Quick quiz:

*** How satisfied are you with current AI technology as it pertains to making your daily life easier?

*** Have you now or have you ever been frustrated with automated telephone, banking, or computer transactions?

*** Have you ever given your requested information to a robot only to be transferred to a human representative who laughingly says the robot is having a bad day, especially with birthdays?

*** If money were no object, would you pay to have yourself preserved in digital form for the future?

Soul Machines™ is a technology company based in New Zealand whose slogan HUMANIZING COMPUTING TO BETTER HUMANITY represents the goal of its staff including neuroscientists, psychologists, AI representatives and artists who create...emotionally responsive artificial humans with personality and character that allow machines to talk with us. This was almost too much information to process early in the morning sitting at my computer desk but I was curious.

Their website is visually impeccable; the logo is simple, understated yet appealing while the text is sprinkled with carefully crafted statements using current buzzwords and phrases. They claim they can transform modern life...by revolutionizing the way AI, robots and machines interact with people. I discovered this website after reading several articles in The Wall Street Journal on Artificial Intelligence although Soul Machines™ was not one of the companies featured, in hindsight, a red flag ignored because I hadn't had enough coffee yet.

The company also claims the ...emotionally intelligent artificial humans can analyse and recognize expressions in real time and respond appropriately... In my old-fashioned opinion, this should be something real humans learn to do as young children and improve as they mature. (For a two minute video showing creator and CEO Mark Sagar interacting with an AI baby, click on the link to BABYK. Please let me know if you find it unsettling or downright creepy as I did.) Back to appropriate responses, how many times do we find ourselves in daily mundane moments where words fail us or later on we wish we had said or done something different?

Each artificial human will have a personality consistent with the job they will be doing and ...the core values of the organization that they will be representing. Reading this made me think of at least one futuristic movie, Hitler's hideous experiments, Communism in general, and the growth of genetic engineering in human reproduction but I'm certain there must be benefits to this feature I am just not imagining that will better humanity.

Included in their lofty services, they ensure creation of language and/or accent variations, adding that they ...have even provided people with deafness the ability to lip read. For starters, the language and accent thing has already been done, most famously for Stephen Hawking but in numerous other instances. More importantly, shockingly or outrageously, I cannot wrap my mind around the deaf people and lipreading claim unless the sentence was poorly worded or perhaps I misread the intent.

As of February 18, 2018, Soul Machines™ announced digital facsimiles with the question, Would you pay to immortalise yourself in a digital forever? The company's mission, dream or financial scheme is to make ...life after death a reality by allowing us to exchange our blood and tissue for pixels and hardware... in the stated goal of ...digital humans becoming a mainstream option within ten years. Maybe here my imagination has gone into overdrive, picturing a gruesome endless mess stretching beyond the familiar quiet of simple cemetery stones to buildings crammed full of digital humans droning on until the very end of time.

SciFiQuest 3018: A Dystopia for the Rest of Us

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