Digital immortality (or "virtual immortality", or "immortality in silico") is storing a person's personality in a more durable media, i.e., a computer, and allowing it to communicate with people in the future. The result might look like an avatar behaving, reacting, and thinking like a person on the basis of that person's digital archive. After the death of the individual, this avatar could remain static or continue to learn and develop autonomously.
A considerable portion of transhumanists and singularitarians place great hope into the belief that they may become immortal by the year 2045, by creating one or many non-biological functional copies of their brains, thereby leaving their "biological shell". These copies may then "live eternally" in a version of digital "heaven" or paradise.
The realism of the concept
The National Science Foundation has awarded a half-million-dollar grant to the universities of Central Florida at Orlando and Illinois at Chicago to explore how researchers might use artificial intelligence, archiving, and computer imaging to create convincing, digital versions of real people, a possible first step toward virtual immortality.
The Digital Immortality Institute explores three factors necessary for digital immortality. First, at whatever level of implementation, avatars require guaranteed Internet accessibility. Next, avatars must be what users specify, and they must remain so. Finally, future representations must be secured before the living users are no more.
Reaching digital immortality is a two-step process:
- archiving and digitizing people,
- making the avatar live
These two steps might be completed by the calibration process.
Archiving and digitizing people
According to Gordon Bell and Jim Gray from Microsoft Research, retaining every conversation that a person has ever heard is already realistic: it needs less than a terabyte of storage (for adequate quality). The speech or text recognition technologies are one of the biggest challenges of the concept.
A second possibility would be to archive and analyze social Internet use to map the personality of people. By analyzing social Internet use during 50 years, it would be possible to model a society's culture, a society's way of thinking, and a society's interests.
Richard Grandmorin summarized the concept of digital immortality by the following equation: "semantic analysis + social internet use + Artificial Intelligence = immortality".
Making the avatar alive
Making the avatar live allows it to communicate with the future in the sense that it continues to learn, evolve and interact with people. Technically, the operation exists to implement an artificial intelligence system to the avatar. This artificial intelligence system will think and react on the base of the archive.
During the calibration process, the biological people are living at the same time as their artifact in silicon. The artifact in silicon is calibrated to be as close as possible to the person in question.
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- Memories with Maya A novel on the concept of Digital Immortality