LIVE FOREVER, DIGITALLY
With a little help from technology, people can create digital versions of themselves who will always be around.
With a little help from technology, people can create digital versions of themselves who will always be around
REPLIKA DEVELOPS AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE USER’S PERSONALITY THROUGH DAILY INTERACTIONS AND IN THE COURSE OF TIME, STARTS BEHAVING LIKE THAT PERSON
IN VARIOUS parts of the world, people are trying to make sure that those who are dead and gone should go on living digitally based on the data available about them. Of that, there is aplenty, and tech companies are trying to make use of it. Here is how it started. About three years ago, Eugenia Kuyda was devastated when her best friend Roman was killed in an accident. But she soon realised that all the text messages she had from Roman would reveal a lot about her friend and these could be used to create a chatbot that would respond just like him when engaged in a conversation. The chatbot was developed and Kuyda found solace in chatting with the digital version. In time, she was able to make it more content-generative, which means it can engage in new interactions not derived from the existing text messages. Plus, it was able to represent Roman’s vocabulary and tone of voice.
The chatbot was also shared with others, some of whom had not met Roman, to get a feel of the kind of person he was. Eventually, Kuyda and her San Francisco-based company Luka built Replika, an AI chatbot that learns more about the user via daily interactions and in the course of time, starts behaving like that person. In the beginning, one can treat it as a digital friend, chatting with it whenever she wants, telling it all about her day, discussing her thoughts and reactions, and Replika will gradually develop an understanding of the user’s personality. One can also use it to build a digital avatar of someone who has passed away. Replika is currently available on Android and iOS.
Based on a similar concept, the CEO of a major financial company wants to create a digital avatar of himself that will act as a virtual consultant after his death and help future employees work in sync with his philosophy and methods, according to MIT Technology Review. It may not be difficult as there will be a vast amount of data available from correspondence and other inputs to create a digital avatar. In fact, Hossein Rahnama, a researcher at MIT’s Media Lab, is building an application called Augmented Eternity that will achieve just what this CEO wants. However, the challenge does not solely lie in replicating what someone could have said but in putting the words in context and making them meaningful. To do that, one must understand the background or the back-story behind those words.
There is another issue. Personality tends to change and one behaves differently with different people. Rahnama thinks this, too, can be baked into Augmented Eternity.
A person can also create a digital avatar when he/she is still alive and use the same to share knowledge and expertise in the here and now. It could be useful for companies where specialised knowledge is crucial. If that happens, any employee can interact, for example, with the digital avatar of the CEO or the Chairman and get help with decision-making or problem-solving.