Is AI Immortality Around the Corner?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those things we read about all the time but are never quite sure how far along it is. I read a fair amount on the subject and the opinions range from “we’re doomed sooner than you think” to “you’re really just going to be getting your butt kicked at chess for a long time.”
One of the way-out possibilities I’ve seen from time to time is the thought that AI might one day be able to preserve digital copies of ourselves after our physical bodies exit this mortal coil. I think one of the episodes of the Amazon Prime original series Solos had a go at this. I wasn’t a fan of the series so I bailed on it early but I did get through that episode.
An article recently published in The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the idea, along with its potential ups and downs:
What if Abraham Lincoln could address Congress today? Or your great grandmother could help run the family business?
Researchers and entrepreneurs are starting to ponder how artificial intelligence could create versions of people after their deaths—not only as static replicas for the benefit of their loved ones but as evolving digital entities that may steer companies or influence world events.
Numerous startups are already anticipating growing demand for digital personas, including Replika, an app that learns to replicate a person in the form of a chatbot, and HereAfter AI, which records people’s life stories and uses them to create a replica embedded in a smart speaker.
Even Big Tech seems to acknowledge the potential: Microsoft Corp. recently patented a method of using chatbots to preserve historical figures and living people. A Microsoft spokeswoman says there is no plan to use it.
Digital personas take many forms, from chatbots to animatronic robots to moving projections that gesture and speak like the real thing. AI is usually central to building and training them to interact with people. Already, hologram-like projections of dead musical artists, including Roy Orbison and Tupac Shakur, have performed on stage.
I know a lot of people who have no interest in being immortalized like that. As any regular readers of mine know, however, we are dealing with some outsized ego issues here. I would like to live to at least 120 without the help of a computer. If there is a way to keep me around and cracking wise in perpetuity, I am all over that.
The Journal delves into some of the potential ethical quandaries, like who would own a deceased person’s digital copy, or whether copies might be made without the knowledge of the person being copied.
I prefer to dwell on some of the more practical and fun aspects, like hanging around just to irritate some people.
“HA! You thought you got rid of me!”
There is some speculation about AI becoming advanced enough to make personalities continue to evolve after death. Now we’re getting into some Frank Herbert stuff here. If someone had a really awful personality when they died would they continue to get worse? I’m OK with not knowing how Charles Manson’s psyche would have continued to develop from the safety of the grave.
On the other hand, I would love to see if I could continue to write jokes after I kick it. I’m pretty dark on stage as it is; I would hope that dead-but-not-gone me would continue that tradition. I’ve even got a name for the tour ready to go: Stephen Kruiser: Live at Death.
As my colleague Charlie Martin noted when I first said I was going to write this, none of it matters because we’re already sims. I’ve written the same thing on many occasions since the Wuhan Chinese Bat Flu turned everything so darkly surreal last year. As far as we know, civilization could have ended thousands of years ago and the sky people decided to reboot us as sims just so see if we would screw it all up again.
Spoiler alert: we did.
Limited immortality does still appeal to me but I’m not sure how long I would like to digitally linger if I can’t drink beer.
Yeah, I’m going to have to give this more thought.