May 3, 2012

Art, Engineering and the Digital Afterlife

I love storytellers. Their ability to envision the future is amazing. While being artists, in a lot of ways they are visionary scientists and engineers as well. How often do we see some concept imagined in a comic, book or a movie by an artist only to see it eventually made real shortly thereafter by a scientist or engineer. These artists inspire the makers. For instance, take the concepts envisioned within the Iron Man franchise which inspired one guy to make his own Iron Man Suit (low-tech but freaking awesome) and and how the US Military is building the real thing (which could definitely use a coat of hot-rod red).


With that said, I've been noodling a little on the thoughts behind the Battlestar Galactica prequel "Caprica". The premise is that one could create a digital afterlife where a soul could be reanimated provided enough data about the original human is preserved. In the show, the premise is powerful enough to disrupt contemporary religion.

The basic engineering concepts to make this a reality, are divided into two areas:
  1. A device that humans wear on their head which allows them to enter incredibly realistic digital three-dimensional worlds which they navigate as avatars. These worlds are limited by the fact that each avatar is directed by a real human in a real world outside the digital one. Think of it as an uber-realistic Second Life where you control your avatar with your mind.

  2. Technology that extends the previous concept to allow one to create autonomous avatars and inject them into these worlds. The avatars behaviour originates from rules divined from data about the original human that they reflect. In other words, if its your data, this avatar is you... except that its an autonomous copy.
So the 2nd invention is the bit that captivated my imagination. Presuming, at the point of someone's death (with something like a Zoe chip from The Final Cut), one could access data such as their entire purchase histories, every word they ever spoke or wrote, a 3 dimensional rendering of them and every action they ever undertook, could we create an avatar that would behave the same way they did and had the same memories? I think we could.


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