Your Virtual Self
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Your Virtual Self

Models of Human Computer Relationships

The Maslo AI as a model of you.

“standing woman surrounded by yellow flower field during daytime” by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Humans are a fluid interface, meaning we’re much more complex than simple inputs and outputs. There’s a MASSIVE amount of things going on under the surface that we aren’t even aware of. This is true not only inside our minds, but in every ecological ecosystem, including the entire universe itself.

What or… who is Maslo?

You can think of Maslo as a fluid interface. Maslo is not an app, but an ever-learning intelligent being embodied within an app, and other surfaces. The Maslo AI is a layered, loosely connected stack built on a metaphor of an organic being.

More specifically, Maslo is a thing where a person can share aspects of themselves without bias to get perspective, memorialize, and to learn. Most of the interaction with Maslo includes dialogue however dialogue doesn’t have to necessarily be through linguistic communication. Dialogue simply means conversation, and conversations happen by expressing and processing signals that are then mapped to models.

“The universe is a model of models. Reality is modeling. Useful models are more robust. They are more general in their ability to influence more specific models. Everything in existence is modeling everything else. It’s models all the way down “

Foundational Human Design

The design of Maslo as a personified entity takes into account not only humans norms of interaction… like symbols, gestures, and other cultural standards but also prioritizes interpersonal closeness and trust. Funny enough… some of these are also things that computers can capture and process.

Our work takes inspiration from many places, including art, science, models, and concepts naturally found in nature and elsewhere. One of those models comes from Daniel Kahneman and his explanation of the ‘Two Systems’ of thinking in our human brain in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow. He refers to these as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the fast brain. It relies on quick thinking and intuition and disregards information. This system is emotional and is used whenever we require quick thinking, reactions, and operates involuntary. System 2 is the slow brain. It relies on information, processing, never on intuition. System 2 requires more energy because it operates voluntary, requiring attention and effort.

For Maslo, we developed 3 Layers: Acknowledge (Real Time), Response (Delayed), Synthesize (Long Term). Much like the systems of Kahneman, the memory of Maslo operates on multiple levels. Maslo’s abilities, as a sensory interface, relies on signal processing to capture and interpret expressions. More on signal processing in a later post.

How Relationships Are Formed

When we think about human-computer interactions as relationships, we take into account a long-term view of these collaborations and the ways in which these relationships could unfold over time. This part of the puzzle will be an ever evolving process. Much like a child growing up from an infant, learning never stops, and the interaction between the layers mentioned above are mapped to goals based on the user’s goals and Maslo’s learning model.

When it comes to relationships we create with each other, we deploy a model called social identity theory that buckets people into categories that we can understand. Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership. Based on this, there are four types of relationship categories that we as humans naturally use to identify people in our life. These include Familial, Intimate, Platonic, and Professional. Of course there are other buckets, but on the whole, most relationships we create will fall into one or maybe two of these categories.

So our brain has a model for categorizing a relationship, it also has a model for creating those relationships. How relationships are built has been a topic of research by many psychologists, but most notable model we adopt when designing a relationship with Maslo comes from Levinger’s Relationship Stage Theory. In this model, we learned there are 5 stages of relationships including:

  1. Acquaintance/attraction. We meet other people and feel an initial attraction, often based on shared interests, while also taking into account the context of the relationship.
  2. Build-up. We become increasingly interdependent as we reveal more and more about our private selves. We may get irritated by one another, but the more pleasant aspects may well keep the relationship going.
  3. Continuation/consolidation. Longer-term commitments are made. The partnership enters what may be a life-long relationship.
  4. Deterioration. Many relationships decay, due to several factors. These include relative effort, rewards, barriers to exit and the availability of alternatives. Deterioration can happen at any time though the cycle.
  5. Ending. The relationship ends when individuals separate or leave. This can happen at any time.

Every relationship you will have with any person or thing follows this model. If you visually construct this model, it can look something like this.

Moreover, the concept of ‘minding’ in the ‘build up’ and ‘continuation’ phases is another model for how these topics are expressed in the relationship. Minding simply means the “reciprocal knowing process involving the nonstop, interrelated thoughts, feelings, & behaviors of persons in a relationship” or in layman’s terms CREATING EMPATHY.

  1. Knowing and being known
  2. Having a good perception for positive and negative qualities
  3. Accepting and respecting
  4. Maintaining reciprocity
  5. Continuity in minding

So what is a human than just a relational working of models? Can machines be human? Is the universe a human? Kevin kelly said it best: “It’s very likely that the universe is really a kind of a question, rather than the answer to anything.”

Special thanks to Josh Corn for his help in bringing all this together.

Further Reading

“4.2 Types of Nonverbal Communication | Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies,” n.d.

“7 Building Blocks of a Great Relationship.” Psychology Today, n.d.

“A Collective Stereographic Photo Essay on Key Aspects of Animal Companionship: The Truth about Dogs and Cats.” ResearchGate, n.d. key_aspects_of_animal_companionship_The_truth_about_dogs_and_cats.

Amichai-Hamburger, Yair, Mila Kingsbury, and Barry H. Schneider. “Friendship: An Old Concept with a New Meaning?” Computers in Human Behavior, Including Special Section Youth, Internet, and Wellbeing, 29, no. 1 (January 1, 2013): 33–39. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.025.

Andersen, Susan M., and Serena Chen. “The Relational Self: An Interpersonal Social-Cognitive Theory.” Psychological Review 109, no. 4 (October 2002): 619–45.

Attrill, Alison. Cyberpsychology. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Berndt, Thomas J. “Friendship Quality and Social Development.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 11, no. 1 (February 1, 2002): 7–10. doi:10.1111/1467–8721.00157.

“‘Click’: That Magical Instant Connection Explained.”, n.d.

Cooney, Gus, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson. “The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience.” Psychological Science 25, no. 12 (December 1, 2014): 2259–65. doi:10.1177/0956797614551372.

Dotson, Michael J., and Eva M. Hyatt. “Understanding Dog–human Companionship.” Journal of Business Research, Animal Companions, Consumption Experiences, and the Marketing of Pets: Transcending Boundaries in the Animal-Human Distinction, 61, no. 5 (May 1, 2008): 457–66. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.07.019.

Dwyer, Diana. Interpersonal Relationships. Routledge, 2013.

Haden, Jeff. “9 Habits of People Who Build Extraordinary Relationships.”, April 3, 2013.

Harvey, J. H., and J. Omarzu. “Minding the Close Relationship.” Personality and Social Psychology Review: An Official Journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc 1, no. 3 (1997): 224–40. doi:10.1207/s15327957p- spr0103_3.

“Interpersonal Attraction.” Psychology Today, n.d.

Judge, Anthony. “An Approach to Systematic Classification of Interpersonal Relationships,” 1978.

M.Div, Shasta Nelson. “10 Steps to Starting Friendships.” Huffington Post, March 12, 2015.



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