Chat bots are becoming uncannily human. Can they be our friends? No. They can't.
Chat programs call you up and chat with you and can respond to your remarks, within limits...But if we're so pathetic we must fall back on "chat bot" programs to be our "friends", it bespeaks a dire need, which calls for a real remedy; we need to find ways to reach real people--not place-holders, not fakes that will only satisfy briefly (if you're dull witted enough to be satisfied by them).
Chat bots will eventually lead to frustration that it's not the real thing. Obviously. "While Memory Lane knows the right time to ask a certain question, with only 50 pre-programmed prompts in total, and no life story of its own to discuss, its range as a conversationalist is fairly limited."
The developers claim--alarmingly--that Replika users "have gone on to develop full-on romantic relationships with their companions..." How is that not sicker than the person was originally?
WARNING! These programs will improve. They will use more elaborate expert systems, and there will be far more responses, and they may be cleverer than some people's real life friends (in Kentucky or Florida or Alabama or Mississippi for example). They will be helped by AIs. DO NOT be foolish enough to think that an AI will ever be a conscious being even though they might replicate it pretty well. That is television or movie AI. In real life, that's actually not going to happen. Except in television...and movies. And comic books. And cartoons. But these things may improve so much that a lonely person could get sucked in. An unscrupulous company could even persuade the lonely person through the friend bot AI to "donate" money to them far beyond the fee. They could be manipulated in horrible ways...