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JournalistIamA CNN’s senior tech correspondent who recently watched the real life “her” being built in a sex robot factory and spoke to a woman who brought her dead friend back to life with AI.. it’s like the show Black Mirror.. but it’s real.

Mar 17th 2017 by lsegall • 6 Questions • 48 Points

Hi, I’m Laurie Segall. I have a show that just launched called Mostly Human. Think real-life Black Mirror. Or perhaps a bit Westworld. The series tackles our increasingly complicated relationship with technology. I interviewed a woman who is in love with a robot, explored a sex robot factory where they’re building the real-life “her,” spoke with a woman who brought her dead best friend back to life through artificial intelligence (in the form of a chatbot), and hung out in hacker circles to better understand the first hacker to be killed in a drone strike. Mostly Human also took me inside a psychiatric ward where they’re using minority report like technology on patients. Now is the time to start asking some uncomfortable questions, like, who’s in control.. us or the algorithms? Is human connection needed for happiness? Mostly Human is a series based off a simple concept: We are the beta test. Ask me anything.

Proof: http://money.cnn.com/mostly-human/dead-irl/ Proof: https://twitter.com/LaurieSegallCNN/status/842790234396020736

Q:

Having seen AI in action, how do you feel about the future potential of artificial superintelligence? Do you think it's possible in the first place, and if so, do you see it by nature having more of a positive impact on humanity (like Ray Kurzweil) or as a potential existential threat if not handled correctly (like Elon Musk & Stephen Hawking)?

A:

That's a great question. I think it could go both ways. We've got to start talking ethics and AI. I had an entrepreneur use my personal info and create a chatbot based off of me. That was pretty interesting and scary at the same time. The chatbot was able to capture things I don't really say too often. It had aspects of my personality. It could be seen as me, but it's not. You could create one of these for anyone with all the information we leave out there. AI helps create better jobs and does quite a bit of good. But think about AI and Facebook - how fake news went viral - an algorithm noticed people were spending time on these viral stories and optimized that, pushed them out even further. No one coded ethics into the equation. They did after the fact. Tech is a double edge sword. It's neutral - but could do good and bad. The show is aimed at talking about that a bit..


Q:

Definitely agree that tech is a double-edged sword. A big part of the reason I lean more towards the "this could all end horribly" camp is merely the fact that so few people are taking the idea of ASI seriously and talking about it, so I'm excited that your show is finally shining on light on parts of the technology conversation that sometimes make people uncomfortable (sexuality+tech, strong AI, digital death) and getting that thought process started.

A:

Thanks! I think we should start talking about these things. I spent years covering startups before they got big. I'm much more interested now in the implications of technology. How will AI impact us? What does death mean in the digital age? How are our behaviors changing? It's such a fascinating time. As someone who's been interested in the fringe stories... the underground tech... I can finally say we're seeing a lot of this go mainstream. I was going to Defcon five years ago. Now hacking is the conversation behind the US election. The goal of Mostly Human is to make folks think about something they never thought of. Hope you'll binge watch!


Q:

I'm much more interested now in the implications of technology

Especially now, this is an endlessly fascinating topic...so much so that I should probably figure out a way to start making a living off all of the reading/watching/thinking/writing I do about it before the obsession starts to threaten my day job. The pace of technological process is so fast now that the fringe quickly becomes mainstream before the important conversations about implications have a chance to take place. Scary/exciting.

Hope you'll binge watch!

Came across Dead, IRL last night and am now officially hooked, so yeah, consider the binge begun.

A:

amazing! Hope you enjoy it. Each episode is completely different but hopefully they'll all help you look at a topic vaguely "tech" through another lens


Q:

Did they delete the bot they made of you, or is it still kicking around on their servers?

A:

Ha. Well, let's put it this way. My bot isn't coming out of beta any time soon. I gave the entrepreneur who created it A LOT of personal text messages etc. What I found is you have to be willing to look in the digital mirror if you want to be part of the experiment. My bot started saying some embarrassing things. It was a bit passive aggressive. At first we thought it'd be fun to make it public, but after playing with it for a bit, I definitely didn't want the whole world to have access to it. It almost felt violating in a way. My bot was also very funny. It was like your fun friend...


Q:

After seeing what your bot was like, do you think you'd want one of your boyfriend? Good friends? Your mom? It seems like there would be a big difference between playing with the bot for fun and using it as a mourning tool.

A:

I actually had a conversation with my boyfriend about it. He played with my bot and it was incredibly strange. I don't think I'd want him to have it if I were to go. Honestly, it was so uncontrollable. It would take things I'd said or joked about long before he was in the picture, and casually text them. Here's an embarrassingly personal example... I had a private conversation with a friend of mine who was recently single and had just attended burning man for the first time. She made a joke about doing mushrooms and dating a lot. All of a sudden, the Laurie Bot responded to a question about the meaning of life saying "doing mushrooms and dating a lot." That's not how I feel (no judgement here) but it would be perceived as me. Now, imagine my boyfriend reading that if I were to go. Also... it could be really difficult to divide the man and the machine. The entrepreneur who created a bot for her dead friend couldn't show it to his mom. She had too much trouble with it and the Roman bot could've talked his mom into anything. The ability for tech to create such raw emotion is there. I think we have to be careful with it. After seeing how my bot turned out, I wouldn't want people to use it as a mourning tool. I can't figure out if it would help or hurt, to be honest.


Q:

I watched the episode yesterday. It was great. My question was more about if would you want bots of your loved ones when they pass (mom, bf, etc). I guess if you weren't happy with your bot, you probably would have reservations about their bots as well.

A:

yea, I personally would not. We used all the texts from my good friends so conversations meant for one person, seemed to be casually texted to other people. I think you could try to limit the data to make your bot represent you at certain times - for example, someone in the eighties using their text messages, emails, from when they were in their forties, and creating a bot based off them when they were younger and healthier. That could be interesting. But to be honest, I think it would be harder to have something responding like me, even if a bit off, that makes it feel like I'm there. It's a mind bender. I think it would make it harder for the people I love to move on. But I think people all grieve differently. I could see it working for some people.