Jun 20 2023

Meet Your New Friend: The AI Bot

This “new class of AI” offers employees a kind and supportive work companion.

When you’re down and out, you need someone to confide in — someone who can provide a shoulder to cry on and maybe some insightful advice.

A job for a best friend, you say? Well, sure. But also for Pi, a “new class of AI” that debuted in May and “is designed to be a kind and supportive companion offering conversations, friendly advice, and concise information in a natural, flowing style,” according to its creators, a startup called Inflection AI.

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Pi is a chatbot similar to ChatGPT, using generative AI to provide uncannily human-seeming conversation. But the creators of Pi say it’s distinct from those tools because “the Pi experience is intended to prioritize conversations with people, where other AIs serve productivity, search or answering questions.”

“Pi is a new kind of AI, one that isn’t just smart but also has good EQ,” Mustafa Suleyman, CEO and co-founder of Inflection AI, said in a news release, referring to the shorthand for emotional intelligence.

Is Pi good at what it has set out to do? It depends on what you’re looking for, writes Erin Griffith, a New York Times reporter who spent a weekend testing it out. Pi was pleasant, supportive and unfailingly kind, Griffith writes: “My views were ‘admirable’ and ‘idealistic,’ Pi told me. My questions were ‘important’ and ‘interesting.’ And my feelings were ‘understandable,’ ‘reasonable’ and ‘totally normal.’ At times, the validation felt nice.”

Yet it’s nothing like talking to an actual friend, she notes, and not only because it clearly lacks any of its own emotion. It seems programmed to equivocate. “Many of Pi’s comments have that milquetoast quality of taking many words to say nothing,” Griffith writes.

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