So you may or may not have heard us on the 2FM’s Ryan Tubridy Show this morning but we were on with Ryan discussing an American start-up company’s aim to create a digital version of you, after you’ve passed away.
The company, called Eterni.Me, wants to get your approval to access all of your social networks, emails, messaging apps and whatever other form of online communication you used before you died so as to create a virtual avatar based on your digital history.
Now, this sets off alarm bells instantly in many people’s head but I just want to make clear, the company haven’t actually started carrying out this procedure yet but they are allowing you to sign up for an early invitation.
There are so many different ethical, moral, religious, political and many other grounds this sort of ‘service’ gets involved in but one way or another, you can expect to see more and more of this sort of thing coming down the line in the future. We already convey and display so much of ourselves, our personal lives, our professional lives and everything else in between online that a service like this may be seen as the logical step for the digital generations yet to come.
An idea like this, to digital capture someone’s personality has been played with in films and TV for decades now. Films such as The Lawn Mower Man and Tron can be seen as the early precursor to this nexus of the human and digital mind and films such as Spike Jonze’s Her and the soon to be released Transcendence starring Johnny Depp tackle the subject of human-like A.I. in different yet thought-provoking ways.
Some of you may have seen Charlie Brookers Black Mirror series on Channel 4 last year where one of the episodes, entitled ‘Be Right Back’ almost foretold Eterni.Me’s actual real-world business model. The episode, which can be found here on 4OD, depicts a tale, in the not too distant future, of a wife who has lost her husband and who has been inadvertently signed up for an unnamed service which sounds eerily similar to Eterni.Me. By allowing this fictional (soon to be real) company to see all of her deceased husband’s private emails and other social networks, they were able to create a virtual version of him.
Now, where this show enters the truly fictional (for now) is the wife’s ability to literally grow a new man in her bathtub who is identical to her late husband. Unfortunately, it all doesn’t really work out in the end but I highly recommend you watch it, along with Spike Jonzes Her, to see how different directors are handling the subject.
Back in the real world, many of the big hitters such as Google and Facebook are already heavily investing in the area of A.I. and companies such as Vicarious already have algorithms that are passing the first phase of the infamously difficult Turing Test . It really is only the beginning of this area of technology crossed with science fiction but you can guarantee, we’re going to be hearing more and more about it in the future.