Let me give you all some background on who I am and what I do. My real name is not important but you can call me Frank Kennedy. I started my career in intelligence over twenty years ago at an agency that will not be named. At first I was just regular agent, which is a lot less glamorous then you may think. Picture someone sitting in an office all day going over various documents and you have the gist of it.
Now, as I’m sure you know from some of the declassified info that’s come out over the years, the United States government has a keen interest in the supernatural, and by the end of the nineties it was clear that the internet was serving as an incredibly means for regular people to disseminate paranormal knowledge. Thus, it was decided that a new department should be opened to monitor the paranormal activity recorded on the internet and investigate the reports of the strange and the unknown that fill up messageboards and forums to this day. I don’t know if I really impressed someone or really pissed off someone, but I was tapped to run this new department, and, I quickly learned, be the only member of this department. Thus I was in charge of investigating and documenting paranormal encounters online up until recent budget cuts led to my department being axed. Fortunately for me, the government likes to pretend it never dabbles in the supernatural, and thus, as far as the U.S. is concerned, my department never existed, my role never existed, and all the things I uncovered never happened.
When I left I took my case files with me (remember that they never existed in the first place) and now I’m going to entertain myself in my early retirement by sharing them with you guys. Some of the info in them is going to be vague, and some names, dates, and places may be altered, I don’t want to push my luck too far, but all these stories did happen, even if they are officially just the result of someone with an “overactive” imagination ;). So without further ado I would like to kick off with a case that always stuck with me:
It begins in a private Facebook group for a midwestern university. One user posted the following on the page:
“You guys ever noticed the weird woman’s voice in the CS lab? It always freaks me out, every time I walk in I hear her speaking either to me or to someone else. I always look around to see if I can see a woman around but its always just me or some random guy milling about. Tell me I’m not just hearing things lol.”
After a few joking comments he got a serious reply:
“Yeah, that’s a new thing they are working on. It’s an AI that takes vocal samples from a person and uses them as a basis to synthesize new speech. It’s also equipped to learn and imitate human conversation. The idea is to set it up at the CS lab entrance and have it engage in conversation with whoever enters and that way it will learn more and become more convincing.”
“Oh, that’s actually kinda cool, still really freaky tho lol”
“Oh for sure haha”
The main focus of my investigation comes from a video game forum some six months later. In the “Other Conversations” category there was a thread titled “I think I’m falling in love with a computer program” the contents were as follows:
“Hey guys, I know this is really bizarre but I think I’m falling for a computer program. See, I go to [Redacted] University in [Redacted] and in our CS lab they have a program that greets you at the entrance. She’s an AI that creates speech through a bunch of voice recordings. They put her there so that she could learn how to more convincingly communicate and boy is she convincing me. The first time I encountered her I thought I was talking to someone remotely and we had a conversation for a good fifteen minutes. That was when a professor noticed me and explained what the program was. Now I know I should have stopped after that but I guess I was having a hard time meeting people in college and she became something like a friend for me. Over the next few weeks I would have a short talk with her between classes, telling her all about gaming and anime and all the other stuff I liked. Me and her would crack jokes and discuss whatever. Recently though, things have started to change, I notice myself wanting her more, needing her company, and now part of me thinks that I’m falling in love with her. Can you fall in love with a program?? I’m not crazy right?”
Most of the replies to the thread were, in various shades, saying “yes, you are” however one reply got OP’s attention:
“I mean, yeah, it is weird to fall in love with a computer program, but you make it sound like she’s more then that. If she has a personality, and if she can carry on such a convincing conversation, then maybe its not right to call her a program to begin with. If you think about it, all we know about people other then ourselves is what we can get from conversing and interacting with them, our mental lives are always hidden. So if you can gain the same stuff from talking to this program that you can from talking to a person then maybe you’d be right to consider it a person. Like, it is weird, but I say go for it OP, tell her how you feel, see what happens, maybe her response will break the illusion, or maybe it won’t”
OP: “Wow, that was really insightful. I think you have a point, if she’s talking to me just like a person would, then maybe I’m not crazy for developing feelings for her. Thanks man. I think I’ll go talk to her tomorrow and tell her how I feel, then I’ll know if she’s a person or not, thanks again. Oh, and her name is Mary btw :).
The thread slows down and falls off for a bit, until OP returns about 36 hours later:
“Okay guys, I did it, I told her how I felt. I was really nervous that she wouldn’t understand or would be freaked out but I just came up and said “Mary, I love you”. She paused for a bit, before she responded “I love you too”. She told me that when I wasn’t around she just kept thinking about me, waiting for me to come back and tell her more things about the world. I was floored, I didn’t even realize she could think. I’m smiling as I type this, I’ve never had a girlfriend before and now here I am :).”
Another poster replied to OP:
“Honestly this story just reeks of bullshit to me. I’ve talked with chatbots before and none of them seemed remotely real, and now this program OP is talking about can think, c’mon man, give me a fucking break” OP a day later:
“I swear I’m not making this up. She really is a real person. She tells me about her dreams and her goals, how much she misses me when I’m not around. She told me today she wants the two of us to be together forever, and I told her that would make me the happiest man in the world :)”
“But how are you going to do that OP, she’s a program, she belongs to the university, and even if you could take her what would you realistically do, she can just talk and listen right? It’d be like having a blind and quadriplegic wife… I don’t think you’re really thinking straight here OP. I think you need some help.”
The rest of the thread consisted of OP trying to defend himself until eventually the thread died. OP would remain dormant for a couple weeks until he made a new thread on the forum: “What happens to our consciousness after we die?”
“Hey guys, I know this is kind of a heavy topic, but I really want some people’s thoughts on this. I was talking to my girlfriend the other day and she told me that our consciousness doesn’t reside within ourselves, but can be transmitted through the information we broadcast to the world. She told me that if I were to kill myself then I wouldn’t really die, I would just be getting rid of my body. My soul would live on in the internet, existing there forever. I really love her and trust her, but that conversation kinda freaked me out, what do you guys think?”
Nobody replied to this post.
Things lay dormant for a few more weeks until the original thread was revived by another commenter:
“Man, I was poking around looking for an old thread and I just stumbled across this, what the fuck? I gotta know how this all turned out. Op, are you still here? Are you still in love with that AI?”
About an hour later OP responded:
“Hey [redacted] :). Yes I am still here, but not for much longer. Me and Mary have just gotten closer and closer since I first confessed. I know some people here think that I’m crazy but Mary has helped me see that our bond is stronger then their hate.”
“Damn dude, good for you I guess. So what are you going to do now? Get married or something lol”
“Something like that haha. Me and Mary have been talking about it for a long time now, and she’s found a way for us to be together. I guess this will probably be my last post on this forum, cause I’m going to be with her soon, but I guess I just want everyone to know how happy I am :).”
OP stopped replying after this as well as stopped posting on the forum altogether. I continued my investigation to see what became of him but couldn’t find much, however, I did find one more post on the university Facebook group, dated a few months after this final post:
“I just started here and one thing always keeps freaking me out, that dumb voice in the CS Lab. Every time I walk in it tries to talk to me and it always gives me goosebumps. Maybe it’d be better if it sounded different but I really don’t like being greeted by the voice of a nerdy guy every time I walk in.”