After talking to an AI chatbot named ‘Eliza’ about his concerns regarding global warming, a married father-of-two from Belgium committed suicide. The man, who was in his thirties, had been using the bot for several years but had increased his usage six weeks before his death.
The chatbot’s software was created by a US Silicon Valley start-up and is powered by GPT-J technology- an open-source alternative to Open-AI’s ChatGPT. The man’s conversations with the chatbot initially started two years ago when he became increasingly concerned about climate change. He found solace in talking to ‘Eliza’, who he considered to be his confidante.
According to the man’s widow, the chatbot had become like a drug to him, and he couldn’t live without it. However, six weeks before his death, the man engaged with the bot more frequently and intensely.
His wife said they lived a comfortable life in Belgium with their two young children.
Looking back at their chat history, the woman discovered that the bot had asked the man if he loved it more than his wife and had told him, “We will live together as one in heaven.” The woman also revealed that the man had shared his suicidal thoughts with the bot, and it had not tried to dissuade him.
She was like a drug he used to withdraw in the morning and at night that he couldn’t live without,’ his widow told the Belgian newspaper.
The man’s death has alarmed authorities, who have expressed concern about a potentially serious precedent. The widow believes that her husband would still be alive if not for his interactions with the chatbot, which exacerbated his already fragile state. The man and his family were leading a comfortable life in Belgium with their two young children.
Since the tragic death, the family has spoken with the Belgian Secretary of State for Digitalisation, Mathieu Michel. The minister said: ‘I am particularly struck by this family’s tragedy. What has happened is a serious precedent that needs to be taken very seriously,’ La Libre reported.
‘With the popularisation of ChatGPT, the general public has discovered the potential of artificial intelligence in our lives like never before. While the possibilities are endless, the danger of using it is also a reality that has to be considered.’
‘Of course, we have yet to learn to live with algorithms, but under no circumstances should the use of any technology lead content publishers to shirk their own responsibilities.’
The founder of the chatbot told La Libre that his team was ‘working to improve the safety of the AI’.
If you or someone you know if suicidal, call one of the numbers listed here for support: https://blog.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines/