Forever Young

September 27, 2018

The concept of ‘object permanence’ is one of the first things infants learn on the planet. The concept sounds complicated but to a baby, it is pretty simple, Mum is here…Mum goes away…Mum comes back. Life then teaches us lessons about the temporary nature of things. Whether that is simple lessons about the perishability of fruit and vegetables or through the heartbreak of losing loved ones…forever.

Technologists are setting their minds to removing the permanence from our grief using Ai to perpetuate the consciousness of loved ones after they have left us.

Artificial intelligence is a discipline of computing that allows for computers to mimic human function, so the idea is that consciousness could be downloaded at the end of a person’s life – and then artificially perpetuated, using technology. Robots, to be specific.

This capability comes from two streams of Ai, natural language processing (which is akin to reading and comprehending,) and natural language generation (which is akin to writing or speaking,).

What the robots do:

Through natural language processing, they analyse and interpret the digital footprint of the person. By reading every text message, blog, comment and email, the computer can ‘predict’ what the next likely thing the person would say in any given conversation is.

Then through natural language generation, the bots can convert that data to text and essentially have a conversation from beyond the grave. The level of personalisation in relation to this is phenomenal. The bots can ‘learn’ and adopt the specific conversational syntax and nuance of the ‘speaker’ so it truly mimics the individual’s natural expression.

Why do this?

There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data in the world, with 90% having been created in the last two years. Knowledge isn’t really the issue we face, but the great minds who have spearheaded this new knowledge – they might be useful to have around for interpretation. How much did Stephen Hawking have that was unpublished? What if we could access that intelligence to help us solve new problems? The ability to access these human libraries forever could provide the significant horsepower required to solve our biggest questions.

And what about the rest of us?

Most of us have had grief visit at some point in our lives. Many of us would have had grief stay for much longer than desired.

Could accessing the consciousness of loved ones who have passed give us relief from that which pains us? Or by removing object permanence are we destined to dilute the potency of our human experience. It may be that we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone…but how would we learn to treasure our loved ones and make memories with those we will leave behind.

This is one of those technological advancements that asks more questions than it answers. The primary one was asked by Alphaville in their 1984 hit ‘Forever Young’.

Do you really want to live forever?

2 Responses to “Forever Young”

  • alan veacock says:

    Hi Andrew

    I found Speilberg’s “AI” extremely confronting and thought provoking.

  • Enzo says:

    I hope that this insane research is not funded by taxpayers money.
    It makes me glad that I was born in1944. Living forever? There would be standing room only……

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