Sylvia Sky, M.A., is an experienced writer-astrologer and author of "Sun Sign Confidential: The Dark Side of all 12 Zodiac Signs."
An Astrologer Test Drives Co-Star
In 2017, Co-Star announced itself as “the first ever A.I. powered horoscope app.” It should not have been so proud of that. Co-Star later raised six million dollars to bring this highly popular app to Android.
“You can’t argue with success,” the old saying goes. Co-Star, the app, now has more than a million downloads on Google Play, who knows how many million from the Apple Store, and half a million Instagram followers. That many fans can’t be wrong. But Co-star's artificial intelligence told me weird things:
“Today you are conflating strictness with rigor. Being skeptical won’t help you. Use your good judgement to fail instead.”
Use my good judgement to fail?
Two days later my daily horoscope read:
“Today you are conflating idolization with friendship. Being prideful won’t help you. Use your dogged loyalty to welcome penetrating questions instead.”
Artificial Intelligence was only filling in blanks with words and phrases, when we all know each day is astrologically unique, and so are we.
"Unique to you" is Co-Star's promise. But I didn't feel uniquely astrologically guided by statements like, "Today you are feeling thoughtful about how you feel." This came from an American app based in New York which presented itself as mightily serious. Someone complained to them in 2020 and now Co-Star generates daily affirmations that do make sense, such as, "No one expects you to know everything."
Astrology—and our lives and futures—are never so simple that we should trust a machine to advise us, but in the 2020s we will grasp at any straws. Most Co-Star users are women age 18 to 25. It matters to me that they get accurate astrology and helpful guidance.
It Needs Your Data, But Don't Betray Your Friends
After download, the first thing the current Co-Star wants is your telephone number or Facebook login. Cringe. Those are gateways to troves of personal info. Apps always promise they will “never sell your data,” but that only means they rent it—much more lucrative for them.
I coughed up my number so I could get in. I let my own privacy be invaded, but I think it's unethical to hand over my friends. Co-Star suggests the app “connects friends and lovers,” but few friends and lovers care about each other's daily horoscopes. More likely your bae thinks astrology is woo-woo or comes from the Devil. There’s a “share” button if your friends and Co-Star followers—celebs on Co-Star have followers!—are tolerant. The last bit of information that Co-Star wants is your birth date, place, and time. Those alone are the essentials that personal astrology needs.
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Co-Star's Graphics and Social Media Presence
No girly purples and pinks for Co-Star’s graphics. Its web palette is white, black, and gray. The app provides "At a Glance" clues about what will go well that day and what won't, and whom to bother or ignore. This information is based on genuine planetary transits (credited to “NASA”) to the user’s genuine astrological natal chart. That is admirable, and it's Co-Star's point of pride.
Co-Star said I'd work best today with "Earth Venus." Unfamiliar with the phrase, I clicked on it; nothing. But I figured it out because it said I'd work worst that day with "Fire Sun." That meant folks with Suns in fire signs. "Earth Venus" means people born with Venus in earth signs. Those signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, but the app didn't say that. It furthermore assumed that I know and remember who has their natal Venus in earth signs, or will ask that of the people I meet.
No wonder then that Co-Star’s Instagram posts or daily push notifications are more popular than the inner reaches of this app. The daily messages are short, sometimes barbed, or, one reviewer noted, even “bullying”: “Being unreliable is unfriendly." “You talk about other people because you don’t have your own life.” “Eat something new.”
Developers, why is the "Day at a Glance" for "Tomorrow" never ready in advance? Astrology looks forward. Do better.
Why Co-Star Natal Charts Have Unfamiliar Planet Placements
One way to check an app's accuracy is to compare a natal chart known to be correct with the one the app calculates. Co-Star substitutes for the typical pie-shaped horoscope chart a monochrome oblong I happen to like, much less technical.
Yet to my surprise, Co-Star, using “NASA” data, got some of my natal chart significantly wrong. It placed my natal Moon in the birth chart’s House 1. That’s wrong; it’s one house off. Co-Star went on to describe the Moon in House 1 personality. It placed my Saturn in House 2. That’s one house off. The other house placements were correct, so what was the matter?
I looked hard throughout the app for the reason, and discovered in Settings that Co-Star defaults not to the classic Western astrological house configuration, called “Placidus,” but a simpler one called “Porphyry,” older but less precise. The settings page offered a choice of Porphyry, Placidus, and "I Don't Care," but for Android (I've waited 11 months now) Placidus is still not available and neither is the appalling and patronizing option "I Don't Care."
So all of my and your Co-Star daily readings will be based on an unfamiliar or faulty birth chart. The app correctly placed my natal Jupiter in Libra, but interpreted it as if it were not retrograde.
Where to Draw Personal Boundaries When Using the App
Free access to general daily guidance and an unchanging personality reading will probably satisfy Co-Star users short of time or money. "A full reading" asks users to make a monetary offer. It starts at one dollar. I never give my credit card to occult or psychic apps, so made no offer. Be wary. These types of businesses rent and sell each other's data and play data-mining tricks.
Co-Star's fiendish "Chaos Mode" footer asks users to write themselves a note "be[ing] honest with yourself, no rules." Then click, and ladies and gents, you just sent your deepest worries and shames to a corporation that might leak that info to insurance providers, governments, bosses, or the law. Chaos Mode says it will choose a time to send the note back to you. That's nice, but they never promised confidentiality. They've got a copy, forever, and the only reason they'd want to read about your chaos is for profit.
Draw some boundaries when interacting with the Co-Star app. It is nobody's best friend. It's a business.
Sylvia Sky does not select or endorse any ads appearing on her pages. Sylvia does not do personal astrological readings.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 Sylvia Sky