In this paper we discuss what we believe to be one of the most important features of near-future AIs, namely their capacity to behave in a friendly manner to humans. Our analysis of what it means for an AI to behave in a friendly manner does not presuppose that proper friendships between humans and AI systems could exist. That would require reciprocity, which is beyond the reach of near-future AI systems. Rather, we defend the claim that social AIs should be programmed to behave in a manner that
mimicsa sufficient number of aspects of proper friendship. We call this “as-if friendship”. The main reason for why we believe that ‘as if friendship’ is an improvement on the current, highly submissive behavior displayed by AIs is the negative effects the latter can have on humans. We defend this view partly on virtue ethical grounds and we argue that the virtue-based approach to AI ethics outlined in this paper, which we call “virtue alignment”, is an improvement on the traditional “value alignment” approach.