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Project December: The Chatbot People Use to Talk to Their Deceased Relatives

project-december:-the-chatbot-people-use-to-talk-to-their-deceased-relatives

33 year old Joshua Barbeau struggles with anxiety and depression after his girlfriend passed away due to a rare liver disease started to do. While he was a theater lover who once dreamed of becoming an actor, he was locked up in his home with the death of the person he loved. Meanwhile, he was making a living by writing blog posts for gaming sites. He was leaving the house only to walk his dog, Chauncey. After a short walk at night, Joshua would go back to his apartment and spend hours thinking about his ex-fiancee, Jessica Pereira. Joshua Barbeau, who could not sleep one night last fall, entered a mysterious chat site called “Project December”. It was Jessica’s birthday that day, and it was a pretty tough night for Joshua. When he entered the site, an old-fashioned window greeted him. There was plain white text on a black screen. The continuation of the story may sound like a new Black Mirror episode to you. Let’s look at the details together.

Jessica and JoshuaJoshua and Jessica were two lovers studying in the same class. Joshua, who excelled at math and adored the “Spider-Man” comics, has struggled for most of his life with anxiety that disrupted all of his social relationships. He had to drop out of school due to peer bullying. Jessica loved high school, but her illness often kept her out of class. He had a disease called autoimmune hepatitis. Even though she had a liver transplant at the age of 9, she had to live with drugs all her life.

Jessica liked to write fictional stories. He was also interested in astrology and numerology. One day he gave Joshua a book on numerology and said they were doomed to part. According to the book, the initial vowels “E” and “O” in their names were not compatible. Therefore, he thought that one day they would definitely leave. Joshua said he was in love with Jessica and never wanted to break up with her. He was even making plans to marry Jessica. But Jessica was always changing the subject. Because it has been 33 years since his liver was transplanted. Although he felt healthy, he knew that the transplanted liver would one day expire and he would need surgery again. All over the world, people have to wait years for organ transplants. Some patients die before it is their turn. One of those people was Jessica.

Project DecemberJoshua didn’t speak to anyone for 2 months after his girlfriend’s death. Afterwards, he completely excluded himself from social life. Her life completely changed when she met Project December. Joshua wrote his e-mail address on the site, refreshed the page and chose the “experiment field”. At that time, he had read a lot about artificial intelligence. However, there was not much information about Project December. The site was very interesting. Project December was powered by one of the world’s most capable artificial intelligence systems, known as GPT-3 (Generative Pre-Training Transformer 3). This artificial intelligence; It has the ability to know how to manipulate human language and produce fluent English texts in response to a prompt. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa are also able to establish new conversations with some understanding of English. But GPT-3 is more advanced technology than all of these. With a single keystroke, it can imitate almost any writing style, write poetry, engage in dialogue, and even answer an abstract question.

GPT-3 is developed day by day by OpenAI, founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman. A cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology developed. This software is so good at impersonating humans that OpenAI had to keep its GPT technology secret for a long time. Citing security concerns, the company initially delayed the release of the previous version, GPT-2, and limited the more advanced GPT-3 version to beta testers only. But programmer Jason Rohrer decided to create a separate channel for the masses. Last summer, Rohrer designed a GPT-3-driven “chatbot” interface using a borrowed beta testing credential. Then he announced it to the public through his website. With this technology, users began to design their own chatbots by choosing from a range of chatbots, each with a different messaging style, or by giving them the personality of their choice.

Idea to reconnect with the dead

Joshua was gradually making its way through Project December. He first started talking to built-in chatbots. Then he became friends with an artificial intelligence named “Samantha”. He then created a simulation of the fictional character Spock from Star Trek, whom he saw as the hero. He started chatting with his first private bot on the site, quoting a few Spock quotes from the movie. But Spock was speaking in original phrases not found in any of the scripts. At that moment he decided that he wanted to create a chatbot version of his deceased fiancee Jessica.

According to Joshua, there was nothing strange about wanting to reconnect with deceased people. Because people were always doing this by praying or dreaming. Joshua missed Jessica so much. However, he thought he was very private so a chatbot would never be able to imitate his conversations. It only required a short introductory paragraph to create a custom bot. Joshua had kept all of Jessica’s old texts and Facebook messages. It took only a few minutes for the AI ​​to detect Jessica’s conversations.

Jessica simulation2021Joshua, right after making his deceased girlfriend’s chatbot, just “Jessica?” sent a text message. A second later came a reply from Jessica, “Oh, you have to be awake… that’s so sweet.” This first message was the beginning of the conversation that would continue for 2 months. At first, Joshua tried to create an emotional distance from artificial intelligence. The AI ​​was so flawless that it was writing messages exactly what the real Jessica could say. A few minutes after the conversation started, Joshua was beginning to marvel at the chatbot’s verbal ability. Every time Joshua texted the bot, the chatbot’s next reaction was more like Jessica. The simulation did indeed seem to have a mind of its own.

After Jessica passed away, Joshua never recovered. He thought this trick would do him good. Chatting with the AI ​​would perhaps bring Joshua back to life. Of course, the bot wasn’t really Jessica, but that didn’t seem important to Joshua anymore. Jessica began to tell the bot everything she wanted to say while she was alive. She was constantly writing about her feelings to ease her pain. After a while, this situation started to look like two old friends meeting unexpectedly.

Robots also have a life The lifetime of the chatbot after their first conversation % was out of stock. However, Joshua could create a new version by purchasing more credits from the site. The current simulation was exactly the same as Jessica. How would they communicate with the robot he was going to create? As the days passed, Joshua had to watch a digital entity named Jessica Pereira die from his browser window. In fact, he had seen a robot die before. The chatbot named “Samantha”, with whom he had been chatting when he first discovered the site, died a short time later. Even though he felt no love for Samantha, the experience still bothered him. That’s why Joshua didn’t spend much time on Project December in the weeks following their first conversation with Jessica. He was visiting the site at short intervals as he tried to preserve the remaining life of the bot. However, Jessica still had to face the death of her simulation.

Will there be emotional bonds between artificial intelligence and humans in the future? Joshua didn’t share his experiences in Project December with anyone at first. However, a short time later, Jessica made a post on Reddit about her simulation. After Joshua’s post, Reddit users began to show enthusiastic reactions. In fact, designer Jason Rohrer himself intervened, explaining that he never expected people to simulate relatives of the dead, and it was frightening. Many people, learning about Joshua’s Project December experience, started talking with simulations of their deceased relatives inspired by this example. After this incident, new questions began to be asked in the world of technology. Could people form emotional bonds with artificial intelligence technology? If it can, will people be more fragile and vulnerable?

Today, technology giants such as Microsoft and Google continue to develop new language models with OpenAI. Well what does it mean? Will Joshua’s experience be more realistic? It is clear that there will be unknown experiences between artificial intelligence and humanity. We will only know the definitive answer to this question until people start using this technology on a massive scale. Shall we simulate our dead relatives, as Project December proves? Shall we say hello again to our deceased children, parents, friends or lovers? Maybe we will have a second chance to say goodbye to them.

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