When Andrew Kaplan remembers, his fascinating stories leave the impression that he has managed to group multiple lives into a single existence: a war correspondent in his 20 years, a member of the Israeli army who fought in the Six-Day War, a successful businessman and, more late, author of numerous Hollywood novels and scripts.
Now, while the 78-year-old man with gray hair relaxes with his wife of 39 in a suburban oasis on the outskirts of Palm Springs, California, he has realized that he would like his loved ones to have access to those stories, even when you are no longer alive to share them. Kaplan has agreed to become "AndyBot", a virtual person who will be immortalized in the cloud for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.
If everything goes according to plan, future generations will be able to "interact" with it using mobile devices or voice computing platforms, such as Alexa, from Amazon, asking questions, getting stories and resorting to the advice of a lifetime long after Your physical body is gone.
Someone, Kaplan, who playfully refers to himself as a "guinea pig," can be remembered as one of the world's first "digital humans."
"Being a pioneer at my age is something unexpected," he said, "but I thought, why on earth won't he?"
For decades, the Silicon Valley futurists have tried to free mankind from the life cycle, seeing death as another transformative problem that needs a solution that "alters life." What began with the crinico movement, in which the bodies are frozen for future resuscitation, has intensified amid the rise of digital culture. Today, a new generation of companies is looking for an approach to virtual immortality: the opportunity to preserve the legacy of a person online forever.
On your website,
Eternime says that more than 44,000 people have already signed up to participate in their "great and bold objective": to turn the "memories, ideas, creations and stories of billions of people" into intelligent avatars that look like them and live in indefinitely. For its part,
Nectome, a research company specializing in memory conservation, hopes that its high-tech brain embalming process will still allow our minds to be revived as a computerized simulation.
HereAfter, an allusion to the future, as well as the eternal, is the startup that Kaplan has embraced, eager to become one of the first virtual residents of the world, partly because it considers that the effort is a way to extend intimate family ties through multiple generations. The company's motto, "Never lose someone you love," reflects Kaplan's reasons for signing up.
"My parents have gone for decades, and I still find myself thinking," Wow, I would really like to ask mom or dad for some advice or just some comfort, "he said." I don't think the momentum goes away. "
"I have a son of about 30 years old, and I hope this serves something for him and his children someday," he added.
The rituals surrounding death can be as diverse as the cultures from which they arise, but for decades, many of us have followed a similar script after loved ones leave: we pounce on old family photo albums, we look old homemade movies, we stick their faces in the shirts, or
We even keep your Facebook page, thus preserving your online digital quintessence.
But futurists say the script may be on the verge of rewriting. If technology manages to create emotionally intelligent digital humans, experts say, this can forever change the way people cooperate with computers and experience losses. "AndyBot" can become one of the first significant examples in the world, raising complex philosophical questions about the nature of immortality and the purpose of existence itself.
It took my mother two years to remove my father's voice from the answering machine. It's almost funny that we still trust our memories in such primitive methods
James Vlahos, Dadbot chat designer
HereAfter was co-founded by Sonia Talati, who calls herself a personal legacy consultant, and James Vlahos, a California journalist and conversational AI designer, who is best known for creating a software program called Dadbot. The Dadbot program emerged after Vlahos learned that his father was dying of cancer and allowed him to exchange text and audio messages with a computerized avatar of his late father; You can talk about your life and listen to songs, small talks and jokes.
Once Dadbot became widely known, Vlahos received so many requests to create bots for other people that he decided that an untapped market to make virtual people was ready to be a success.
"It took my mother two years to delete the answering machine message with my father's voice from his home phone," Vlahos said. "She did not want to extinguish her voice, and that is something I have heard from other people. But it is almost mystical that we continue to rely on such a primitive method to hear the voices of our loved ones after they are gone."
Instead of simply listening to a recording, Vlahos is building a virtual model that is more sophisticated and easy to use that is designed to foster interaction. Probably start with an application that captures someone's oral history through frequently asked questions. After your grandmother has answered a litany of questions about her childhood, marriage and important life events, for example, her voice will become an audio bot that can be accessed through a smart phone or virtual assistant .
Because these devices increasingly function as community computers in hundreds of millions of kitchens and living rooms, and their usage rates are increasing, Vlahos believes they lend themselves to the kind of casual interaction with a deceased relative that many people crave.
Like Netflix or Blue Apron, the company uses a subscription model, which allows users to interact with a relative's bot for a monthly fee. With the right consent, non-family members can also buy a bot subscription. Vlahos said he considers the service as an "interactive memory" and expects it to be especially attractive for clients between 30 and 50 years old who want to preserve the history and essence of their parents before it is too late. The company is developing virtual profiles for customers and expects to present its public application next year.
"Audio recordings tend to languish on your hard drive," Vlahos said, "and when in your daily life do you really have time to sit down and watch eight hours of Christmas video recordings of '83?"
"Now imagine being able to stand in the kitchen and call your deceased mother to answer," he said. "There is something about being able to hear the voices of our loved ones."
Edward Saatchi, the executive director of Fable, a company that is in the process of creating virtual beings, says that interacting with digital humans is not only inevitable but also the next step forward in how humans interact with technology.
"Imagine a future in which Alexa or Siri are a character with a face and a life and a voice that allows them to interact with them one by one," Saatchi said, arguing that virtual beings will eventually replace Android and iOS. "You can play games, ask for food, spend time or learn a language with a virtual being, or do anything else you normally do with a friend."
However, to perfect virtual beings, companies such as Eternime and HereAfter will have to start solving a problem that has confused computer scientists for decades, allowing "multi-turn conversations" between humans and machines. Unlike ordering a pizza, an action that is simple, short and guided by a specific objective, a multi-shift conversation is spontaneous and flows freely, passes from one subject unrelated to another and uses the almost infinite variety of natural language of the way conversations between people often do.
Vlahos says that the more fluid your product communicates with users, the more it absorbs the tonality and tics of the person you are channeling, the more authentic intimacy it transmits.
At the same time, knowing that computers are years, if not decades, of having conversations, as people do, he points to the more realistic short-term goal of allowing inherited bots to share stories about a person's life to order.
Pain is as individual as our fingerprint. There will be some people who will find this tool comforting and some people who would never use it.
David Kessler, author of the book "Finding the meaning: the sixth stage of pain"
David Kessler, author of the book "Finding the meaning: the sixth stage of pain", which is about to be published, said that intimacy may benefit some people who mourn the loss of a loved one, but that could represent a serious problem for others.
With grieving clients, Kessler said, the goal is to remind the deceased with more love than pain. The goal is not necessarily to abandon their pain, but to integrate their suffering into their lives in a healthy way. Can a dead relative, chatting through Google Home, help with that goal?
"I think so," he said. "The pain is as individual as our fingerprint. There will be some people who will find this tool comforting and some people who will never use it, because they don't feel as if it were their loved one."
His only concern is to make sure that vulnerable people understand that they are dealing with "an artificial reminder of dad, not the continuation of the real relationship with his father."
While entering his autumn years, on the golf courses located in southern California, reflecting on a fully lived life, Kaplan, the former globetrotting journalist turned into a robot prototype, said he does not seek immortality. However, he sees another benefit in becoming a virtual person, informed by his many years as a compelling fiction provider.
"In the end, each story tries to help us discover who we are and where we come from, and this is no different," he said. "This is about history for me, a kind of limited immortality that creates an intimate personal experience for my future relatives who want to know where they came from."