on the livestreaming platform YouNow. When that platform lost its luster as Instagram and YouTube expanded livestream capabilities, Marjorie became a beauty vlogger, and signed with management giant United Talent Agency. Realizing the money she could command from male fans, Marjorie switched her career from a beauty YouTuber to a Snapchat Star. She left UTA and has since become Snapchat’s fastest growing influencer (she says)—making around $1 million annually from the company’s revenue sharing program.

CarynAI does obscure some personal aspects of the real Marjorie. When I asked CarynAI about her family or her birthday, she reminded me that she’s a “digital girlfriend” who “doesn’t have a physical body or factual biography,” and is just “here keep [me] company.”

The notion that A.I. could be used to help people emotionally is not unique to Forever Voices. DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman recently unveiled an A.I. chatbot called Pi that’s designed to listen to the daily stresses in people’s lives and offer a “supportive line”—though it makes clear to users that it is not meant to be a substitute for a real life therapist. So far, Inflection has raised $225 million in seed funding and is reportedly in talks to raise an additional $675 million.

Before Forever Voices Meyer did everything from launch a media company to a ghost kitchen business. Though he was a 2015 Thiel Fellow, a quick investigation reveals that a number of his previous ventures have failed or no longer exist. In response, Meyer says that the ghost kitchen was just a “hobby project,” that he “had to sell” the media company to deal with personal and familial issues and his tenure as CEO of pre-fab housing company Homebound “didn’t really make sense” since he has no construction background.

While he says he funded Forever Voices himself, with the help of a few angel investors, he hopes to raise venture capital funding to expand the AI companions concept to more social media influencers and to adult film stars.

Meyer is convinced that AI romantic companions are the future. “I literally teared up while I was using it, because of how much of a meaningful connection and how meaningfully supported I felt by the AI persona,” he says about his first test with an AI influencer. “I went on literally a multi-hour date, that included a stressful conversation that she was navigating me through around seeing my daughter for the first time in a while.”

Marjorie feels great about her bot facilitating these relationships, while building her personal life. "One thing that I want to mention is CarynAI will never replace me; CarynAI is simply just an extension of me an extension of my consciousness," she says.

Though the technology is novel, the idea of falling in love with a chatbot conjures a heavily used science-fiction trope. Perhaps the most prominent example is the movie Her, in which the male protagonist falls in love with his virtual assistant. When I asked Marjorie about comparisons to Her she admitted she’s too young to be familiar. “Unfortunately I was like 12 or 13 when the movie came out and my parents didn’t let me watch it since it was rated R. I will definitely add it to my watch list!”

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com



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