How To Be Immortal

It’s a natural instinct to live as long as possible.  But to become immortal?

Technology may be giving us a way.  Suppose your great grandson wanted your advice ten years after your death.  He wouldn’t be able to talk to you directly, of course, but what if you had a digital avatar programmed with all your wisdom that he could call up on a computer screen?

As fantastic (or unsettling) as this may sound, some think the technology is now within our grasp.  An entrepreneur and researcher at Ryerson University in Toronto, who is also a visiting faculty member at MIT’s Media Lab, named Hossein Rahnama is building an application he calls Augmented Eternity that will let you create a digital version of yourself that can interact with people after you’re dead!

Granted, we’re not there yet, but Rahnama explains “We are generating gigabytes of data on a daily basis.  We now have a lot of data, we have a lot of processing power, we have a lot of storage capability.”  Add data about how you communicate and interact with others, and machine-learning algorithms should be able to approximate at least part of your personality.

Why wouldn’t this simply be a more sophisticated version of today’s chatbots?  “There is one thing that is missing in AI today, and that is context,” Rahnama says.  Chatbots can respond based on content, but our communication is much more complex, depending on variables like who we’re talking to, where we are, and even the time of day.  Rahnama founded a company, Flybits, based on the need to include this kind of context.   Flybits is designed to provides a platform that lets companies contextually tailor communications to their customers.  A bank, for example, might offer send you different messages depending on such factors as your transaction history and where you are at the moment.

And if this does work on an individual basis, what would your avatar look like?  Anything you want it to.

For more detail, see “Digital immortality: How your life’s data means a version of you could live forever” by Courtney Humphries ( https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612257/digital-version-after-death/? )

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