The Surreal Feeling of Cheating Death Through Tech

by | Jul 8, 2018

It feels pretty strange when you reencounter virtual ‘presence’ of someone you know, whom have since passed away. It is what I called the surreal feeling of cheating death through technology. It could come as a form of a written post, video, photography, audio files or just timely notifications from Facebook about his/her birthday. The modern era made leaving our legacy a much easier feat as these online content are likely to survive past our lifespan and we could achieve some degree of immortality in a digital sense.

A couple of years back, Eugenia Kuyada, CEO of an AI start up made a memorial chatbot of her deceased friend Roman. This chatbot is created through feeding a neural network with old text messages sent by Roman. So when she chat with the bot, it feels almost like having a conversation with him. If you have time, you can read more of this amazing story here.

Cheating Death Through Tech
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

What the Chinese Emperors needed wasn’t an elixir of life to grant them immorality; they just need a highly advanced AI chatbot to store their personality within (minus the obsession with power and control).

During my three months of sabbatical (diplomatic unemployment), I was dabbling with Chatbot from MobileMonkey for a short while. Truth to be told, I was pretty fascinated by all that funky function of a chatbot, but there was tremendous administration behind how to craft responses, trigger words and create linkage pathways. In a general sense, a common usage of chatbot is usually about information searching sort of function.

But now imagine this: if you could replicate your personality into a chatbot by feeding endless hours of conversation into it, paradoxically, it may actually become your replica. Something that could survive beyond your living days which your loved ones could actually talk to and get a reply that resembles you.

I know that sounds pretty bizarre cause ultimately, we cannot accurately decide and assess if this chatbot is you, not you, both or neither… akin to a complex tao huay mash of reality and virtual. I will show you a video of what this looks like, but is used for a general/therapeutic chatting purpose with your own self instead of a legacy tool for the terminally ill.

Honestly, what inspired this post is really because of this: it has been a couple of months since Kimberley left. Frankly, I professed I wasn’t personally that close to her, but in midst of me gathering a group of amazing people together for Lossophy’s first official meet up in late June 2018, automatic flashes of Kimberly came to my mind. Especially when I have to create a whatsapp group and add various people inside.

“Sigh, I would have added Kim in this whatsapp group if she was still around.’

Then a nostalgic nudge made me enter her blog site again; I re-read her final post, titled “I made Peace” published by her sister Phylicia on 18 May 2018. Somehow, I get new inspiration and feeling just by re-reading her content; the determination to fight cancer by living your life courageously and fully every single moment.

Same words. Different feeling.

And so I wondered if there was sufficient time, would Kim be keen to create a chatbot that resembles her? Something like creating her own replica having a ‘personal conversation’ (automated though) with other young people suffering from colorectal cancer, who may be searching the internet for useful content in Singapore. She might not be able to cheat her own death physically, but a chatbot does seem like a possible avenue to bypass the limit of her contribution and evolved our shared mission in strange ways that I have not yet to fathom.

Or would it evolved into a griefbot like what Eugenia had created originally, where loved ones could get text response that resembles the deceased whenever they send a message – the similar sort of stuff when you attempt to build an occasional connection with a friend residing overseas once in a while. I am not advocating for an unhealthy, dysfunctional obsession with the deceased, but rather, a more humane gentle sort of conversation because we briefly remembered the person.

I mean when we do go six feet underground someday, we will meet again. So you could say that I am trying to at least maintain existing friendship across astral realms. Who knows I might need a lao jiao to show me around in the neither world and it could be anyone that has gone earlier than me.

Cheating Death Through Tech 2

Obviously, that wasn’t a chatbot reply; it is an old text message. But really, it is still good to know that Kim. 🙂

P.S: Drop me a comment if you are planning to cheat death through tech; would love to hear your stories. 😀

Featured photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash