As your digital incarnation will live after your death? Will you?

Digital life after death may soon become a reality. But if you need it? Accumulation of data that we create, may soon make possible digital avatars that will live on after us, after our death, consoling loved ones, or sharing the experience with future generations. Some of this may seem less attractive than the vision promised a more optimistic futurists, in which we upload your consciousness to the cloud and live forever in the machines.

However, in the not so distant future, this option seems more realistic — and the first steps have already been taken.

Digital avatars: the near future

After each Quidi Eugenia, co-founder of the Russian startup’s artificial intelligence Luka, died in a car accident, she has trained a chatbot with a neural network to possible to talk as a friend. A journalist and an Amateur programmer James Vlahos has taken a more active approach with an extensive interview with his terminally ill father to subsequently create a digital clone when he dies.

For those of us who have no time or experience to create their own avatar with artificial intelligence startup Eternime, offers to take your social media posts and correspondence, as well as your personal information to create a copy of you that will be able to communicate with their relatives after your death. The service is still working in private beta with a few people, but 40 000 are already in the queue, so obviously the market is.

Comforting. Or creepy?

At the moment it is difficult to say whether interaction with the deceased person in overcoming grief or make it worse. There are concerns that it may not give a person “let go” or “move on”. Others believe that it can play a useful therapeutic role, reminding people that just because someone died doesn’t mean he’s gone, and giving them a new way of expressing and dealing with feelings.

Although currently most consider these digital resurrection as a way to memorialize loved ones, there are also more ambitious plans to use this technology as a way to keep the Council and experience. Project at the Massachusetts Institute of technology called Augmented Eternity (“Augmented eternity”) explores whether we can use AI to collect someone’s digital footprint and how to extract their knowledge, and elements of their personality.

Project Manager Hossein of Rahnama says that is already working with the CEO who wanted to leave behind a digital avatar, which could consult future leaders, when he dies. And you do not have to wait for their death — experts could create virtual clones of themselves to give advice to as many people. Soon these clones could be more than just chatbot. Hollywood has already begun to spend millions of dollars to create 3D scans of their most valuable stars, so they can remain active beyond the grave.

The attractiveness ideas are hard to miss: imagine what we could get Stephen Hawking or Tim cook to their wisdom remained with us. What if we could create a digital brain, just by combining the experience and wisdom of the greatest thinkers of the world?

There is still a lot of obstacles that prevent us to create a truly accurate representation of a man just collecting his digital remains. The first problem there is the data. Digital watch most people only began to reach significant proportions over the last decade or so and cover a relatively small period of their lives. Many years can pass before there is enough data to create something more than just a superficial imitation of someone.

And this is assuming that the data we produce really represent who we are. Carefully retouched photos in Instagram and neat work emails are unlikely to reflect the messy realities of life of most people.

Perhaps if the idea simply is to create a repository of someone’s knowledge and experience, the exact definition of the essence of the character would be less important. But then these clones would be static. Now people are constantly learning and changing, but the digital avatar is a picture or rather a reflection of the character and opinions in the moment they died. The inability to adapt, given the variability of the world, can reduce the useful lifetime of these replicas.

Digital impression: who needs it?

All this will not stop people trying to create digital versions of themselves. Is born the better question is: who will be responsible for our digital afterlife? We ourselves, our families or companies that store our data?

In most countries, the laws on this subject rather vague. Companies like Google and Facebook have at their disposal processes, allowing you to choose who should control your account in the event of death. But if you forget to do it, the fate of your virtual remains will be decided by Federal law, local law and technical conditions for the provision of services of the company.

This lack of regulation may create incentives and opportunities for dishonest behavior. The voice of the deceased person can be very persuasive tool for exploitation, and the digital replica of the distinguished experts can be a powerful tool to promote a hidden agenda.

This implies that there is a need to create clear and unambiguous rules. Scientists from Oxford University recently suggested ethical principles by which to your digital remains would be treated the same as museums and archeologists examine the mortal remains with dignity, but in the interests of society.

From these principles will depend on whether digital afterlife heaven or hell.

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