Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm up in the air about immortality. Maybe it will happen. Maybe humans will seize this "Singularity" thing by the reigns and conquer aging. Or maybe some of us will opt out of meat-based existence altogether, coexisting with long-lived carbon-based humanity in the form of mind-uploads. Of course, there's always the risk that I'll die before I can take advantage of such exotic future technologies.

So what I've decided to do -- more out of sense of fun than hubris -- is to leave behind a simulation of myself. It won't be sentient. It won't pass the Turing Test. But at least you'll be able to talk to it, and if I do my part well enough, it may even fool some casual users into thinking they're conversing with an authentic human being.





The idea is essentially Rudy Rucker's "lifebox" concept -- an interactive database that encapsulates its owner's psyche in spoken or text-based format. In my case, I see no damning theoretical reason this blog can't eventually become an online version of myself, able to converse with Netizens and provide a decent-enough portrait of my mindscape. (Or even talk with me, perhaps serving as a virtual doppleganger/personal assistant.)

I can see the technology necessary to create "lifebox"-style blogs arising even if the transcendent bounty of the Singularity never materializes. After all, the "intelligence" demonstrated by a hyperlinked database is illusory -- and already we have some engaging pseudo-AIs that could serve as templates for more robust future systems.

I'm not a computer scientist, so obviously I can't shoulder the burden alone. Ideally, the "mind-blog" I'm proposing will be smart enough to take cues from my behavior, reducing the amount of time I spend deliberately entering text (or talking into a computer mic). I'm relying, in part, on trends such as ubiquitous computation and exponential processing speed. Google's purported plans to blanket the country with wireless Internet service will also help, as many of the "bloggable" insights I experience occur while on the go, without even the luxury of pen and paper.

The completed product may turn out to be an unflattering caricature or -- worse still -- plain boring. Then again, those are the same pitfalls we try to avoid in "meatspace." A more organic approach to online publishing just might enable blogs to achieve something like the fractal narrative quality we associate with "stream of consciousness" or "inner monologue."

5 comments:

razorsmile said...

These lifeboxes aren't just likely, they're certain. I remember watching some Alan Alda-hosted science show about the stuff happening in MIT. There's this dude who wears cameras on the front and back of his body all day, every day.

It's pretty much the logical evolution of blogging as we know it.

The Andy-Christ said...

Mac, I can see a time in the very near future when a person can leave behind a computer simulation of themselves (such as you mention), with the main appeal (commercially speaking) being to relatives of the deceased. Instead of showing your kids old photos of grandma, you'd let them interact with a computer simulation of grandma. This would become as common (and maybe even be a part of) making your will.

Mac said...

Razorsmile--

Really. I just stuck to text hyperlinking, for the most part. I agree that the AV aspect is inevitable.

Mac said...

Andy--

Have you read "Saucer Wisdom" by Rudy Rucker? He sees the "lifebox" as a hand-held device for the same purpose you describe. (It may very well be hand-held, but I think a substantial portion of its "brain" will be online.)

platts42 said...

A great idea but what about personal growth? One would like to think that throughout our lives we grow and change. Any lifebox would be static unless we build a growth algorithm, or a some sort of change program into it. However then, there must be limits because then the software coud, over time, outgrow the meat personna.