Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reincarnated as a .. chatbot?

My avatar for my own reincarnation chatbot - finally a hipster

Mark Bridge has an interesting piece in The Times today, "Good grief: chatbots will let you talk to dead relatives".
"Anyone grieving for a loved one will soon be able to talk to them using artificial intelligence technology pioneered by a woman who lost her best friend.

"Eugenia Kuyda, co-founder of Luka, a US technology company, has used the latest in AI systems to create a virtual version of Roman Mazurenko, who was killed in a road accident last year, days before his 33rd birthday.

"She fed more than 8,000 lines of text messages sent by Mr Mazurenko into a Google programme that allows people to create their own “chatbots” — computer programmes designed to simulate conversation with human users.

"The chatbot responds to questions in language that mimics Mr Mazurenko’s speech patterns so that she and other friends can “talk” to him as part of the grieving process.

"Ms Kuyda, 29, said that any doubts she had about the technology were allayed when the bot responded to her first questions in a tone that sounded like her friend."

... more.
There's plainly a market here, but what's the product?

[Update, November 3rd 2016: the product is Replika].


I think a pitch to the grieving relatives is wrong, it's akin to not leaving your affairs in order. Who is best placed to create your after-death digital alter ego?


Everyone thinks they're unique, but personality research shows that this is not so. The Myers-Briggs instrument, for example, will allocate you one of 16 Personality Types. Despite sniffiness in the academic community, Myers-Briggs has received plenty of real world validation.*

So here's what you do. First purchase your 'eternal digital doppelganger', an app which connects back to the Cloud where the deep-learning engine resides, along with your about-to-be-constructed  cryptographically-assured personality database.

This is probably your mind.

Once the app is installed and has been given the maximum set of permissions, you do the interview:
  • A personality test determines your kernel personality-type,
  • An IQ test assigns the number of cores/gigaflops required to run you,
  • You point the chatbot to your digital life.
So the app checks you out on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype, your email accounts, your blog if you have one,  your Google account (photos, videos, appointments, travels .. God, Google knows everything!), and so on.

Everything is cross-referenced to your well-documented social network plus current affairs to create that essential context which will predict your responses in future.

Once the neural net has crunched all this and built up the associational model, your alter ego will sit with you for the rest of your life, peeking over your shoulder and getting more and more like you**.

In fact after you die, many - or even most - people will remain entirely unaware of the fact.

Wait, haven't I just described Google's plan for Assistant?


* A person's personality is a point in some high-dimensional phase space which we don't yet fully understand. Myers-Briggs, the Five Factor Model and other personality theories are projective subspaces from this ultimate model. That's why it's pointless to throw rocks in these entertaining academic feuds.

** As always, Greg Egan got there first, 'Learning To Be Me' in Axiomatic.


I even have a good name for the reincarnation chatbot - altar ego ©.

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