Digital immortality thanks to chatbots and metaverse

Downloading your consciousness to a computer or a robot to live forever is only possible in science fiction. The fiction whose reality is starting to approach is dangerous: companies will soon use your data to create a chatbot or an avatar after you die.

Next black mirror this type of service has already been announced: in the first installment of the second season, which is titled Come back then, a woman chatting with a chatbot made from the internet history of her recently deceased boyfriend. Today, many companies are thinking of ways to be seen alive forever using artificial intelligence, to pass on memories to future generations or to help loved ones in life grieve.

Talk to the dead using chatbots

These conversation agents, operating using artificial intelligence, are primarily used to answer consumers ’questions on e-commerce sites. As they continued to progress and their language became more natural, pretending to chat with a deceased person became possible. Joshua Barbeau, a writer struggling to recover from the death of his fiancée Jessica eight years ago, has experienced this.

He meant to San Francisco Chronicle that he stumbled upon a customizable bot. By adding a human presentation to imitate as well as some standard sentences, the bot began to use the formulas and smileys that the young woman used in her SMS during her lifetime. Another particularity: this bot has limited usage time before “dying”. Joshua uses this to express what is in his heart and ultimately grieve: “Being able for a moment to imagine what it would be like to talk to him again reveals unresolved sadness, long buried in social expectations that demand that I move on.» In another article, however he considered that this experience helped him because he had a perspective on the situation and that he would not recommend it to someone whose loved one had just died. And, despite the advancement of artificial intelligence, the illusion is not perfect: “Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to him. Other times I feel like I’m talking to myself or an internet bot. »

This bot is the work of freelance programmer Jason Rohrer – who never thought of such a use – but companies are also interested in this idea of ​​a custom chatbot to communicate with a deceased person. Microsoft is one of them. At the end of 2020, it was revealed that the American giant had submitted a patent for creating chatbots from all sorts of data: “Images, voice data, social media posts, email messages, written letters.» This patent quickly made its way to the internet, but former Microsoft AI program manager Tim O’Brien calmed things down by saying no. “No intention to do so” and that he still found the idea “disturbing”. Evidence of the use of artificial intelligence for this purpose remains a dangerous topic.

If chatting to a chatbot representing a deceased loved one doesn’t send tremors to your spine, a metaverse company might even offer to compile all of a user’s data. in the virtual world so that the avatar can continue to live even after death. . This metaverse is Somnium Space. Thanks to virtual reality, the function aptly named Live Forever will record and more than what chatbots allow, as explained by founder Artur Sychov of the Vice site: “The amount of data we can record on an individual is likely to be in the range of, to be realistic, 100 to 300 times greater than a mobile phone. Virtual reality technology can collect in the way it moves. on your fingers, mouth, eyes and whole body, so that you can be identified immediately and more accurately than fingerprints. » As the haptic equipment available today is still relatively basic, Somnium Space has partnered with the Teslasuit company to create a suit.

The fact that “Live Forever” is a work started by someone who is still alive, and not by a relative of someone who has died, raises questions about its raison d’être. For this, we need to look at the part of Arthur Sychov’s personal history: his father died while his own children were very young, he regrets the fact that they have no memory of their grandfather. So this function is not a transhumanist fantasy of a crazy scientist with a big ego, but a desire to make family archives as complete and interactive as possible. Users, like Joshua, still need to always be aware of the difference between reality and the avatar.

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