Digital Immortality

I’ve heard people say that you must now update your "last will and testament" to state that the output you’ve left behind cannot be used to train a bot that impersonates you.

But for me, that’s kind of a life goal!

I’m fascinated with the idea that I can make a Leon-bot 🤖, and tweak it, tinker with it, and slowly hand my responsibilities over to it, one at a time.

If, on December 26, for all of eternity, I was still able to post to Facebook “the hot cross buns are in the shops already! Forsooth!” or variations thereof, would I really be dead?

I've been fascinated by the idea for a long time.

In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is a piece of dialog on the topic, that blew my mind, as a child.

The mice want to take Arthur’s brain:

“It could always be replaced,” conceded Benjy, “if you think it’s important.”

“Yes, an electronic brain,” said Frankie, “a simple one would suffice.”

“A simple one!” wailed Arthur.

“Yeah,” said Zaphod with a sudden evil grin, “you’d just program it to say ‘What?’ and ‘I don’t understand’ and ‘Where’s the tea?’ Who’d know the difference?”

"What?" cried Arthur, backing away still further.

"See what I mean?" said Zaphod.

"I'd notice the difference," said Arthur.

"No you wouldn't," said Frankie mouse, "you'd be programmed not to."

… I loved that bit of dialogue, but found the concept fascinating too.

I wonder things such as, whether a digital K. Scott Allen could write a new blog post, about a new piece of tech? Of course ChatGPT would attempt it, today, and be satisfied with its result -- but I mean a custom trained, really high quality digital clone.

Beyond being able to emit text, could it have powers to alter the world? E.g., could a digital K. Scott make little corrections to old posts, or add modern contextual information to keep old posts updated?

What if I could carry out a chat conversation with the grandfather I never met?

What if the blog posts and chat records of Aaron Swartz were used to train a convincing swartzbot… I know I’d like to have a chat to it!

But is this grim and disrespectful? I guess so. I’d be happy, thrilled, for my own output to used in such a way. But I can’t exactly ask Aaron his wishes on the topic.

Can I?

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