The more seasons of Black Mirror that get released, the more the general public seems to agree that maybe tossing all of our electronics in a lake might not be the worst idea. If you needed yet another reason to be concerned about how fast technology is growing in this day and age, look no further. While Black Mirror is never necessarily based on true events or technology, it turns out that the technology featured in the first episode of the show's second season, "Be Right Back" actually exists.
If you haven't watched the episode or need a refresher on what it was all about, it featured a woman whose husband had been killed in a car accident. From there the grieving woman turned to a program where she uploaded all of her spouse's texts and social media accounts (basically his entire digital identity). Which were then used to create an AI version of husband. She started out by just using the system to chat online with him but then eventually ordered the "real deal," which was the system imputed into a robot that looked and acted identical to her late husband.
The episode definitely started an interesting conversation, being "if we had the technology would you go to that extreme?" Though it turns out that whole "if" part of the question isn't as big of a roadblock as you would think. The same technology present in that Black Mirror episode is actually being used right now.
Tons of companies across the globe are testing out the idea, but one of the more notable ones is Terasem Movement. The company's goal is to make digital copies of people to which they'll transfer them to their robot clones. They see the process as kind of like "stuffing a cat or dog" except they speak and act exactly like you would have if you were still alive.
The developer behind the whole thing, Martine Rothblatt even has a clone of her own late wife who served as a prototype. It (or she, I guess?) is selling for $150,000 USD right now. While you would think the first official prototype wouldn't be that realistic, it turns out the robot shares the exact same ideas and personality as the real deal. Turns out our social media interactions and digital footprint as a whole speak way more about who we are as people than we ever could have imagined. If you want to see the robot in action, Morgan Freeman actually interviewed her:
While this might be seriously freaking you out (rightfully so), 56,000+ people are all for the idea and are already signed up to "upload their minds" for when they pass. While you might be thinking those people have seriously lost it, New York podcast "Note to Self" highlighted some situations where the creepy technology actually makes a lot of sense. The podcast featured a woman who had cancer and was Beta testing a similar system in efforts to be able to comfort and speak to her young children after she passed. See? The idea is totally terrifying? Right?
If this is making you consider ditching technology completely and moving to farm country, don't worry the technology is coming but it isn't coming that fast. Plus once it is readily available to the public, it's most likely going to come with a ridiculous price tag, and maybe not being able to afford an AI version of a late family member or friend is for the best.
For now, if you're curious as to what it would be like to chat with artificial intelligence in general, there is an app you can check out to get a feel for what the future could be like. The app is called Marla and you can check it out right here!