Friday, January 22, 2021

Voices from the Grave by Microsoft

In my 2016 book Shrinking the Technosphere, I wrote:

...[A] movement will develop to virtualize people in their entirety, their heads included, by replacing them with computer simulations. At first this will be done to keep your loved ones seemingly alive once they have passed away, but later people of child-bearing age will decide that having virtual, simulated children is much less troublesome than having physical ones, what with all of the expense of giving them neural implants and later having their bodies amputated. People in their advanced years, fearing the onset of dementia, will opt to have their brains digitized ahead of time to avoid embarrassing themselves on social media.

And this will set in motion the final, inexorable trend in which actual, physical humans will be replaced with computer simulations of them. By then computing power will have progressed to the point where the simulations will bear an uncanny resemblance to the supposed original, being able to text things like “OMG!” and “LOL!” and exchange selfies of their simulated duckfaces in front of simulated tourist locations just like the originals once did.

As a matter of efficiency, the simulated humans will only be made to function for the benefit of the few remaining non-simulated humans. And after the last remaining human is replaced by a simulation, it will finally become possible to turn off the whole thing. The technosphere wins; game over.

I meant this is a futuristic, mock-horror antiutopian thought experiment. But this is not, apparently, how Microsoft understood it; it took it as a call to action! This just in:

Microsoft has been granted a patent that would allow the company to make a chatbot using the personal information of deceased people.  

The patent describes creating a bot based on the “images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages,” and more personal information.

The old saying was, “On the internet nobody knows if you are dog.” The new saying is, “On the internet nobody knows if you are a chatbot.” And it is no longer a joke. If you don’t find this development incredibly creepy, then please explain what you think the word “creepy” means!