Money, love, and stars. Pick almost anyone on this Earth, and I guarantee that their profession, daily routine, and actions are driven by one, or a combination of these variables. All of which, in some way, create a record of our individual existence – allowing us to be remembered after we’re gone.
But what happens to these classic motivations when we can be digitally immortalized?
You might be wondering what digital immortalization is. Well, in the simplest form, digital immortality is the trail of data you leave behind which tells a story of your existence. In the most advanced form, digital immortality is the uploading of our consciousness to the cloud, to then be downloaded into a new body or organism. Pretty freaky, right.
The former happens whether we like it or not and the latter may not come around for another forty years.
But, technology is offering us something somewhere in between these two extremes… And that is turning oneself into a chatbot.
At some point, we’ve all engaged with Alexa, Siri, Google Home, or Cortana. They are the most popular chatbots. And in the same way that their responses are programmed to answer to us, you could develop a chatbot with your unique identity.
This concept is actually the basis for the chatbot known as Replika. Eugenia Kuyda created Replika as a memorial for her best friend Roman. Using all of their text conversations, she trained an algorithm to converse with her in Roman’s style.
Since then, she’s open-sourced the experience, allowing anyone to converse with Replika. Surprisingly, Replika is a very good listener and actually begins to learn parts of your personality over time.
Now, imagine someone who’s talked with Replika every single day for two or three years. Replika would start to understand some of the intricacies of their identity and even know some of their personal stories. In theory, there’s a point in time in which this chatbot they’ve trained will predict exactly how they’ll respond to a given
This is when digital immortality is a reality.
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A New Type of Memento
There are things I never got to ask my Grandpa before he passed away. If there were a chatbot I could converse with that could give me advice as he would, then that would be very valuable for me.
This isn’t a matter of “not being able to let go” of your loved one. Rather, I see this being a common undertaking for individuals in their “legacy” years – the later years of their life where they are thinking about what they want to pass on when they pass away.
It’s almost like a collection of stories, wisdom, and advice, except in the format of conversations.
A great starting point is journaling services like Day One, which act as a digital archive of all your interactions online. For a power user like me, ideally, one day there would be a way for me to pass this archive along to my family – and they could turn it into a search database or chatbot to pull valuable and meaningful information from my life.
The point I’m trying to make here is that so often in the later years of one’s life, they start to feel as though they are running against a clock and need to give as much advice as possible – to make sure their experiences are learned from. It’s almost a burden.
Imagine pouring out your advice over time to a chatbot service and allowing your family to consult it after you’re gone. It would be liberating, don’t you think?
Nonetheless, before this takes off as a popular way of memorializing someone, I see it taking off with celebrities. For instance, one superfan turned Snoop Dogg’s “Ask Me Anything” database of questions into a chatbot people could interact with. Add in a little of effort on Snoop Dogg’s part to fill in the conversational gaps and we may one day see a SnoopBot that feels like texting the real deal. Think about it, we already gobble up all the media surrounding celebrities as it is. This is just another way of them to connect with their fans and for us to feel connected to them.
Heck, I’d pay for the Bruce Lee Bot that compiled all the wisdom he distilled in his philosophy book Striking Thoughts. As opposed to consulting the book whenever I’m in a bind, I could text the BruceBot for a philosophical answer.
We must remember that at the root of motivation is the desire to be remembered. One way of achieving this desire is to create an incredible life story that people want to pass on. The new, emerging way is digital immortalization.