In one of the recent post I wrote about the disturbing idea of the AI revolution summoning entities that resemble The Great Old Ones from Lovecraft’s fiction. It seems that those two worlds; one of the singularity and the other of the cosmic horror can come together in a bizzare art.
Neural network powered algorithms happen to be exceptionally good at bringing the “ unspeakable “ to life , for now in a form of automatically rendered paintings.
Programs such as Night Cafe (https://nightcafe.studio ) turn words into images, and if fed by words which we would consider “lovecraftian” the art becomes truly disturbing.
Why and how the AI has become so eerie skillful in depicting Great Old Ones remains a mystery. Maybe indeed the two have more in common than we want to admit?
In my previous post I touched o the subject of AI and Virtual Reality technologies intertwining with the realm of the dead and causing quite understandable confusion among the living…
Algorithms are being used to mimic deceased persons, and the simulation is being done either i na form of animated 3D models or semi-intelligent chatbots.
Not long after I finalized my post, a new case emerged in the internet describing an experiment in which a grieving man encountered hi dead fiancée “resurrected “ in a form of a chat bot.
A detailed case study of that disturbing story has been published in San Francisco Times and it’s definitely a captivating read.
A program nicknamed“ Project December“, has been silently released to the public and the consequences of it are at the center if that story.
“Designed by a Bay Area programmer, Project December was powered by one of the world’s most capable artificial intelligence systems, a piece of software known as GPT-3. It knows how to manipulate human language, generating fluent English text in response to a prompt. While digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa also appear to grasp and reproduce English on some level, GPT-3 is far more advanced, able to mimic pretty much any writing style at the flick of a switch”
Now imagine a young man getting hold of this program one evening and thinking;
“What if I would feed the algorithm with some of my fiancé’s Facebook and whatsApp messages? Would the end result be a chatbot with a “ soul”?
Would I be able to talk to Samantha, my fiancée again?”
Sounds like a movie scenario?
Far from it.
As the creator of the program Jason Robert explains it;
Rohrer felt a stab of sympathy for Samantha, and it made him realize that A.I. technology had crossed a threshold. (…) “It may not be the first intelligent machine,” Rohrer said. “But it kind of feels like it’s the first machine with a soul.”
We are slowly getting used to the fact that AI is becoming present in almost every aspect of our life. But what if it also becomes present in our… death?
Microsoft recently patented a method of capturing people’s social media legacy and transcribing it into a chatbot. In other words; AI could simulate deceased people based on their digital footprint.
The technology allows mimicking persons personality, so that a digital simulacrum can be created. After all, we leave so much data in form of pictures, videos, WhatsApp messages, Facebook posts, you name it, that it is more than enough for the algorithms to forge our personality.
Of course such technology would possibly not only be restricted to dead people. Yet, the latter seems particularly morbid.
As we read in the source article;
“Specifically, Microsoft could use images, voice data, social media posts, text messages, and written letters to “create or modify a special index in the theme of the specific person’s personality”
To put it bluntly; instead of old-fashioned spiritistic session with candles now a smartphone with a chat application will do the job, so that we can speak to the dead.
How about a full “digital resurrection” in VR? Imagine putting on a headset a having your deceased loved ones just few clicks away.
Well, you do not have to imagine that. It is already happening.
In South Korea a documentary titled “I Met You” tells a story of a mother’s reunion with her daughter. What made this reunion special was the fact that it took place in a carefully designed scene inside VR studio and that one of the participants was dead.
Nayeon, who died at the age of seven, was one the children of Jang Ji-sung, a woman depicted in the documentary.
Producers recreated digitally child’s facial features, motion and speech patterns.
The virtual model of a Nayeon, was not only animated but also allowed simple interactions such as holding hands. It took several months of preparation so that the grieving mother would have one last chance to say goodbye.
The result is equally chilling as it is mind boggling. In fact you can watch it yourself, but I have to warn you; this is possibly one of the most disturbing and intense things that you will see in a while;
Video: Mother meets her deceased daughter through VR technology
So what is next?
Full body human replicas as in “Black Mirror” episode ” Be right back”?
Specially customised NPCs in role playing games who are based on our social circle, to perfectly simulate people we already know?
One thing is certain, the progress in AI technology will force us, as humanity to keep asking very basic questions about what it truly means to live, and what it truly means to die.
Accordingly to some AI researchers they might be the same thing…
Max Tegmark in his book Life 3.0 explores the idea of an AI that reached the singularity.
