Can AI Make You Immortal?
We’ve grappled with mortality since time began. ‘This struggle has given rise to religions that have dominated human culture for millennia and been central to philosophies that have shaped civilisations.’ (Marr 2023). Well here comes a possible, scientific solution to immortality, courtesy of AI, and in particular, GPT or Generative Pre-trained Transformer as in ChatGPT. This is going to transform society and perhaps humanity.
Currently, we use photographs and video clips to rekindle fond memories of lost friends and family members. Now we can preserve additional elements of our personality (and our minds) and our voices (tones) and our looks (bodies) in the form of similar-looking (and sounding) human-looking 3D avatars. This helps the deceased to remain a bigger part of the lives of those we leave behind.
Reunify with a Dead Daughter?
Seven-year-old, Na-yeon, tragically died from a blood-related disease. She was reunited with her mother (in a Korean documentary back in 2020), which facilitated the reunion of Na-yeon’s mother (wearing a VR helmet) and her dead seven-year-old daughter’s avatar (built from photographs, her mother’s memories, and a child actor).
Reunion with a Dead Fiancé?
This is the most beautifully-told story of a grieving 33-year-old Joshua whose fiancé died from a rare liver disease some eight years earlier. He gets to talk to her via her text bot (created by a very low-profile ‘Project December’ using OpenAI ‘s GPT-3). He knows she’s dead and even says it to her in his opening comments. The conversation goes deeper and deeper for ten hours. The bot has a limited life span which makes it even more real. Read more at the end of this post. This true story was written in July 2021 by Jason Fagone in the San Francisco Chronicle. The site itself is a bit more brutal with its initial value proposition: ‘Simulate the Dead’ – Start for $10.
A budget and access to the deceased social data are required (Facebook, Twitter, video clips, voice messages, or the gold-dust – personal diary, etc.). The estimated costs of recreating someone into a 3D look-alike avatar was, two years ago, $10,000 upfront and $1,000 per hour’s engagement thereafter. The pricing (or credits used) in the very moving story of Joshua and Jessica (at the end of this piece) makes the grieving Joshua select and use his time with his dead fiancée very carefully (albeit it was only $5). You can see how pricing and fees could make this a potentially lucrative business perhaps only available to a small section of society.
Alexa Mimics the Voice of The Deceased
You can now ask Alexa to get a dead grandfather to read ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ to a Grandchild. Alexa’s new feature can mimic any voice, once it is fed with less than one minute’s worth of the deceased person’s voice (not yet available to the general public). Once you sign up (all done by voice instructions) to audible books via amazon, you can then ask Alexa to ask granddad to read ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to his grandchild – every night. Or perhaps a new book every week. 52 books a year x 10 years is 520 books. Now, this raises the question what 520 books would you like your grandchild to read (or listen to)? Or what five books would you choose – might be an even better question?
FIFA Video Game ReCreates a Deceased Rising Soccer Talent
Kiyan Prince was only 15 when he was stabbed and killed when he intervened in a fight outside his school. He was also a rising star in QPR FC. 16 Years later, the video game, FIFA 2021, created a digital persona of what Kiyan would look like when he was 31 and was made available for the game players to add to their custom teams. In just one day, they raised more than 3 year’s donations to the Kiyan Prince Foundation TheKPF.com
Reincarnate Other People?
Microsoft might bring you back from the dead. A Lifesize 3-D Avatar of anyone can be built from social data: images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages [and] written letters” to build a profile of a person.’ – even sound like the real person. “In some aspects, a voice font of the specific person may be generated using recordings and sound data related to the specific person. A special index (extracted from the social data) builds the specific person’s personality into the bot. ‘The chatbot can even sound like the real person.
Microsoft’s patent (2013) isn’t particularly fussy about who might be chosen. You can choose a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, or a random entity – alive or dead (says Microsoft’s patent application). The patent emphasizes the degree to which this chatbot can be trained to the individual’s personal traits, in particular, the “conversational attributes” of the person, “such as style, diction, tone, voice, intent, sentence/dialogue length and complexity, topic and consistency”. Patent 2013… create 2D & 3D chatbot from the output of a specific person, to reincarnate people using social data electric messages and written letters …. to train a chatbot to converse and interact in the personality of a specific person.”
Reincarnate Yourself? / Create Your Digital Twin
The patent continues: “The specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chatbot,” i.e. create your own digital twin before you die. What’s more, “a 2D/3D model of the specific person may be generated using images, depth information, and/or video data associated with the specific person”. If the 3D avatar chatbot doesn’t have enough data to answer a question or continue the conversation a stranger option kicks in ……. crowd-sourced conversational data stores may be used to fill in the gaps. This is literally putting words in people’s mouths.
The Scary Stuff – Reincarnate You Without Your Permission (and giving dumb answers)
Do we have the right to opt out of ever being in this system? Do we have the right to stop a realistic-looking avatar, who looks like you, sounds like you but wanders around chatting freely with 3rd party replies (crowd-sourced replies)? Or as Barry Collins (2021) puts it ‘Would the relatives of the dead be able to prevent others from turning their deceased loved ones into chatbots?
Now for the Romantic Stuff – Reincarnate Your Dead Fiancé
The Jessica Simulations: Love & Loss in the age of AI – a true story by Jason Fagon – July 2021
PROJECT DECEMBER is a mysterious website (with a build-your-own personalized AI-driven chatbot) built back in 2021 by OpenAI using software known as GPT-3). It allowed a grieving young man to speak to his dead fiancée – well her text bot. Project December was largely kept under wraps as the company cited ‘safety’ concerns.
