The fictional series, Babel Rising, written in the period 1998-1999, breathes of technologies that, at the turn of the century, were just about emerging. By now, in 2018, a lot of these technologies are almost ubiquitous already: large-screen video walls, Internet-enabled smart ovens & refrigerators (just attend consumer electronics shows where leading developers the likes of Samsung, LG, Apple, Google present their latest wares to find out what’s out there already on the Internet of Things); intelligent personal assistants (such as the Alexa app), artificial intelligence (AI) content writers, poet-bots, chat-bots…
Some of these technologies are already mature, like video walls, but can always be developed further to extend their capabilities (think of 3-D scanning/printing enabling the transmission of solid objects over great distances in almost real time during teleconferences); others remain more of a promise for now, with some of their building blocks still being made to talk and collaborate with each other in deep-learning training and test laboratories, but nevertheless already available in basic bits and pieces in the market (ie, Google Glass for example has the potential to capture everything one sees, and send them all to a deep-learning repository to help build your digital identity; your smartphone already possesses the ability to record and archive all of your auditory input/output traffic, but I am getting ahead). These technologies are here already, and they are leading us through uncharted territories to a more interesting future.
In any case, let us cut to the chase, and focus on the one technology that Babel Rising is mainly all about: the promise of AI as represented by the character Hans.
Could the Hans character really be an AI or just a human behind a false identity (similar to that celebrated Santiago Swallow identity, perhaps)?
With the way identity thefts, false accounts and fake news have become a major pressing issue of the Internet landscape and the new media now, giving rise to so-called social media influencers, hackers and even trolls impacting societies in ways that could even lead to life/death situations on a massive scale, you can be excused for thinking that the Hans chatter could well be a human with a stolen or fake identity.
But let’s look at the possibility that Hans is AI: could an artificial intelligence take over the identity of a real human being after his death, thus augmenting the existence of the human being in cyberspace? National Geographic, in a very engaging docudrama series “Year Million”, advances that not only would such a creature be able to exist in cyberspace, it will moreso be able to coexist with humans in the real world, even merging physically with humans to form an intelligent android / superhuman species in an eventual technological singularity.
Still stuff of the future for now, you might say, but what about now?
Below is an intriguing write-up by Adrienne Matei on the emerging ‘augmented eternity’ of digital identities and existence:
The Emerging Augmented Eternity
New technology is forcing us to confront the ethics of bringing people back from the dead
“…The possibility of digitally interacting with someone from beyond the grave is no longer the stuff of science fiction. The technology to create convincing digital surrogates of the dead is here, and it’s rapidly evolving, with researchers predicting its mainstream viability within a decade …” — read more here from Adrienne Matei’s engaging article at qz.com
Many of the links embedded here go to the Wikipedia site. They are provided mainly as starting points for those who would like to explore these topics in more depth.
Some of the linked articles are, by their nature, quite long and will require serious reading to digest, but nevertheless, they make for engaging reading, and for the most part, are understandable to the layman.
The linked National Geographic video is about 47 minutes in length.
— SSJ, 16 March 2018
Here are the links again. I hope you take the time to explore them: