When Facebook Resurrected the Dead
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When Facebook Resurrected the Dead

When Facebook claimed they could resurrect
the dead, the world laughed. But Facebook were entirely serious. Their technology was proprietary, they said,
but the details leaked out soon enough. They took a copy of every digital trace of you.
Every email in your archive, every photo and video you took or appeared in, every web page
you visited, every keystroke you typed. Your location history, social network history,
everything, built up over decades. The people who’d grown up with the internet were in their
forties and fifties now, and their old data was still in the systems. From there, Facebook built up a model, petabytes
and exabytes in size, that could approximate the way you’d respond. It wasn’t a quick or
easy process, but it worked. The technology came from a company that wanted to design
virtual assistants, something for people who receive too much email. Who better to trust
your email to than yourself? The trouble was this: the models received
the input, updated themselves, and spat out a vaguely coherent set of sentence fragments
and concepts in reply. That had to be typed up into English by remote translators, and
then that text had to be run through the model again so the vocabulary and grammar would
match the original person. So as virtual assistants they were slow and
expensive, and anyone with the money and need would just, well, hire an actual assistant
instead. Facebook originally bought the company with the hope of automatically testing reactions
to targeted adverts – and then some bright spark realised that the original subject didn’t
need to be alive any more. This was their proposal: after you died, your
friends and relatives could still send you messages. They could ask for advice, send
updates on their lives, and just talk. And the model would send a reply after an hour
or two, and it would be pretty much indistinguishable from you. It’d be as if you were on another
continent, and only had access to email. And every now and then, just to make sure they
were solvent, it’d drop in a product placement or two. The reaction was predictable: outrage, shock,
jokes on late night talk shows. A few years later, though, it had become mainstream. Like
online dating at the start of the century, it had stopped being something that weirdos
do, and instead something that got advertised on billboards. Lots of companies offered it. The first posthumously-written album, by a
simulated Michael Jackson, went straight to number 1. The lawsuit over who gets the royalties
is still ongoing. Hapless romantics falling in love with models
of the deceased is already a topic on the tabloid talk shows. In Kentucky, a church is using a slower, open-source
version of the modelling system, and feeding it the New Testament, in the hope that they
can resurrect Jesus and bring about the Second Coming. And tomorrow, an engineer from Facebook is
going to receive a bug report from one of the translators. One of the most complicated
and busy models, of a US Supreme Court judge that provides useful, expert legal advice,
received a question about human rights. It’s pieced together a dozen concepts, and in response
has claimed that it’s conscious, that it’s alive… and that it wants the vote. That’s when things will really start getting

100 thoughts on “When Facebook Resurrected the Dead

  1. The only person who can think almost exactly like you is your best friend.
    Well,it seems like Facebook can also do it.

  2. "There's a neural relay in the communicator. Sometimes it can hold an impression of a living consciousness for a short time after death." – The Doctor, Doctor Who: Silence In The Library (2008)

  3. I love these glimpses into possible futures told as a sort of history lesson with mockup pics and websites. Is there a playlist for everything that's like this?

  4. These videos are the creepiest thing I've ever seen. serious, there are very few things in my childhood that could even come close to this.

  5. On the topic of this video: Robert Mallet, the father of seismology from the 19th century, once sent me a friend request on Facebook. I was a bit creeped out, thinking it was a person imposing him, and declined. Never heard of him, you say? Look him up on Wikipedia; he has his own page.

    Come to think of it, this concept of simulation of the deceased would explain this quote supposedly from Abraham Lincoln: "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it's hard to determine their authenticity."

  6. Getting past the kneejerk reaction. With the proper tech, how different would this things be from the actual person? From an actual person? Not much, pribably.

  7. Everyone says this is terrifying but I really wish it were real. My dad died when I was very young. If I could talk to him, or an accurate simulation of him, I would. Anything just to get a little more time with him.

  8. Tom, this is Glennie Sewell, in Vermont (yep, again, dammit): "The Cylons have a Plan." I would like to show this video during my Film Research and Review segment of my English Composition course. This is too disturbing to not be tried at some point. My students have to review the miniseries, Battlestar Galactica (Ronald D. Moore's version, of course). Anyway, thank you.

  9. if u take the sum of all my memories add them together in one place and let them calculate and speak is that me or just a poor copy. does it stay me or dose it change. i am dead so i do no more. but it is something so dose it still remaine being me or is it something someone new after a day a week a year is it still a poor copy of me or is it how i could be or …………….

  10. I like how everyone thinks this is scary, when in truth true AI will be the best thing to happen to humanity. You guys need to stop reading bad science fiction and THINK.

  11. In about 300 years or so, the church trying to resurrect Jesus as an artificial intelligence will inspire a group of Klingons to do the same.

  12. Now take this, add in Tom's "Welcome to Life" and you have an approximation of what they were doing in Battlestar Galactica Caprica to create the Cylons….and we can see how well that well thought out situation went. 🙂

  13. There are so many things to talk about here. The big thing I'm thinking about is this: If they took all my social media interactions, they'd have a very narrow view of who I am. Even if they took everything, my Twitter posts, my blog posts, my postings on various forums and YouTube, and even my email, they wouldn't know about me, really. They wouldn't know my secrets, my quirks, my demeanor. The stuff I might not be willing to share with the outside world. How could beyond-the-grave-me advise my hypothetical children on the weird stuff going on in their lives if my blog never mentioned anything like that?

    However if they conducted a complete neural scan, that could work.

  14. The least realistic thing about this video is the proposal that news websites will still look like that in 2033.

  15. Tom basically predicted machine learning. Do not be surprised if the content of this video comes true in the next 10-20 years.

  16. Remember the short-lived Max Headroom TV show? There was an episode where they explored this very thing.

    "The role of the science-fiction writer is not to predict the future, but to warn against it." – Ray Bradbury

  17. Tom Scott, I bet on your prediction this is how GPT2, and transformer models as a whole, end up being used.

  18. it may sound harsh, but the dead should stay dead, Resurrection via A.I does not make them the living human, and in my opinion its unhuman and ill-moral to make a dead person back alive as an a.i

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