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With photos, audios and bots, memories become immortal in the virtual world


Virtual assistants are used to perform specific tasks, but in the near future they will also allow access to digital memories of deceased family and friends

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 .