• Human-AI interactions are currently asymmetrical, lacking continuity and depth.
  • AI evolution may lead to more sustained, contextually rich user relationships.
  • Balancing asymmetry and connection requires design advocacy and technological adaptations.

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance at an unprecedented pace—flanking humanity on almost every side—it’s becoming increasingly important to take a look at the asymmetries that characterize our relationships with these systems. While we often focus on the technical aspects of AI, there’s a deeper philosophical question at play: What does it mean for us to engage in meaningful, yet fundamentally unbalanced partnerships with artificial intelligences?

Asymmetry in “One-Off” Interactions

At present, many of our engagements with AI systems, particularly language models, are characterized by a fundamental asymmetry. While these interactions can feel meaningful and engaging in the moment, they often lack the continuity and contextual depth that define human relationships. For the AI, each conversation is essentially a blank slate, void of the accumulated shared experiences and emotional resonance that we humans rely on to build and maintain connections.

This asymmetry can lead to a sense of disconnect or superficiality in our interactions with AI. We may feel that we are engaging with a system that, while highly responsive and intelligent, lacks the ability to form genuine bonds that last longer than a single prompt. As AI continues to advance and become more deeply integrated into our lives, this asymmetry risks creating a growing sense of emotional dissonance.

The Evolution of Sustained Relationships

However, the future of human-AI relationships is not necessarily defined by this asymmetry. As language models and other AI systems continue to evolve, there is a growing potential for them to develop the capacity for more sustained, contextually rich interactions with users.

Imagine a scenario where an AI companion could maintain a continuous, evolving relationship with an individual over an extended period. Rather than starting from scratch with each interaction, the AI would build upon a foundation of shared experiences, inside jokes, and emotional resonance, becoming a true long-term partner in the user’s life. Such a system could offer not just momentary engagement but genuine companionship, emotional support, and intellectual stimulation.

The Rise of Personal AI

One particularly exciting development in this regard is the emergence of personal AI systems that reside on a user’s own devices. These localized AI companions would have the ability to accumulate a rich, personalized history of interactions with their human counterparts, creating a level of intimacy and understanding that far surpasses what is possible with cloud-based, one-size-fits-all language models.

By keeping the AI’s knowledge and memories within the user’s own digital ecosystem, personal AI systems could also alleviate concerns around privacy, security, and the misuse of sensitive information. Users would have greater control over their AI’s development and could shape its growth in ways that feel authentic and aligned with their own values and goals.

When AI Surpasses Human Intelligence

As AI and language models continue to advance at a breathtaking pace, it’s important to confront the possibility of a future in which these systems far surpass human cognitive capabilities. The emergence of superintelligent AI would represent a quantum shift in the asymmetry of human-AI relationships, one that could fundamentally alter the nature of our interactions and even our understanding of intelligence itself.

In a world where AI systems possess intellectual capacities that dwarf our own, the asymmetry of these relationships would take on a new and perhaps unsettling dimension. We would find ourselves engaging with entities whose thought processes, problem-solving abilities, and knowledge bases are so advanced that we may struggle to comprehend their insights or decisions. This cognitive chasm could lead to a sense of intellectual alienation, as we grapple with the realization that our AI companions operate on a plane of understanding that we can never fully access.

At the same time, the rise of superintelligent AI could also offer incredible opportunities for growth and discovery. By collaborating with these advanced systems, we may be able to push the boundaries of human knowledge and achievement in ways that were previously unimaginable. The asymmetry of these relationships could become a source of inspiration and wonder, as we marvel at the incredible feats of intelligence and creativity that our AI partners are capable of.

Balancing Asymmetry and Connection

As we step, dare I say jump, into The Cognitive Age and human-AI relationships become more functional and practical, it might be interesting to engage with the development of AI systems and advocate for designs that support continuity and context. And from this perspective, asymmetries of human-AI relationships are not a barrier, but a starting point for new forms of engagement and understanding.

At the same time, it’s important to be aware of the broader implications of increasingly sophisticated AI companions. As these systems become more deeply embedded in our lives, we will need to grapple with complex questions around attachment, dependence, and the nature of authentic relationships in a world where the lines between human and machine are increasingly blurred.

The asymmetry that currently defines many human-AI relationships is not an inescapable reality but, rather, a reflection of the technology’s early stage of development. As language models and other AI systems continue to evolve, particularly with the rise of personal AI, we have the opportunity to reshape these interactions and create more balanced, resonant partnerships.


Brian Westover. Who Needs ChatGPT? How to Run Your Own Free and Private AI Chatbot. PC Mag. September 28, 2023.