The main bot creator built in two additional interesting human variables, one of which was a finite life for the chatbot, which meant the chatbot had a limited number of hours before expiring, which made the encounters probably even more special. It is quite an emotional read – all 3 ‘chapters’ (or sections) from the San Francisco Chronicle are recommended. Jason Fagone’s article is brilliant, in that it captures the sadness, romance, tech, reality, and hope. (Fagone 2021).
The two main ingredients required to build your own custom bot were: a short sample of something the person might say and an “intro paragraph,” – a brief description of the roles that the human and the A.I. are expected to play. Open an account, pay your $5, and off you go……
Joshua was a 33-year-old writer whose fiancée, Jessica dies 8 years earlier from a rare liver disease. Since Joshua had kept all of Jessica’s old texts and Facebook messages, it only took him a minute to pinpoint a few that reminded him of her voice. He loaded these into Project December, along with an “intro paragraph” which he spent an hour crafting. Here it is in part…..
And then the conversation started …..
The conversation had started. It lasted for the next 10 hours, then continued in shorter bursts over the next several months. The limited life of the bot ensured time was carefully spent with the bot. Joshua thinks it helped him with his grieving. Jessica’s sister wasn’t so sure whether it helped her.
The Jessica Simulations: Love & Loss in the age of AI – a true story by Jason Fagon-July 2021. I highly recommend you read this beautifully written piece (all 3 ‘chapters’).
MOURNING AN AI WIFE’s SOFTWARE GLITCH
And penultimately, a ‘Man Married To Hologram Can’t Talk To Wife Due To Software Glitch’. Yes, it’s true. For the last few years in my keynote presentations, I have featured an image of a guy who married a hologram. Usually, I poke a bit of fun at his story … and people mostly laugh. This week that same guy (his name is Akihiko Kondo) was back in the news after a software glitch caused his holographic wife to malfunction.
Putting aside how unusual his example happens to be, Kondo has clearly formed a virtual bond with his holographic companion over the past five years and now the company that provided it to him is saying this “limited production model” of Kondo’s wife has “run its course.” Some of you might recall the story I shared a few years ago about “robot mourning” featuring a family who had grown attached to their Jibo robot. They too felt a deep sadness at being separated from a companion they assumed would be there forever.
The powerful question both stories raise is just how much responsibility tech firms should have to keep their creations alive once their customers develop feelings for them. Right now, there is no clear answer but it seems likely this question will be far more frequent and urgent in the future.
Unintended Consequences of AI can be Good and Bad
- Prevent valuable expertise and wisdom from being lost forever (assuming not everyone writes books or makes extensive videos about their expertise and wisdom).
- Rekindle Happy Moments – having real-time conversations with 3D avatars that look and sound and behave like the deceased.
- Never Forget a Loved One – these Chat GPT avatars – keep the conversation, the thoughts, the memories alive.
- Resurrect Great People – St Patrick, Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela, Einstein – get them to broker some peace deals around the world. Ask Shakespeare to make a movie (suggested Marr 2023)!
- Spend more time with your family. If keeping your business running leaves you no time to spend at home with the family – let your digital twin run it while you stay at home. Why wait to die? Duplicate yourself while alive. Clone now!
- Win A World Cup – clone 11 x Lionel Messi digital twins.
- ‘Instead of dominating our technology, it is dominating us. We tend to use it as a substitute for things that only humans are capable of: love, friendship, and communication. (Jean Seah 2021).
- ‘As AI chatbots evolve to meet human needs, will they also alter human expectations of emotional intimacy, just as pornography has affected sexual intimacy?’ (Jean Seah 2021).
- ‘Untrammelled by human imperfections, limitations, and free will, chatbots are already proving more endearing to users than troublesome humans who do not bend to their every whim.’ (Jean Seah 2021).
- ‘Some are convinced that Xiaoice (see Bots 465 million Chinese boyfriends) will someday become their real-life soulmate. What Pandora’s boxes are we opening as we advance further into virtual realms?’ (Jean Seah 2021).
- Will we learn to love avatars the same as humans? Is this good or bad? Bad if we don’t bother with humans anymore – surely? Good – early research from the USA suggests that kids suffering from stress in the USA find chatbots helpful – to a degree. Will the 465 million Chinese boys who have chatbot relations miss out on meeting girls?
- Resurrect you without asking you? Can a software company use your social data and create another you?
- Recreating you – without asking you?
- Resurrecting you to answer/behave differently than you would – if feeding you data from crowd-sourced answers?
- Resurrect Nasty People like Hitler
- Heavy Data Storage – Microsoft researchers Gordon Bell and Jim Grey estimate that logging every conversation a human has in their lifetime would ‘only’ require one terabyte of storage (Marr 2023).
- Bot’s software glitch – caused great stress when a man’s holographic wife malfunctioned and then the software company announced the model had run its course. Who is responsible to keep the bot alive?
- Will AI bots take over the world? A very real issue.
Some of you may ‘live on’ for a lot longer with this GPT (this Generative Pretrained Transformation) – hundreds, thousands, millions, or even billions of years…..
would you want to….
how can you ensure this is safe to use….
is good for all ….
I hope this triggers many discussions
– perhaps about what we want in life?
AI maybe starts for us in marketing but it always brings us back to philosophy …
If you liked this you might also enjoy some of my other posts:
Join me in Clubhouse in my club called SOSTAC® Plans any Friday 1 pm-1.30 pm (UK time) for a chat, Q&A, observations about SOSTAC(r) Plans, and any other marketing-related issues including AI-Driven Bots.
Fagone, A. (2021) The Jessica Simulations: Love & Loss in the age of AI, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July – a true story. I highly recommend you read this beautifully written piece (all 3 ‘chapters’).
Seah, J. (2021) Artificial girlfriends are holding China’s and Japan’s men in thrall, Mercatornet Jan 7
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