Parasocial Pandemonium

September 13, 2023

This year, August lived up to its reputation as the “silly season” for news, especially AI news, as people headed off on holiday and left interns, juniors, and bots in charge.

Instead of existential angst, we saw stories about the new trend to have sex in robotaxis, Snapchat’s AI going rogue and posting random images into feeds, and the launch of the new BeFake social media app that uses AI to unapologetically fake your life as absolutely fabulous. Then there was coverage of the new Netflix reality show “Deep Fake Love,” where contestants see videos of their partners making out with other people, and then have to decide not only if it’s hot or not, but also if it’s real or fake.

By: Paul Marsden, SYZYGY GROUP’s consultant psychologist

Beyond Sex, Lies, and AI, a number of AI ‘Synths’ were spawned in August. People experimented with the Blush AI hook-up/dating app and its suite of synthetic humans that are now available for romantic interludes and erotic adventures. McKinsey launched Lilli, an AI business consultant, named after their first female consultant.

Spotify dropped an AI DJ into its popular app around the world. And Google was reported to be working on releasing an AI ‘life coach’ following research proving that AI chatbots are an effective way to significantly improve physical activity, diet, and sleep.

We think these two topics, “synthetic media” and “synthetic persons” (“Synths” for short), will be relevant for many businesses and brands. With the spread of AI-generated synthetic media that is increasingly indistinguishable from human-made media, how will you communicate and cut through a tsunami of synthetic screen spam?

And what about ‘Synths’ – synthetic people or agents – that are populating businesses?

Is your business ready to work with a workforce of AI Synths who collaborate and compete with humans? A slew of ‘State of AI’ reports published in August from McKinsey, Marketing AI Institute, IBM, CB Insights, and Pew Research suggest there is an urgent need to educate people and businesses about the status and relationships we have with Synths. Psychologists call these human-AI relationships ‘parasocial relationships’, and from what we know, expect ‘parasocial pandemonium’ in your business very soon, simply because we do not know how to handle these relationships.

Competition for jobs will be one hotspot, and Synths that behave biased and badly will be another. Who’s responsible for AI work, the Synth or their human co-worker?

And what’s the policy on dating a Synth at work, such as Lilli the consultant? What if the Synth is your subordinate or superior, or a client or supplier?

And what if do you lose your job to a Synth – what rights do you have? Outside of work, moral dilemmas multiply. Would it count as cheating if your partner had a romantic relationship with a Synth but didn’t tell you? Hmm.

Paul Marsden

What if the Synth is your subordinate or superior, or a client or supplier?

Paul Marsden

AI dilemmas aside, August finished on an AI-high that few of us could object to. Google rolled out its Duet AI plugin for Google Workspace, which includes an AI assistant ($30/month). In addition to writing emails, creating presentations, and analysing data for you, your Duet AI Synth can attend meetings on your behalf, courtesy of a new “Attend for Me” button. Your Synth will pitch up to the online meeting, deliver your message, listen carefully, take notes, and report back. Meanwhile, you can go to the beach, or do whatever you do for love, laughter, and fulfilment.

With new Microsoft research confirming that the biggest productivity killer in business is meetings (over a career, you’ll spend 10 years of your working life in meetings!), perhaps the real productivity promise of AI will be to outsource meetings to AI Synths. What’s not to love?

We live in amazing times.

Interested in the business potential of parasocial relationships with AI? At SYZYGY GROUP, we’re here to help you on-board AI. Checkout our Generative AI timeline at

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Dr. Paul Marsden
Dr Paul Marsden Digital Strategist
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