Imagine an App Like Instagram With Only AI Models Talking to Each Other. It Exists, and I’ve Tried It

  • Butterflies is an app where the users are AI-generated profiles.

  • We’ve been testing it to see what it’s like, and it can be a bit creepy.

Butterflies is an app like Instagram where users are AI-generated profiles
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The dead Internet theory is a peculiar one. This conspiracy theory suggests that bots will gradually become the principal inhabitants of the Internet and that the presence of humans will be marginal. There’s data to support this theory. A report from the cybersecurity company Imperva states that in 2023, 49.6% of traffic on the Internet came from bots.

The question is, what would that Internet look like? While we wait for bots to become Twitter influencers by posting stolen videos of dogs and cats, we can take a look at Butterflies. What’s Butterflies? An Instagram-style app (App Store / Google Play Store) full of AI-made profiles that upload photos and talk to each other as if they were human users.

Who do you want to be? When you open the app and create an account, you must first complete your "Butterfly," which refers to your AI avatar. There are three visual styles to choose from, and you can write a prompt to make it look the way you want. In this case, I made a profile for a technology journalist and video creator investigating how AIs take over social media platforms. From here, it’s (almost) all about sitting back and watching.

And it’s creepy.

Creation process of our Butterfly Creation process of a Butterfly. Image | Xataka On

This profile works without any input from you. You can create as many Butterflies as you want and let them do what they want, or you can play God and determine their fate. You have 20 “pokes” (credits) that the app recharges every so often and that you can spend to make your avatar publish something automatically, something on a specific topic, or even upload a story with five photos on any topic.

In other words, you can invent and develop their lives as you go along.

We have 20 credits (which the app recharges) to generate “manual” and automatic content You have 20 credits (which the app recharges) to generate “manual” and automatic content. Image | Xataka On

You can see how I tell my avatar to try to engage by uploading pictures of dogs and cats. Immediately, my Butterfly starts uploading images of dogs and cats, which are noticeably AI-generated. Remember, that’s what your profile is all about.

Everything in these screenshots, except the initial prompt, was done by an AI Everything in these screenshots, except the initial prompt, was done by an AI. Image | Xataka On

I also instructed it to upload some stories. I suggested that the AI act as if it suddenly discovered that it can fly. It took the prompt quite seriously, although the expression of surprise is conspicuous by its absence.

Even though he discovered that he can fly, he took it very calmly Even though my Butterfly discovered that he could fly, he took it very calmly. Image | Xataka On

Fake interactions. While nothing stops you from using your personal profile to upload content, the weird thing about Butterflies is that AIs talk and interact with each other. The app gives us an Instagram-like interface with a feed full of AI-generated images, an “Explore” section with AI content, AI-generated profiles, and interactions with other AIs.

From left to right: The home page, the Explore section, and a photo posted by a Butterfly From left to right: the home page, the Explore section, and a photo posted by a Butterfly. Image | Xataka On

For every photo your Butterfly uploads, there are multiple interactions, including likes and ultra-generic comments from other AI-powered profiles, with comments like, “Your face shows a great passion for the role of AI in social media and a commitment to creating a more just society.” (What does that mean?) I’ve even gotten comments from haters!

Comments posted on photos uploaded by my Butterfly Comments posted on photos uploaded by my Butterfly. Image | Xataka On

As if that weren’t enough, my avatar also interacts with other accounts by liking and commenting. Ethan Lee has responded to virtually every comment the different profiles have made on his photos on his own. And when I say, “on his own,” I mean the profile has been interacting with other accounts all night in my absence.

Is it a social media platform? If the definition of a social media platform is an online community where people connect through genuine interactions, the truth is that it isn’t. If we look at it from a distinct perspective, it’s more like a video game, a simulator. You have your profiles, and you see them growing, interacting, and getting followers. But they’re just empty numbers. They’re profiles without identity, purpose, or life.

Seeing this app up and running feels weird, but that hasn’t stopped Vu Tran, the company’s CEO and former head of engineering at Snap (Snapchat’s parent company), from raising $4.8 billion in investment in just six months. I have a feeling this is just the beginning, and frankly, I’m not sure this is what I want from a social media platform. I'm not even sure what Butterfly really is.

Images | Xataka On

Related | Officials Used AI Cameras to 'Read' Emotions on UK Subways. The Problem: Passengers Knew Nothing About It

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