This iconic scene from John Krisfaluchi’s Ren and Stimpy television series epitomizes man’s duality. Do we have empathy for our fellow man, will we protect the earth and everything we love, or impulsively sacrifice ourselves to the false god of progress and the legions of unintended consequences it unleashes?

I recently published an interview with co-founder and CEO Tom Graham on his company’s Deep Fake Tom Cruise videos, made with Generative AI and so good we can’t tell what’s real anymore. As I edited and thought about it, it scared the f * out of me.

Consider this. Soon we will be able to train a model of ourselves to run a virtual being, that can convincingly move and speak like us. It would have your identical voice, and you trained it to be deeply knowledgeable about your life and history. For a few minutes, it might be able to fool someone who knows you IRL. This AI-powered digital twin would survive us to become a legacy. It would be like you (the idealized you), walk like you, talk like you, think like you. This AI may be passed down to you. It could meet your ancestors and give them advice, share your values and view of the world. It would be part of your personal history.

It’s very possible in the next ten years I will create an AI-enabled avatar that will survive me as an independent being digital twin. It would be a weird kind of immortality, but people who can afford it will do it. MIT Professor Patti Maes talks about how mobile phones have changed our relationship with reality, with families, and each other. Today we are always available, yet rarely present. Gen AI might change the nature of death.

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This technology changes the nature of reality by changing memories, and replacing reality with memories more suitable to our emotional needs.

Driven by an AI model your AI avatar might be uncannily close to what you would actually say were you present. Perhaps your ancient avatar will become friends with your fifth-generation ancestor, the great-grandson of your great-grandson. To people in a simulation with your AI-driven digital twin, you will interact with such realism that you remember your interchange as real. Maybe my surviving digital twin will keep learning and experiencing new things with other avatars.

Changing people’s memories might help those traumatized by violence and war, but it would also meet the definition of brainwashing.

Training the AI of yourself would allow you to present the best you to history. You can train your doppelganger to present any past you want to your ancestors. My father was a dentist in the second world war, but when he told his children and grandchildren about his experience, he was a paratrooper. Thanks to Generative AI, we won’t have to pretend.

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Make no mistake. Humans are apes with guns, unhindered by unintended consequences. With GenAI making digital twins that look and sound like us, and with AI’s semantic understanding of language, voice recognition, computer vision, we are standing before the history eraser button, telling each other not to touch it while secretly scheming to use it to our advantage.

What could go wrong?

Header image credit Kim Gorga on Unsplash

Charlie Fink is the author of the AR-enabled books “Metaverse,” (2017) and “Convergence” (2019). In the early 90s, Fink was EVP & COO of VR pioneer Virtual World Entertainment. He teaches at Chapman University in Orange, CA.

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