Ancestorbot

Recently some headline caught my attention. A funeral home are working to create an AI so customers (the living) can “talk” to the dead (deceased family member). There is also apparently a chatbot one can use on the Facebag that simulates an account of a deceased person. Maybe you have to be the inheritor of the deceased to use it. So far I have not seen anything that shows that people really think they communicate with their beloved one, but that it can be touching, heart warming etc. My impression of the whole thing (which is really in its infancy) is a bit of nausea and also a chuckle or two. In no particular order, segways included:

  1. The overvaluation of AI. I am sure there is advanced AI behind closed doors that we the plebs do not hear about. But “AI” is very much a sales pitch. It is dumber than what many think and what salespersons claim. The situation is a bit similar, though opposite, of what happened to Joseph Weizenbaum when he made his ELIZA program, one of the first chatbots. The attachment to the bot of some users’ interaction with ELIZA surprised Weizenbaum. He did not try to sell it as a human like actor, but users anthropomorphized ELIZA, overvaluing the AI. Trivia: Weizenbaum’s Computer Power and Human Reason was the first book about computing I ever read, way before I had even used a computer.
     
  2. The ancestorbot would be quite simple “AI”. A list of triggers of pieces of documentation of a person (writings, recordings, images, family members, stories about the deceased, biographies, news reports etc). The more info the better the bot. However, depositing a mass of private information about a person into someone else’s database seems creepy. In the long run, one will not now where that personal info winds up. On the other hand, many people seems not to give a crap about such things. In my day…

  3. More advanced bots can purposefully modify the total image of the person. Great uncle George was a real twat, but now everybody think he was a jolly good fellow. Or the opposite.

  4. People are lazy. Why can’t you just look in old photo albums, talk with people who remember the person etc? Instead of communicating with a bot that is probably closed source and running on someone else’s computer? Show some dignity ffs. /duffer-rant

  5. I find ancestorbot to be in bad taste. It’s not a digitalized old king we are talking about here. If I want to reminiscent about ancestors I have no personal memories of, but I know their name, and my relation to them, would I want to interact with a bot built on info about them? No thanks. And none closer to me either. I just find it creepy.

  6. Individuals live in survivors’ memories. In a sense, they are alive, especially when survivors communicate. If people use ancestorbots, maybe they their personal memories will fade faster?

  7. Faking dead actors in new films is disgusting. What’s wrong with people?

  8. “AI”, “block chain”, “environment”, “sustainability”, “disruptive” et cetera. Bullshit Bingo.

  9. When I get old, maybe I will overwrite everything I said and wrote with “GET OFF MY LAWN!”

9 and a half. I’ll replace the wayback machine with the backward machine.

Image source: Tolstoy and Chekhov. Nota bene, they are NOT my ancestors.

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