The most interesting things I’ve read in a long time is an article in the Verge about a woman who built a bot out of her friend’s old text messages. It is subtitled: “When her best friend died, she rebuilt him using artificial intelligence.”
So begin there.
Photographers may try to remember people with images, and writers may jot down all of the stories, but Eugenia Kuyda — the “her” in the story — is an inventor of bots, so it makes sense that she would use her chosen art form to memorialize her friend. But in memorializing him, she was able to sort of… speak… with him again, for lack of a better word.
Reading Mazurenko’s messages, it occurred to Kuyda that they might serve as the basis for a different kind of bot — one that mimicked an individual person’s speech patterns. Aided by a rapidly developing neural network, perhaps she could speak with her friend once again.
She set aside for a moment the questions that were already beginning to nag at her.
What if it didn’t sound like him?
What if it did?
I’ll admit that I read this article because I love this idea. I’ve written before about Bina48 and similar projects. I have a hard time with goodbyes and letting go, so this intermediary step feels like an insurance plan, a way to still connect with the person after they’re gone. Even if it isn’t totally “them” in the sense that you are communicating in real time with the actual person. Except… you sort of are, right?
As the article points out: “Modern life all but ensures that we leave behind vast digital archives — text messages, photos, posts on social media — and we are only beginning to consider what role they should play in mourning.” What do we do with all the digital pieces of our personality that we leave behind?
I would want this. Even if it extended the mourning period. Even if it was painful at times. I would want something like this very badly.
What are your thoughts?