At the current pace of AI, nano-robotics and human genomics development, it is possible that the natural life of human beings could eventually be significantly extended sometime in the future. True immortality, if possible, remains years into the future. According to Ray Kurzweil, it could be possible as soon as 2030.
However, the technology exists today for primitive immortality.
Call it Immortality 1.0.
Immortality 1.0 isn’t true immortality. Rather, it is a first step to ‘virtual’ immortality in the eyes of others around us. Essentially, it takes the dusty family photo album to a more holistic and engaging end.
Here’s how it would work…
The technology already exists to do the following:
- Precisely mimic the sound, intonation and characteristics of someone’s voice
- Build a lifelike visual model of a person that can say whatever it is told
- Data-mine billions of archived data points to create meaningful, conversational, reactive text
The technology is anything but perfect, but it is rapidly developing and is converging to a point where the dead can be “brought back to life” virtually.
We’ve already seen this done in basic ways with deceased actors and musicians used for cameos and duets. Realism has rapidly improved.
Usage was limited to big budget productions. However, the technology is becoming so pervasive and financially accessible that individuals will soon be able to interact with dead loved ones.
I predict we will see a company that – for a fee – collects archived images, video and audio of a deceased loved one to build a lifelike ‘bot’ (audio + video) to interact with over the phone or via a Zoom call.
Indeed, while still alive, you and I might soon be able to proactively work with a company to provide what they need in advance to construct the perfect bot for friends and family to chat with in the afterlife. (Similar to what Val Kilmer is doing with Sonantic). Of course, we’ll be dead so this isn’t true immortality, but in the eyes of the user it could be as real as the MS Teams call I just had with my work colleagues.
There are moral, sociological and psychological unknowns, but these may not concern the grieving parent craving one more interaction with their child. Or the son who wishes to properly say goodbye to his father. Or the wife who desires to tell her deceased husband about her day.
Of all the applications for virtual humans – customer service, therapy, music, fake lovers – the most mind-bending will be Immortality 1.0.
And this is just the beginning.