Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Immortality, and Dad

Photo Credit: Alma Haser (W.I.R.E.D.)

Immortality is a common theme in circles of philosophical, theological, and others fields of thought…and for obvious reasons.  When we lose the ones we love, its hard to let them go. 

When James Vlahos’ father was diagnosed with cancer, he wondered if there was a way to keep the essence of his father alive (if…or when…he died).  So he set forth to record his father’s life story while he had the chance.  And when his father passed away, he put the recordings into a software program that allowed him an opportunity to have “actual conversations” with his late father.

I can imagine the pitch for this movie: Man fixated on his dying father tries to keep him robotically alive. Stories about synthesizing life have been around for millennia, and everyone knows they end badly. — James Vlahos

In the August issue of Wired magazine and via an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Vlahos discusses his Dadbot mission and some of the challenges faced.  In the process, (as readers) question abound….would we want the same?  Could our own “loved-one-lost-bot” help us heal our broken heart? Can it help us stay connected?  What are the implications?


To listen to the full interview click the play button above or read/view the full transcript here.

I can imagine talking to a Dadbot that incorporates all these advances. What I cannot fathom is how it will feel to do so. I know it won’t be the same as being with my father. It will not be like going to a Cal game with him, hearing one of his jokes, or being hugged. But beyond the corporeal loss, the precise distinctions—just what will be missing once the knowledge and conversational skills are fully encoded—are not easy to pinpoint. Would I even want to talk to a perfected Dadbot? I think so, but I am far from sure. — James Vlahos

To read this article in its entirety, click here!

Thank you to Edward Glowienka III for bringing these articles to our attention.

SIDEBAR:  For more on topics and queries related to artificial intelligence, listen to some of our past philosophy symposiums on some of the less obvious ethical implications of AI and the human spirit and our upcoming third installment in the symposium series, “Vulnerable Humanity: Predictable Machines” on November 8th, 2017!

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