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From our Depsters March 19, 2018

Should you live forever?


Rebecca Blum from Frog Design talked about digital immortality at SXSW 2018. It’s a scary topic, and even discussing the possibilities is scary. A lot of people immediately take reference to the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back”. A young woman’s husband suddenly dies but recreates a virtual version of her husband. All of the husband’s phone messages, e-mails, social profiles etc. are fed into an AI which then exactly mimics the husband’s way of communicating. Of course, it gets scary: it’s Black Mirror.

This application of an IA already exists. Replika is an AI chatbot which asks you questions and its goal is to become “a friend that will always be there for you”. Eventually, the AI can post messages on your behalf. And if you die, it can continue to “live” on your behalf.
The origin of Replika reads exactly like the aforementioned Black Mirror episode. A young engineer Roman Mazurenko was killed in a car accident and his friends fed his texts into an AI to teach it to talk like him. They used this AI to create Replika. But basically, they created an immortal version of their friend first.

Next to Replika, there are some other applications that allow you to create a digital version of yourself so that you may “live forever”.While Replika creates a bot that “knows” you and becomes a chatting partner, Eter9 recreates a digital version of yourself based on your replies and interactions with the AI. Lifenaut goes further and allows you to enrich the AI with images, geolocations, documents etc. Why? To preserve “their essential, unique qualities for future generations and family members.”


All of these AI bots can eventually take over your online communication and post, like, share and comment on social channels in your name. And if they become so advanced that you can’t tell the difference (and hence passing the Turing test), why not? There’s plenty of bots online now anyway.
Whether you yourself want to continue to live on digitally for posterity (or simply because you’re a megalomaniac); or posterity wants you to live on in digital form: there are multiple options.
Most people will say it’s not for them. Too scary right?


Consider this. In a few years time all survivors of the Jewish Holocaust will have passed away. Trying to keep their legacy alive to educate the youth, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Centre has an interesting exhibit. They filmed 13 survivors and asked them questions for a whole week. The answers were fed into an AI, which uses machine learning to improve itself. Now, until the end of time, visitors can ask the holograms questions and they will interact with and learn from a Holocaust survivor.

So is this kind of immortality more acceptable? I bet most people will totally think so.
However, what if the holograms become sentient, since they’re based on a AI that uses machine learning? These holograms will be trapped in another type of jail. Would you like to talk about your most horrific experience day in and day out?
Yes, sounds a lot like science fiction and it’s way out there.
But with the upcoming quantum computers and the incredible advancements in AI technology (both popular topics at SXSW 2018) it’s not so much science fiction as it may seem.
So when you think about whether you want to live eternally, think about what might happen to your digital copy. Consider when it would be acceptable that you might get deleted, even by your beloved posterity. You might have to die all over again.

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