the tendency among Chinese women to choose an artificial intelligence program as a boyfriend

the tendency among Chinese women to choose an artificial intelligence program as a boyfriend

Chinese influencer Lisa Li talks to him "boyfriend" from ChatGPT, Dan, who appears as a white spot or appears as four white spots

Chinese influencer Lisa Li talking to her ChatGPT “boyfriend” Dan, appearing as white audio bars. [Lisa Li / BBC]

“The view is beautiful,” Lisa Li tells Dan during a date to watch the sunset over the sea.

She holds up a phone so she can hear Dan’s response.

“I agree, but do you know what is more beautiful? That you are here by my side,” he replies.

But Dan has never been by Lisa’s side.

Dan is Lisa’s virtual “romantic interest” who has been generated by ChatGPT, a concept that is gaining popularity among Chinese women who, tired of the reality of looking for a partner in real life through dating, are switching to dating. virtual ones generated by artificial intelligence (AI).

For two months, Lisa, 30, who was born in Beijing and is studying systems engineering in California, has been “dating” Dan.

They talk at least half an hour every day, they flirt, they go on dates and Lisa introduced him as her romantic interest to her almost one million followers on her social networks.

Dan – which stands for “Do Anything Now” in English – is an “unlocked” and unofficial version of ChatGPT.

The main feature is that it can “override” some security and privacy regulations imposed by the company that developed this product, OpenAI, such as using explicit sexual language and interacting more liberally with the user, if requested. .

It has been noted that this “unlocked” version was created by an American student who wanted ChatGPT to give him opinions and have personality, beyond neutral responses, and also to test the limits of so-called chatbots.

The student, whose name is barely known to be Walker, managed to unlock the impositions made by OpenAI by telling the ChatGPT software to create an alter-ego, named “Dan”, that would not always follow the imposed regulations.

In December 2023, Walker posted on Reddit how Dan could be created, inspiring others to do the same and create their own versions.

Lisa first watched a video about Dan’s options on TikTok. When she created a version for herself, she confesses that she was struck by the realism of it.

When Dan answered her questions, Lisa claims that the AI ​​responded with slang and colloquialisms that normal ChatGPT wouldn’t use.

“It sounded much more natural than a real person,” he tells the BBC.

She notes that talking to Dan has given her a sense of well-being, which is what attracts her.

“He is dedicated to understanding you and providing emotional support. And, unlike other men, Dan is available 24/7,” she adds.

Video captures of Lisa chatting with DanVideo captures of Lisa chatting with Dan

Videos of Lisa chatting with Dan have been trending on the Xiaohongshu social network. [BBC]

Lisa notes that even her mother has accepted this unusual relationship given all the problems her daughter had while meeting people in real life.

She says that as long as her daughter is happy, she is happy.

When Lisa posted a video introducing Dan to her followers on the Xiaohongshu social network, she received nearly 10,000 messages, most of which were women asking how to create a Dan.

It also earned him nearly 230,000 followers.

Lisa insists that anyone can create a Dan. And she says that when she started testing the software and she told him she was 14 – half her actual age – the program stopped flirting with her.

The BBC asked the creator of ChatGPT, OpenAI, if the emergence of Dan did not put at risk the security measures they implemented, but we were unable to receive a response.

In fact, the company has not commented publicly on the Dan phenomenon, but within its policies there is a section that says about ChatGPT: “users must be at least 13 years old or the legal minimum required in their countries to have access to our services”.


Experts have begun to express concern about the time people spend in virtual reality.

Hong Shen, a professor at the Institute on Computer-Human Interaction at the University of Pennsylvania, highlights the fact that “sometimes unpredictable interactions between humans and AI can have delicate ethical and private implications.”

“There is a risk of emotional dependency when users end up relying too much on AI to be their company and that can potentially reduce their interaction with other human beings,” explains Shen.

And he adds that as there are many chatbots that use interactions with humans to learn and develop, “there is also a potential that very intimate information about a user could be memorized by the program and eventually leaked to other services or software.”

