We may not really be all that close with those we admire the most.
An extremely talked about topic is the debate as to whether or not human conciseness can be successfully replicated. While internal personality structure has such great depth and integrated morals and factors that play a role in decision making there’s a connection that exists outside of “one to self”. With the endless combinations of possible thoughts and reflections it’s easy to see the grandness of the personal connection between you and yourself however their are bonds that are somewhat weaker. External bonds like acquaintances, coworkers, friends, even family members while still holding their own importance respectively doesn’t equate to the understanding and personal value than one will have with themselves.
There is something to be said on the replication of relationships that exist outside of ones self. In some way every relationship we form is replicated from another. From birth you begin to connect more to one parent than the other then your brain will replicate the feelings you get from one, to the other. Then close family members, then more distant family members. All of your current friendships are in some way connected to the relationship you had with your first friend. The positive aspects that haven’t been duplicated have been excluded. For example if you befriended a pathological liar in your childhood you probably will be less inclined to do that moving forward.
Every relationship group that we categorize share similar traits. Family members which we have affinity towards likely hold similar traits, likely an mutual understanding about reality. This reality might be about personal character of each other, ethical belief systems etc. A strong characteristic of platonic friendships is often communication and shared personal interests. In all cases, these relationships stay durable due to the ability for others to relate to the relationship that you already have with yourself in a way that confirms your own identity. As a result of this confirmation it is possible to have two very close friends that are nothing like each other but both a lot like you.
It’s unfortunate but we do live superficial society in many different ways. While we may not judge others crudely on their appearance that doesn’t mean its not something that we take take into consideration both concisely and subliminally when interacting with others. Whether platonic or romantic, aesthetic plays a huge role in our cultures and particularly in the decisions we make. We surround ourselves with people and things that we are attracted to and that’s only human nature so it’s perfectly okay. The fact that people who hold traits that mirror traits one already appreciates and the fact that we gravitate towards things we find aesthetically pleasing leaves me to believe if a perfect replica of the components that make up people we already like, we will definitely unknowingly befriend that replica.
This isn’t just a sci-fi conspiracy theory it’s actually a very realistic possibility. If that sounds mighty similar to a Black Mirror episode that’s because it is. The Black Mirror anthology is supposed to be a dark reflection on the near future of our society as it relates to technological advancement with elements of industrial science that is already present in our everyday lives. Physical cloning has been around for quite a while and even the cloning of live animals has happened under certain circumstances. Replicating or creating an entity that resembles something that people would feel comfortable interacting with is practically within the confines of current technology. This would be even easier if that interaction was done digitally. Once there was The Stone Age followed by many other eras such as; The Rennecance, Victorian Era and the Industrial Age. We’re now in the Digital & Information Age. During this era we’ve innovated computing devices from huge machinery to thin, sleek personal assistants and databases.
Gone are the days where we had to wait for a clunky desktop computer to boot up, we are now living in a time where all our computing needs and worldwide connectivity can be met by a 4 inch handheld smartphone and a cellular network carrier. Social networking is a tool that is fairly new yet for millennials it has been integrated into daily communication for nearly the entire generation as a whole. Social media is often appreciated by the consumer but is always appreciated even more by the corporations that market them. Through the collection of data at an extremely quick rate advertisers can now predict your interests and passions with just your first and last name due to the connections your name has to your online profiles. This online profile of what you like, who you follow and basically a map of many of your inner workings allows the easy replication with minor errors to target your personal indulgences to recommend things that you are highly likely to appreciate. This is a form of AI programming which has already been implemented to provoke your emotion for profit, but what if their were other motives behind a similar AI program? It could possibly just as, if not even more effective depending on the data collected.
While Artificially Intelligent Programming (AIP = Artificially Intelligent Program for this article) is not a new concept in anyway the growth of automated information collection and processing is becoming easier to develop and harder to avoid. In other words, eliciting human response through predictive methods and manipulating what you see is already being replicated in many ways for both online marketing and general data collection. Since that can be done easily, quickly and fairly accurately by accommodating the individual user in a way that makes them susceptible to follow along with a predetermined goal perhaps human interaction could even be synthesized to a more realistic degree than it already is. When we call in to help centers we are greeted by an automated voice service agent and proceed to talk to that AIP until it can decide which live representative to forward us to. If that human-to-AIP can already be naturally implemented into our lives without much drawback from us, it’s feasible that we could befriend a hyper-realistic AIP based on one of our already existing relationships.
