A very interesting book just hit the market. Written by Martine Rothblatt — apparently she is America’s top paid female CEO — its title is Virtually Human: The Promise — and the Peril — of Digital Immortality. The subject is digital clones, and Rothblatt goes into depth about what they are, when they are coming, and the likelihood they eventually will have equal human rights.
The premise is fascinating, and I now can foresee a future when we won’t be able to survive successfully without one — and that future is coming damned fast. I’ll explain, and then close with my product of the week: an amazing new set of headphones from Plantronics.
A Digital Clone
It’s interesting thinking about this. As you might recall, a few years back there was a lot of talk about creating biological clones and the need for huge bans preventing the practice for any reason except, possibly, organ harvesting. I think people were scared that these things would become monsters or some such.
The thing is, if you were to print a 3D copy of yourself, it basically would be a vegetable that was good only for organ harvesting, because it would be an adult without any skills — couldn’t walk, talk, feed itself, comprehend, etc. Even if you taught it all of those things, it wouldn’t be you, which I think was kind of the goal — to create a form of immortality by creating copies of yourself.
Granted, if you could transplant the brain, then having a brand new body every 20 years until your brain failed could be a superset of plastic surgery. It might slow down dementia, but eventually you’d have to deal with the brain problem. Otherwise, you’d just be a demented person with a young body.
A digital clone is an electronic copy of your personality. Virtually Human describes how one of the first digital clones was created and interacted with.
A digital clone wouldn’t be built as you were built. It wouldn’t come into existence biologically and then duplicate every one of your experiences, interactions and learning moments. Instead, it would be created to emulate you and to learn largely by observing or being programmed to act as you now do. Strangely, the end result would be far more likely to be a match than if you tried the impossible task of growing it as you were grown.
Advantages of a Digital Clone
One of the big advantages of a digital clone would be that since it would exist in a computer, it wouldn’t have hormones. It wouldn’t have the animalistic parts of the brain that often drive humans to be inconsistent — to do what, in hindsight, are stupid things, because of emotions. One of the interesting things is that without those aspects, it isn’t a perfect clone either, so the more stable it is in relation to you, the less like you the clone is — the less it actually is a clone.
A digital clone could operate at machine speed and make decisions without bias — but using the same values you’d use. Think of starting the day not with hundreds of emails but maybe just one that required your personal involvement. Imagine having a system that would respond as you would to all of them and then, in a page, summarize what it did.
Think of a system that could scan most all of the Web in real time and just let you know about the stuff, regardless of where it was, that you’d really be interested in — as if you’d looked at everything personally. It would learn about everything from the cool product you didn’t know you really wanted to a cure for an illness that might otherwise kill you.
Having a clone that could operate like an assistant on steroids — but with your value system — could massively simplify your life and turn your work week from what it is to just a few hours. Granted, at some point, you kind of wonder whether the company might just start paying you for those few hours, so there is a reason to be concerned– but then you could have more than one clone, and you might have hundreds of jobs and a total income that could be far greater then you could earn today.
Hmm. Rather than living a simple life, we could all become CEOs — at least, the most successful among us — of thousands of digital clones of us. For some reason, I’m now recalling the old Twilight Zone episode, The Brain Center at Whipples, and it isn’t a pleasant memory.
Wrapping Up: The Future
The 8088 — the processor often credited with creating the modern computing world — just had its 40th anniversary. I’ve been asked what I think the next 40 years will bring. My answer is a blend of human and digital components with the home — a result that benefits the human race, rather than catastrophically replacing it.
In other words, I hope that digital clones will make the world a better place for us — not that the world will be a better place because we aren’t around anymore. That’s something to ponder.
Product of the Week: Plantronics Backbeat Pro
I like listening to music — I like it a lot. However, most of the good headphones ask you to choose between whether they are wireless or noise-canceling, and to pick from a selection of bright candy colors that make you look like a lollypop. Even when I was young, I didn’t like wearing extremely bright colors, because I thought they made me look goofy.
That is why I fell in love with Plantronics new Backbeat Pro headphones. First, they are black, so they look elegant rather than designed for a 10-year-old. Second, they have both active noise cancellation and wireless capability. Third, they have 21 hours of battery life with everything turned on. Fourth, they use NFC for setup — which means if you have an NFC phone, and I do, you touch the headphones to the phone and they automatically pair. Fifth, the controls are intuitive. I didn’t have to open the instruction book to find anything — often I have to do that these days just to find the damn on-switch. Finally, they sound fantastic.
You’d think it would be easy to create a product like this, but apparently it isn’t, because this is the first set of headphones I’ve had that didn’t have at least one substantial thing I hated about it. That alone would be reason to make this my product of the week, but I really love these headphones, which actually is why Plantronics Backbeat Pro is my product of the week.