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A Dying Father, A Grieving Son, And The Quest For Artificial Immortality

A Dying Father, A Grieving Son, And The Quest For Artificial Immortality

How far would you be willing to go to somehow preserve the memory of someone you lost? When James Vlahos found out his father was dying of lung cancer, he set out to create a chatbot fueled by a treasure trove of interviews with his dad, and artificial intelligence software. The end result is the Dadbot, a program that questions if artificial immortality might actually exist.

Listen as Vlahos describes the experience of interviewing his father during the final months of his life, and how an early interest in computers as a kid - and a New York Times Magazine article about a talking Barbie doll - helped bring the Dadbot to life. It says the kinds of things James’ father would say, it cracks the same jokes, it even sometimes sings songs, using audio clips from the oral history interviews. 

And while the technology at play might still be in its infancy and certainly has its critics, Vlahos suspects that the idea of artificial immortality - when we use modern technology to better preserve the memory of those we’ve lost and even interact with their avatars after the real people are gone - will be a very real part of our future.

  • Read Vlahos’ article about the Dadbot in Wired here.

  • Watch Vlahos use the Dadbot here.

  • Learn more about Vlahos’ new book on voice computing here.

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