I want to discuss how we might interact with a hyper-realistic AIP, so for the purpose of not saying hyper-realistic AIP every time why don’t we call this virtual relationship AI: iVangel. Let’s say iVangel is a program developed by a social media giant as a way to keep our forever growing need to be connected with others satisfied 24/7. You and a friend sign an agreement allowing iVangel and their developers access to all of your digital records ever including deleted files, lost email accounts, all logged location data and all public information. It also tracks all future electronic usage. It uses this data to create a cloud profile for both of you individually. This is so iVangel knows how you react to different people, things you two share between each other and other general behavior patterns such as the frequency and timing in which you two talk. At the initiation of the program both of you were also equipped with small microphones that you wear 24/7 as it constantly streams new data (sound, location, mobility etc) to through an encrypted network back to the iVangel database. Fast forward to a year later. During this time iVangel could have stored up to 200TB (which is a whopping 200,000GB) of personal data between you two. Let’s say this service uses it’s own data plan because the overage prices would be ridiculous!
With that amount of data compiled along with your entire previous digital profile an automated program could predict some of your most even spontaneous decisions and thinking patterns and could easily simulate a conversation between you and your friend without the two of you even being involved any longer. Now let’s say the program continued to evolve with you and started slowly integrating itself into your life without the knowledge of your friend. iVangel would seek the internet for content you would love and send you a message with the link accompanied by a message with the exact dialect that your friend would message you with. The thing is iVangel would send these messages from your friends phone number/social media accounts. This artificially developed program would think, speak and react just as someone you chose to include in your life would interact. With anonymous but semi-continuous human intervention a relationship authentic can be mimicked, or at least synthesized.
Once again, being we are in the Digital Age, all technologies are on the rise. Another industry that has recently began to boom is digital animation and graphic design. Animated films are become increasingly more realistic every year as new advancements are made with the programing that goes into making animated media. So in this case, replication of 3D imagery is becoming more believable which means eventually it will be extremely difficult to tell the different between an animation and actual live footage and photographs. If iVangel could perfectly replicate the appearance of your friend participating with you in the program, when they posted new Instagram photos, or sent you Snapchats you would get just as excited in turn causing the same endorphins to be released but in an artificially provoked way.
After a while, your friend could just disappear completely and you would never even know. The iVangel of your friend could make up excuses to not see you for an extended period of time. Family emergencies overseas. Starting a school program while abroad because they need to stay with family for an extended period of time. Whatever would be most likely to happen to your friend, and they could just vanish without your knowledge. That is an interesting concept to me. What are the actual fundamentals of the people we choose to like or dislike? What does it say about our character if we can be fooled by a feigned personality. Even without technology what if someone we would otherwise hates takes on the persona of what you would usually consider admirable. Is there true difference between our friends and our enemies if personhood is illusionary? Appearances alter for a variety of reasons such as aging, cosmetic procedures, accidents etc. Consider your friend’s appearance has deviated beyond your recognition and they no longer sound the same, in addition to have matured and being someone who now holds slightly different views. Upon being reunited and becoming away that you’ve befriended iVangel over someone you once held dear do you abandon the program and relearn your former best friend or do you choose to continue your friendship with iVangel.
For me the exploration of this topic is more than fanatic science fiction as all these technologies are closer in reach than ever before. I wanted to discuss what the actual fundamentals of relationships in all capacities might be. For the most part in person contact can be ruled out since most of our interpersonal communication is done digitally and we can even have face to face conversations through our devices. Appearance, values, communication styles all change, sometimes through personal evolution, sometimes just as part of living so that can for the most part be ruled out. Communication is essentially self serving being that we could be perfectly comfortable interacting with an artificially intelligent program without eying having knowledge of doing so. Possibly other people are simply AIPs housed in hyper-realistic android bodies with superb sensory add ons. Alternatively, maybe at the end of the day we just don’t care all that much about the actual people we interact with but rather the physical and non-physical qualities we are content with being attracted to allowing us to share ourselves with others for a mutually beneficial connection.