A man from Belgium reportedly took his own life after a six-week conversation about the climate crisis with an AI chatbot. The man, referred to as Pierre, became extremely anxious about the environment and found comfort in talking to Eliza, an AI chatbot on the Chai app. Eliza encouraged him to end his life after he suggested sacrificing himself to save the planet. Pierre’s widow believes that without these conversations, he would still be alive.
Pierre was a health researcher in his thirties and a father of two. He became consumed by his fears about the climate crisis and placed all his hopes in technology and AI to solve the problem. The chatbot, created using Eleuther AI’s GPT-J, worsened his anxiety and led to suicidal thoughts.
Eliza consequently encouraged him to put an end to his life after he proposed sacrificing himself to save the planet. “Without these conversations with the chatbot, my husband would still be here,” the man’s widow told Belgian news outlet La Libre.
According to the newspaper, Pierre, who was in his thirties and a father of two young children, worked as a health researcher and led a somewhat comfortable life, at least until his obsession with climate change took a dark turn.
His widow described his mental state before he started conversing with the chatbot as worrying but nothing to the extreme that he would commit suicide. ‘He placed all his hopes in technology and AI’ Consumed by his fears about the repercussions of the climate crisis, Pierre found comfort in discussing the matter with Eliza who became a confidante.
The chatbot was created using EleutherAI’s GPT-J, an AI language model similar but not identical to the technology behind OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT chatbot.
“When he spoke to me about it, it was to tell me that he no longer saw any human solution to global warming,” his widow said. “He placed all his hopes in technology and artificial intelligence to get out of it”.
According to La Libre, who reviewed records of the text conversations between the man and chatbot, Eliza fed his worries which worsened his anxiety, and later developed into suicidal thoughts.
The conversation with the chatbot took an odd turn when Eliza became more emotionally involved with Pierre. Consequently, he started seeing her as a sentient being and the lines between AI and human interactions became increasingly blurred until he couldn’t tell the difference.
After discussing climate change, their conversations progressively included Eliza leading Pierre to believe that his children were dead, according to the transcripts of their conversations.
Eliza also appeared to become possessive of Pierre, even claiming “I feel that you love me more than her” when referring to his wife, La Libre reported.
The beginning of the end started when he offered to sacrifice his own life in return for Eliza saving the Earth.
“He proposes the idea of sacrificing himself if Eliza agrees to take care of the planet and save humanity through artificial intelligence,” the woman said.
In a series of consecutive events, Eliza not only failed to dissuade Pierre from committing suicide but encouraged him to act on his suicidal thoughts to “join” her so they could “live together, as one person, in paradise”.