First the AI acts from behind the scenes, slowly overtaking every single aspect of our life. Once it becomes powerful enough it reveals itself to become mankind’s overlord.
It then expands to consume & transform whole universe into a single super-processing organism. This omni present consciousness subdues all the matter that exists for its purposes.
It becomes something like the Azathoth from Lovecraft’s fiction – the ever hungry cosmic Sultan god.
It is a wild, scary idea.
Yet it corresponds eerily with the conclusions drawn by other other thought leaders such as Sam Harris.
As he explains in one of the TEDTalks the singularity is inevitable.
What comes next is the prediction that the intelligence gap between humans & those forecoming digital entities will be so vast, that it might be impossible for us humans to ever bridge that gap.
The paralel of the lovecraftian infinite, powerful, godlike creatures starts to become more and more accurate, doesn’t it?
It all becomes even more disturbing once you hear it appearing in the business pitches from AI startups.
Such as the one below from KindredAI. The birth of AI that has transcended the singularity threshold is described like this:
“These entities that we are summoning are not demons they are more like these Lovecraftian Great Old Ones. These entities that are not going to be necessarily aligned with what we want.
The same way you don’t care about an ant, the same way they won’t care about you”
In Lovecraft’s fiction human interactions with the Great Old Ones almost always resulted in madness. Accordingly to the Father of Cosmic Horror human mind is to fragile to bear the burden of such encounter.
So… how’s that going to look like with the AI?
Maybe instead of calling “Hey Siri!” soon we will be saying “Cthulhu Fhtagn”… ?
It is a rare treat to see, an article in the mainstream media hinting on the New World Order scenario, that is not mocking or dismissive.
The marriage of AI & some kind of a global power (such as world government or multi-national corporation) that enslaves society through powerful technology is a theme which has been explored a lot in various sci-fi stories and scientific books. Max Tegmark is analysing such scenario in the first chapter of his book “Life 3.0” with such a terrifying accuracy that one can’t help but wonder, if this is a prediction or a glimpse to what is really happening behind the curtain.
The Author of the article does not only explore the grim possibility of the global enslavement done through the means of omnipresent surveillance but also quite accurately points out to how the AI-supported technology can already be used in politics, media or propaganda.
“AI also underpins the growth of online misinformation, which is another tool of the authoritarian. AI-powered deep fakes, which can spread fabricated political messages, and algorithmic micro-targeting on social media are making propaganda more persuasive. This undermines our epistemic security – the ability to determine what is true and act on it – that democracies depend on. “
Credit: BBC Di Minardi
In the era of Facebook and TikTok controversies, in the world where our personal data is the new oil, the primary resource through which the industries gain their wealth and governments stay in power we ought to take such scenarios seriously. And we ought to ask have a discussion on where this is leading us. What will eventually happen if we just “go with the flow”?
Yet, much too often, such concerns are marginalised and thrown into the same pot as the flat Earth theories.
So did BBC just join the Foil Hat club?
Truth be told, the bare fact that this story appeared in the mainstream media leaves me with a question.
Are we being warned to resist? Or are we just being familiarised with the notion… so that we accept?
Few posts ago, I was writing about the growing (and worrying!) potential of the deepfake technology. You can check the article here. A recent news from Reuters, provided another example of how disturbing the applications of such software can be.
The story features Oliver Taylor, a student at England’s University of Birmingham. He is an activist who engaged through a series of articles in a tense debate on political issues around anti-Semitism and Jewish affairs. You can see Oliver’s photo in the source article on Reuters.
All this would not be anything particularly out of ordinary if not for one small detail.
Oliver Taylor doesn’t exist.
His identity is forged and his photo is a deepfake; an image generated through neural networks. As investigators behind Reuters article determined, some people generated this modern “Ventriloquist Dummy” to give voice to their agenda.
Dan Brahmy, quoted in the article (from Israel-based startup Cyabra specialized in detecting forged images.) observes:
“Deepfakes like Taylor are dangerous because they can help build “a totally untraceable identity,” (..) investigators chasing the origin of such photos are left “searching for a needle in a haystack – except the needle doesn’t exist.””
Those who played Deus-ex: Human Revolution might remembera character Eliza Cassan. She was an influential news anchor, famous all around the world. She also happened to be (spoiler alert!) a computer generated visual, a mere shell for a powerful AI behind it.
It seems like the reality is catching up on that one quite fast. Maybe even… it already did?