AI has come a long way in a few decades, and the power of machine learning allows chatbots to sound near-human. Microsoft wants to use this technology to give a voice to those who have fallen silent and make chatbots that can mimic the deceased.
Microsoft’s Plans for a Second Life as a Chatbot
UberGizmo unearthed the patent for this technology, which goes into detail on how the digital ouija board may work. Because it’s a patent, it doesn’t guarantee that Microsoft will ever fully release this feature; however, it does show that Microsoft is, at the very least, entertaining the thought.
To create the chatbot, Microsoft would need “social data (e.g., images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.) about the specific person.” This information would then be fed through AI-powered machine learning to learn the intrinsic habits and quirks of the subject.
Once the AI understands how the person spoke, it could then respond to user queries as the subject would. The result is a chatbot that can learn how a deceased person spoke and impersonate it as if the subject were still alive.
The patent goes on to explain that this chatbot has plenty of potentials past mimicking the dead. For instance, you could feed it information about historical or fictitious people through the chatbot. This would let people “talk” to characters that would otherwise be unreachable.
The patent also claims that living people could train up a chatbot to sound just like them. Then, after they pass away, their loved ones still have the chatbot to talk to.
The Problems With Giving a Voice to the Dead
Because this technology is still in the patent stage, Microsoft hasn’t gone into the finer details as to how the chatbot will gather data. However, if the chatbot does make it to the market, it may pose a huge privacy risk.
To train the chatbot, it will presumably require access to the deceased’s social media profile. This could technically be done by scanning through all the public information the deceased published, but it may go one step further and demand read access to the account.
If this happens, the bot may end up digging up unsavory details that the subject didn’t want anyone to learn about. This would make the chatbot less of a touching memorial and more of a goldmine to dig out scandalous details.
Is It Best to Let Sleeping Memories Lie?
Microsoft has been toying with the idea of making a chatbot that can impersonate people, with the intent of using it to create interactive experiences that replicate those who have passed away. If it makes it to production, we’ll have to see if the public will accept it on privacy and moral grounds.
If you get the shivers thinking about how people will use your data after you’re gone, it’s a good idea to check up on your Facebook privacy. The website can control your data after you passed, and you need to tell it to give permissions to a trusted third-party if you want to keep things private.
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