- Every day, I receive an aggressive daily horoscope from Co-Star, an AI powered astrology app.
- At first, I was irritated by the persistence and meanness of these notifications.
- But after the app delivered some randomized tough love, I found it becoming something of a comfort.
- Now, I look forward to whatever horoscope Co-Star’s AI sends me each day.
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Around 11 a.m. every day, my phone sends me a push notification. Sometimes it’s cryptic – “Be reckless” – and sometimes it seems incredibly pointed – “Try not to waste your time on people who act like you don’t exist.”
These aren’t messages from an overbearing, superstitious relative, or even an eccentric friend who bartends in Brooklyn. Every day, AI-crafted horoscopes are specifically generated for me from Co-Star, the astrology app that’s raised $5 million in funding and has probably taken over your Twitter feed. Or at least mine.
Before Co-Star, I wasn’t an astrology fanatic (typical Aquarius individualistic thinking, I know). But the app’s real genius is perhaps in locating its key demographic: It was all the rage at my women’s college, so I hopped on what seemed like a relatively harmless bandwagon. When I downloaded it about a year ago – texting my mom to ask for my exact birth time so it could generate a natal chart for me – I considered it, at best, a fun way to learn more about astrology, and to compare my so-called astrological compatibility with friends and flirtations. After all, there’s no better queer lady pick-up line then “Do you have a Co-Star?”
Now, I think it may know me better than I know myself.
Astrology isn’t real, and yet I can’t stop checking Co-Star
Obviously, I’m slightly exaggerating. Logically, I know that Co-Star’s proprietary tech – artificial intelligence that uses NASA Data, your birth date and time, and human astrologers – is probably generating similar, if not identical, daily horoscopes for scared millennials like me around the world (But only if they have iPhones. It’s not available for Android yet.). I’m just one data point in a slightly mystical version of big tech. And it’s not even the fun kind of big tech, which serves me photos of cute animals and loved ones while siphoning my data. Co-Star, is, honestly, pretty rude. Its horoscopes tend to fall along the lines of “everything you’re doing is wrong, and I’m going to make you think about every bad choice you’ve ever made at 11 a.m. on a weekday.”
So why am I so obsessed with it?
And, more importantly: How does it always seem to know?
For instance, the morning after a recent breakup, I was working up the courage to text my best friend of eight years that the relationship had ended. And, as I lay pathetically in bed, that dreaded notification popped up.
“Trouble in Sex & Love: Ask yourself why you have different expectations for people you sleep with than for people you don’t.”
My first reaction was to throw my phone out the window. When I decided that was probably too pricey, I just put it on the other side of the room and glared at it. How dare this horoscope app presume to know anything about my life? And how dare it be so spot on?
Now, I don’t think that Co-Star was monitoring me, or truly had any otherworldly insight into my particular situation. It was probably a lucky guess. Based on the other relationships I saw ending around me, it seemed like it was a popular breakup time. Maybe Co-Star’s mysterious AI noticed such trends. Or maybe astrology is real. (Huge apology to every science teacher I’ve ever had).
But, after the initial shock of such a pointed notification, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a while: hope. The notification was tough love sent by the universe – or, more accurately, by some AI that claimed to interpret the universe as it specifically pertained to me – and I felt just a little less alone. I was forced to think about myself and my relationship in a way that wasn’t solely self-pitying.
The next few weeks yielded similarly strange horoscopes. Some were nonsensical, and others just plain aggressive. What, I asked myself, could “Imitate and steal like a great artist” mean? Was there someone or something in my life that I needed to be emulating?
Each day, I found myself pausing at 11 a.m. and considering what Co-Star was offering up. Like much of astrology, it was just vague enough to be applicable to whatever situation had been on my mind, but still seemed specific enough to fit comfortably. Weirdly, I began to look forward to it.
Co-Star forces me to reflect, even when I’d rather use social media to deflect
In a world where my chronic millennial burnout is inevitable, where I’ll probably never be able to retire or own a house, and where pretty much every app on my phone seems to be conspiring to make me sad and anxious, there was something refreshing about Co-Star. On social media, I find myself turning my life into content. A funny or sad conversation becomes a tweet, and an idyllic moment outside becomes an Instagram. I love the connections I’ve forged on social media, and the jokes that I share with friends. But in all of these apps, I’m solely responsible for myself. I’m reaching out to the world, and hoping it reaches back.
My mean horoscope app will always pop up, whether I want it to or not. It will force me to think about the life beyond careful curation. I’ve found it a good litmus test: Whatever I assume the horoscope is about requires further reflection. When it sends me “Trust your intuition,” I think about the person I was considering reaching out to – and I send the text.
Astrology has always been about injecting just a little bit of predictability, or at least omniscience, into the chaos and doldrum of daily life. There’s something reassuring about knowing that the stars have dictated your bad mood. Or that the eclipse made someone send you that weird text. To me, Co-Star’s horoscopes strike a perfect balance. They’re predictive, not prescriptive. I still feel a sense of free will, using the horoscopes as a jumping off point for whatever I need to be doing. But it’s also nice to feel like something – even if it’s just some AI looking at the stars – is keeping an eye out for me. It’s given me a comfortable, star-backed framework for understanding more about myself.
And if that understanding comes in the form of vicious AI horoscopes, so be it. 2019 has certainly seen weirder.