11/06/2019 by Rose Eveleth
Today we travel to a future where dying isn’t the end. What if you could live on as a simulation? A bot that knows everything you’ve ever said, and can pretend to be you?
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James Vlahos — journalist & author of Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad — research scientist at KenSci, Inc, professor of computer science at University of Washington
Anita Hannig — professor of anthropology at Brandeis University
Joy Butler — attorney
→ → → Further reading on today’s episode can be found here ← ← ←
Actors: Maria — Cara Rose de Fabio Gaby — Eler de Grey Marquis — Rotimi Agbabiaka (check out his new solo show called Manifesto on June 21 at the African American Arts and Culture Complex as part of the National Queer Arts Festival.) New Marquis — Xandra Ibarra John — Keith Houston (also check out his karaoke nights in San Francisco)
Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose Eveleth. The intro music is by Asura and the outtro music is by Hussalonia. The episode art is by Matt Lubchansky.
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Listen Date: 2019-08-03
- This was one of those unfortunate episodes where I paid less attention to listening to the whole thing because the first few minutes got me on to a train of thought and I distracted myself from the rest of the episode.
- Two trains of thought, actually. The first was “If brain uploading happens, what happens to inheritance if the uploaded brain is treated as an alive person?”
- It raises the prospect of murder mysteries where exasperated heirs unplug the cloud server or hit it with malware. Or maybe even disconnect the local terminal to get that sweet, sweet, power of attorney.
- All this is despite the episode not being about hardcore honest to goodness brain uploading, but just about chatbots based on you, which presumably should not have the same legal rights – though of course there is scope for fiction where they start demanding it.
- The bit about “right of publicity” also got me wondering about this for my own will, which has been occupying a lot of mindspace recently. And I had been chatting with my wife about how some actors were signing contracts to ensure that their images couldn’t be used for movies after they died.
- The other train of thought was inspired by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad making a chatbot out of his dad so that his daughter would know his grandfather. But imagine a situation where parents do this, the virtual grandparents stick around for all the generations and family get togethers to come, and the descendants hate them because of how old-fashioned and racist they are? (My own grandma issues may be at play in inspiring this particular scenario.)
- Which also got me remembering Zaphod Beeblebrox’s great grandfather, oddly enough.
- I now remember – and I’m also making the connection only now, when annotating rather than listening – I had mentioned a few weeks earlier that perhaps Hindu/ Indian cremation and wedding ritualism forecloses a lot of emotional and etiquette crud that Americans have to deal with. Prof Anita Hannig’s bit in the podcast seems… companionable to that? Or at least another perspective.