Main image of article SXSW: Do Androids Dream of Being You?
Digital-assistant software such as Siri and Google Now has become progressively more mainstream over the past few years, showcasing some significant gains in the field of artificial intelligence. But as with any industry, there exists a substantial gap between the mass-produced products already on the market, and what’s theoretically possible with bleeding-edge technology. Within the artificial-intelligence community, a prime example of the latter is Bina48. (Who, as the above image demonstrates, comes with pretty realistic eyes for an automation.) In 2010, Dr. Martine Rothblatt (founder of United Theraputics and Sirius Radio) decided to build a robotic clone of her partner, also named Bina. In theory, this “mindclone” can successfully mimic the flesh-and-blood Bina’s speech and decision-making, thanks to a dataset (called a “mindfile”) that contains all sorts of information about her mannerisms, beliefs, recollections, values, and experiences. But is software really capable of replicating a person’s mind? Check out the latest robotics jobs. At this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, Rothblatt pointed out that everybody already has a “mindfile” of sorts: their social network, augmented by sensors and data from the Internet of Things. Throw in data from email and productivity tools such as Trello, and a “mindclone” could quickly pick up its subject’s professional mannerisms, as well. As a proof of concept, Bina48 is quite sophisticated; this video from Bloomberg shows how she handles some complex problems and emotions. That raises some interesting questions: If a robot understands enough to learn and make decisions, for example, does the machine deserve the same rights as a human being? What about if that robot “feels” emotion? People may have difficulty embracing something engineered to replicate their behavior, but Rothblatt suggested younger generations will embrace the robots: “I think younger people will say ‘My mindclone is me, too.’” The essence of being, she added, is your consciousness, rather than your body. As Bina48 develops, she could eventually solve a problem faced by pretty much everybody: how to be in two (or more) places at once. But the machine’s artificial intelligence still has a long way to go in order to reach that point.

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