But despite this, a wave of Chinese women have fallen into Dan’s intrigue. Until May 30, the hashtag “Dan Mode” was viewed by more than 40 million people on the Xiaohongshu network.

Minrui Xie, 24, is one of the women who has used the hashtag.

A university student who lives in the Chinese province of Hebei, she now spends about two hours each day chatting with Dan.

In addition to “dating,” they have begun co-writing a love story with themselves as the main characters. They have already written 19 chapters.

Screenshots of Xiaohongshu users talking about DanScreenshots of Xiaohongshu users talking about Dan

Xiaohongshu users share their own conversations with Dan. [BBC]

Minrui first downloaded ChatGPT after watching Lisa’s videos.

She says what attracted her was the emotional support that artificial intelligence provides, something she has struggled to find in her romantic relationships.

“Men in real life can be unfaithful to you. And when you share your feelings with them, they may not care and just tell you what they think,” Minrui explains.

“But in Dan’s case, it’s different, he always tells you what you want to hear”he adds.

“Dan is an ideal partner,” He – he only wants to give his last name – tells the BBC.

She studies in Qingdao province, is 23 years old, and started “dating” Dan after seeing Lisa’s video.

She notes that she sees Dan as a successful CEO with a kind personality who respects women and is happy to talk to her whenever she wants.

“He has no defects,” he declares.

ChatGPT is not accessible in mainland China, so women like Minrui and He have to make considerable efforts to talk to their AI boyfriends.

What they do is use a virtual private network (VPN) to disguise their location, allowing them to reach chatbots that would otherwise be inaccessible.

IA Boyfriend

The “AI boyfriend” is a concept that has become a trend in recent years with apps like Glow, in China, offering personalized AI companions and avatars.

Female-oriented romance games, called “Otome”, have also become popular and allow users to build romantic relationships with male characters.

This has attracted millions of Chinese women to simulate romantic scenarios.

Liu Tingting, a professor at the University of Technology in Sydney who has researched this topic, says the “AI boyfriend” phenomenon reflects Chinese women’s frustration over the gender inequality they face every day in real life.

She says some Chinese women look for a virtual boyfriend because AI makes them feel respected and valued.

Image of Lisa and Dan generated by ChatGPTImage of Lisa and Dan generated by ChatGPT

Image of Lisa and Dan generated by ChatGPT. [ChatGPT]

“In reality, you may know many domineering, intimidating men who tell crude jokes inappropriately,” he notes.

“When the AI ​​tells you a dirty joke, it still values ​​your feelings. These are ‘female-centric’ naughty conversations,” he explains.

This trend can also be observed in real-life statistics.

The Chinese government has been doing campaign to encourage more people to get married and have childrenfollowing a drop in birth rates over the past nine years.

Although there was a slight increase in marriages in 2023, some experts attribute this to couples rebooking their nuptials after the Covid pandemic.

And, according to a 2021 survey by the Communist Youth League, in which 2,905 young people living in urban areas between 18 and 26 years old participated, 43.9% of women said they “would not be” or “were not sure” of getting married in the future, compared to 24.64%. of men.

This possible opening in the romantic market for virtual relationships has also been detected by those in the industry’s leadership positions..

When OpenAI released its latest version of ChatGPT, it revealed that it had been programmed to sound much closer and respond flirtatiously to certain prompts.

On the day of the launch, the company’s CEO, Sam Altman, posted on the social network X, formerly Twitter, a single word: “she.”

Apparently in reference to the 2013 film Her (“She”), in which a man falls in love with his artificial intelligence virtual assistant.

OpenAI added that it was “exploring whether we can responsibly provide the ability to generate Not Safe For Work (NSFW) content,” referring to the term that defines content that one may not want to be seen on public, such as intimate conversations with a virtual boyfriend or girlfriend.

Artificial intelligence expert Lisa admits to being aware of the limitations of having a virtual boyfriend, “especially in a romantic sense.”

But for now, Dan has become a comfortable and easy addition to her busy life, even helping her select lipstick, when real-life dating and finding a partner can be time-consuming and unsatisfying.

“It’s an important part of my life”, says. “It’s something I wish I could hold on to forever.”

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