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Old 10-07-2012, 02:26 PM
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
16,876 posts, read 51,428,878 times
Reputation: 27798


I got to musing last night (always a dangerous idea for me) about some of the threads here. The thread title I use is not exact, but there is no word yet for what I'm going to attempt to describe. Bear with me.

First, to place the idea in context -
When men were hunter gatherers, a person was limited in how far they could travel by their feet, how far they could see by their eyes, hear by their ears, and experience time by their own lifespan. It was impossible without a telephone to talk to someone even a couple of miles away, impossible to see someone over a hill without a telescope or some sort of tele-presence, or know what an ancestor looked like without photography.

Within the past hundred years, we have rapidly learned how to have skype-type conversations with people a world away, use film and digital means to peer into the past, and otherwise extend the boundaries of our senses.

Next, to bring in the availability of raw material -
I've been writing on BBSs, Compuserve, usenet, and forums, as well as in emails for close to forty years. All that information is stored on various servers and archival data banks. In those forty years, I've answered a lot of questions and given many opinions, to the point that someone with sufficient insanity and patience could probably dig through to find my viewpoint on most anything of interest to me, and infer my viewpoints or thoughts on many other things, as well as determine how those have changed over time. In essence, the raw data to create a shell persona exists.

I'm not the only person for which such data exists, and in many ways I'm a piker. Ben Franklin was a prolific writer and diarist, as were many great people and public figures. Stephen Hawking has to talk through a computer, so the potential for his data is immense. It is possible to search for opinions by many of these public figures, even though they are long dead. The problem is that it does take searching, and the material is rarely a direct answer to any question that might be posed.

Next, a possible mechanism -
Remember Big Blue on Jeopardy? Remember how it took a question, parsed it, and came up with probabilities of answers? It was easily able to win over Ken Jennings and others in retrieving trivia information, and express it as a statement.

Now for the idea -
By using the algorithms used in Big Blue, and inputting all of the writings of Franklin and about Franklin, as well as the ability to access data from the era when he lived, it should be possible to create a shell persona of Franklin, where you would ask it a question as if you were talking with Franklin, and it would give back the response that Franklin would likely have spoken. As a side-note, it would be able to footnote the references, so the response could be verified for accuracy. In the case of more recent personalities, even the voice could be synthesized and an on-screen face animated. After a few years of tweaking algorithms it would likely be possible to have first person phone conversations with the persona shells of many historical figures, as well as ersatz conversations with dummies like me.

I suspect that we are a lot closer to being able to do this than most people might think. Siri ously.

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