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What can a virtual village made up of AI chatbots tell us about human interaction?

By Oliver Roeder

25 Aug 2023 · 4 min read

John Lin is a small-town pharmacist who takes great pride in his work. He enjoys helping people and making it easy for his customers to get their medicine. He lives with his wife, a college professor, and their son, a student of music theory. He is active in local politics and friendly with his neighbour. John Lin thinks his neighbour is a kind man. And he loves his family very much.

John Lin is also a chatbot, a souped-up version of ChatGPT. He “lives” in a digital hamlet called Smallville alongside two dozen other chatbots. He and his neighbours were placed there recently by a team of computer scientists from Stanford and Google to create a society with “believable human behaviour”. The modern generative AI movement has moved through text, image, audio and video. It is now attempting community.

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