Send in the other you

Over at Businessweek, I predicted that someday soon you’ll have an Eternity App — a digital doppelgänger clone of you who will carry on conversations long after you’re gone, or potentially even replace you in the office. All of the technology to make this possible now exists, between voice recognition software input that can “listen” to questions, Siri-type artificial intelligence simulation output which can “speak” like a human, and data sets of your personality.

Where would the data come from to replicate you? Well, here:

Spend a few years using social media, and you’ll upload thousands of tidbits—each encoding your opinions, politics, wit, charm, clients, reviews, work accomplishments, debates, dumb jokes, frustration, and anger. The essential “data” of you has been captured. And what of your personality and relationships? Sentiment monitoring services, such as AC Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Lithium, and Radian6, already parse the tone and intent of conversations; Klout and Quora track your supposed influence; FriendorFollow and Twiangulate monitor your connections with others; LinkedIn knows your job skills. Facebook uses sophisticated face recognition software to help tag photos of your friends.

Nearly everything that makes up your human world is online, ready for data mining.

As I wrote this, I initially thought of the immortality angle — the ability to have my persona “live” forever, write columns, call home, offer advice to my children after I’m gone. But my editor at Bloomberg was most keenly interested in the social repercussions of using it today. After all, if you can clone yourself, why not send yourself in to work? Off to that client meeting?

Play this through, and it could become very dicey. Your virtual you would emulate your voice, image (with 3D projections coming soon), and mind (from your social media data set) — but it could also improve upon yourself. My new “mind” could tap into databases of every marketing solution ever known, so the New Ben Kunz in a client meeting would offer more-brilliant suggestions than plain old me. Your clone might learn wit, charm, or tantric sex advice to woo your spouse better than you. The new you would be more fun at parties, more knowledgeable in debates, savvier at investments, a better parent for your children. It would also likely be better looking; just as we post Twitter avatars showing ourselves in good lighting, we’d be tempted to add a tan or whiten the teeth of our digital double.

You are going to be so hot.

Except it won’t be you. The intersection of voice recognition and AI simulation means robotic avatars who mirror your being will be much better at, well, everything. You could take a nice vacation while the version of you goes off to run the world. The question is, will the other you want you around?

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Alphadesigner

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