Story by Derek Almeida | Art by Mad Paule
A study commissioned by the non-profit organisation, The Club of Rome has predicted that the world’s population would peak at 8.6 billion by 2050 and then rapidly decline to 6 billion by the end of the century. The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 and has 100 full members –
scientists, economists, business leaders, UN administrators, diplomats and high-level politicians from around the world. This new finding is in sharp contrast with the UN Population Division 2022 report which predicts that population would reach a peak at 9.7 billion by the middle of the century and then begin its decline, but at a slower rate than envisaged by The Club of Rome.
In India, which is expected to overtake China soon (if it hasn’t already done so), the general fertility rate has declined by 20 per cent in the last decade. The total fertility rate – the average number of births per woman – is down to 2.05. The rate at which population replaces itself is 2.1. China’s population shrank by 850,000 people last year, the first such decline recorded since 1961. Also, the number of births is expected to be around 7 million this year, which is a huge decline from 9.5 million births last year, which was the lowest in the country’s modern history.
A bot friend
It’s a real thing. And it’s not the ChatGPT type. An app called Replika launched in 2017 is a bit of a rage with those who are looking for some emotional support or a shoulder to cry on. Created by Luka, a San Francisco-based company founded by Russian-American IT entrepreneur Eugenia Kuyda, Replika is an AI-based app that fosters intimate relationships between humans and bots. The conversations range from complex to simple and sometimes even repetitive. But, the truth is that bot friends are becoming much sought-after as companions, romantic partners (without benefits) or therapists (without a charge).
This is reflected in the rapid growth of users of Replika. The Replika Reddit forum has more than 65,000 members. Most users are aware that the bot is not a real person, but feel that it is a good substitute for a real person.
This new reality is a case of real life imitating reel life. In the 2013 movie ‘Her’, a lonely writer develops a relationship with an operating system designed to help people like him.
The question though is: can a bot be your soulmate? The jury is still out on this one.