Black Mirror-style digital afterlife could become real much sooner than you expect, experts say
While it may be impossible to create a fully-working and self-aware digital version of yourself with current technology, you are most likely — and unknowingly — creating all of the necessary ingredients for it simply through the use of your various digital devices. Unless you have very little or no access to phones, computers, and the internet, there’s a huge chance that all of your text messages, emails, photos, and status updates could be cobbled together to create an approximation of your personality that might be good enough for a seemingly sentient digital avatar.
And don’t think that this is something that’s only possible in the realm of science fiction, because digital memorials — that is, digital representations of a human who lived — already exist. So, experts claim, we’re inching closer and closer to getting the Black Mirror-style digital afterlife that seems to be a recurring theme on the show and the mark of an eerie and uncanny future.
One example of a digital memorial that’s working now is the one created for Roman Mazurenko by his “soulmate” Eugenia Kuyda. Mazurenko worked in digital media and shared plenty of pieces of his life with friends, family, and even strangers. So after his death, it was a simple matter of gathering the data that he inadvertently scattered all throughout his relationships and concentrating it into a downloadable chatbot. In an interview with The Guardian, Kuyda states, “I didn’t expect it to be as impactful. Usually I find showing emotions and thinking about grief really hard so I was mostly trying to avoid it. Talking to Roman’s avatar was facing those demons.”
Kuyda co-founded Luka, an AI startup which ended up using its resources to create the chatbot that would eventually serve up Mazurenko’s digital consciousness. It all started when Kuyda asked her engineers to build a neural network in their native Russian. After that, she used it with a file that contained the transcripts of hundreds of conversations that she had with Mazurenko from the messaging app Telegram. This was what ultimately ended up becoming the “source code” of Mazurenko inside Luka’s app, which anyone could download and use in both Russian and English.