In a previous article we alluded to the fact that the advancement of AI and computer technology could see the film ‘Her’ play out in real life.
Martine Rothblatt, the original founder of SiriusXM, the satellite radio broadcaster that has hosted some of America’s most popular shows, is a central figure in this development.
A great innovation at the time, SiriusXM has allowed Americans to listen to their favourite shows undisrupted throughout the country, something which wasn’t possible before.
Rothblatt, now the highest paid female executive in the USA, has since moved away from the radio-business, heading up the United Therapeutics Corp. (UTC), a biotechnology company which focusses on the development of ‘unique products to address the unmet medical needs of patients with chronic and life-threatening conditions’.
As an extension of this, UTC created a robot which draws on real human opinion and memory to form a digital version of oneself. Based on Rothblatt’s wife, UTC have developed Bina48, a proof of concept robot which has since picked up considerable steam online. A video interview on Bloomberg shows the robot interacting with an interviewer eerily well, answering questions and giving opinions.
Although clearly not the finished article, Rothblatt believes that we’re only a couple of decades away from ‘mind-cloning’, where humans will be able to carry around their loved ones as avatars, most probably on their smartphones.
Another company that’s sparked an outcry of opinion has been Eterni.me, a service that you sign up to before you die and which accesses every aspect of your online footprint. Using this information, it then analyses your data and transfers it to an AI avatar, which then replicates the deceased’s actions.
British TV show, Black Mirror, hit this subject head on in its fourth episode ‘Be Right Back’, where a young woman loses her boyfriend in an accident. She uses a service similar to Eterni.me to ‘bring him back to life’, first as an avatar and secondly as a human replica (something Eterni.me clearly don’t offer as part of their service). Unsatisfied with it, the female never strikes up the same bond with the AI character as he continues to do things differently to her deceased boyfriend.
Although it would be unfair to use this narrative as a way of justifying that a service like Eterni.me would never be able to 100% replicate a human’s behaviour, it’s tough to look past it. The mourning of a loved one and the desperation that it leads to might well make these services successful, but will it ever be good enough to make us immortal? I doubt it.