Anthropomorphization of AI: Opportunities and Risks


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Anthropomorphization is the tendency to attribute human-like traits to non-human entities. It is prevalent in many social contexts -- children anthropomorphize toys, adults do so with brands, and it is a literary device. It is also a versatile tool in science, with behavioral psychology and evolutionary biology meticulously documenting its consequences. With widespread adoption of AI systems, and the push from stakeholders to make it human-like through alignment techniques, human voice, and pictorial avatars, the tendency for users to anthropomorphize it increases significantly. We take a dyadic approach to understanding this phenomenon with large language models (LLMs) by studying (1) the objective legal implications, as analyzed through the lens of the recent blueprint of AI bill of rights and the (2) subtle psychological aspects customization and anthropomorphization. We find that anthropomorphized LLMs customized for different user bases violate multiple provisions in the legislative blueprint. In addition, we point out that anthropomorphization of LLMs affects the influence they can have on their users, thus having the potential to fundamentally change the nature of human-AI interaction, with potential for manipulation and negative influence. With LLMs being hyper-personalized for vulnerable groups like children and patients among others, our work is a timely and important contribution. We propose a conservative strategy for the cautious use of anthropomorphization to improve trustworthiness of AI systems.
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