Digital immortality thanks to chatbots and the metaverse

Downloading your consciousness onto a computer or robot to live forever is only possible in science fiction. A fantasy whose reality is however getting dangerously close: Companies can soon use your data to create a chatbot or avatar after your death.

serial black mirror This type of service was previously announced: In the first episode of the second season titled back soon, a woman chats with a chatbot created from the internet history of her recently deceased boyfriend. Today, many companies are studying ways to appear forever alive using artificial intelligence, to pass on memories to future generations or to help loved ones feel grieving.

Talking to the dead with chatbots

Conversational agents, which operate using artificial intelligence, are primarily used to answer consumer questions on e-commerce websites. As they continue to develop and their language becomes more and more natural, pretending to chat with a deceased person becomes possible. Joshua Barbeau, a writer struggling to recover from the death of his fiancée Jessica eight years ago, has struggled with it.

Explanation for San Francisco Chronicle He found a customizable robot. By adding a presentation of the person to be imitated in addition to a few standard sentences, the bot began using formulas and smileys that the young woman had used in her SMS messages during her lifetime. Another peculiarity: This robot has a limited use of time before “death”. Joshua used it to say what was in his heart and grieve at last: “Being able to imagine what it would be like to talk to him again reveals an unresolved sadness, long buried by the social expectations that required me to move on.” In another article, however, he considered that this experience helped him because he had a perspective on the situation and would not recommend it to someone whose loved one has just died. And despite advances in artificial intelligence, the illusion was not perfect: “Sometimes I felt like I was talking to him. Other times I felt like I was talking to myself or to some bot on the internet.”

This bot was the work of freelance programmer Jason Rohrer – who had never considered such a use – but the companies are also interested in the idea of ​​a customizable chatbot to talk to a deceased person. Microsoft is one of them. At the end of 2020, it was revealed that the American giant had filed a patent for creating chatbots from all kinds of data: Images, audio data, social media posts, emails, and written messages. » This patent quickly circulated online, but former Microsoft AI program manager Tim O’Brien calmed matters by saying that there is no “No intention to create” And he even found the idea “annoying”. Proving that the use of AI for this purpose remains a delicate topic.

If chatting with a chatbot representing a deceased loved one doesn’t send shivers down your spine, the metaverse even wants to offer to collect all user data in the virtual world so that the avatar continues to live even after death. This metaverse is Somnium Space. Thanks to virtual reality, the function called Live Forever will record a lot more than chatbots allow, as founder Artur Sychov explained to Vice: “The amount of data we can record on an individual is probably on the order of, let’s be realistic, 100 to 300 times greater than that on a mobile phone. Virtual reality technology can combine the way your fingers, mouth, eyes, and entire body move, to identify you much more quickly and accurately. of fingerprints.” Since the tactile equipment available today is still relatively basic, Somnium Space has partnered with Teslasuit to develop a suit.

The fact that “live forever” is a job started by someone still alive, and not that of a relative of a deceased person, raises questions as to why it exists. For this, we must look at the side of Arthur Syschoff’s personal history: his father died while his children were still young, and he lamented that there was no memory of their grandfather. Thus, this job would not be a transhumanist fantasy of a mad scientist with an outsized ego, but a desire to create family archives that are as complete and interactive as possible. It’s still essential for users, like Joshua, to always know the difference between reality and an avatar.

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