iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
GET UPDATES FROM David Nordfors

Farewell to Oblivion. Hello, Virtual Me.

Posted: 09/22/11 05:49 PM ET

Bid farewell to oblivion, to be gone and forgotten before long. Prepare to say hello to your virtual self, who will be coming instead.

I can go through my grandparents' information in a week. I can go through my parents' information in a month. It will take a lifetime to go through the information I will be leaving behind. That is a problem. That is an opportunity (like all problems).

Facebook's Timeline was launched the day this piece was written, FB Timeline is a way of creating an overview. But the largest impact of the Timeline launch may be as critical mass for creating a language that enables us to discuss how can we get an overview of our lives. How can we recall our past without getting lost in the details?

One science-fiction way of getting an overview is to re-create a living digital identity from my data, a virtual me, my vee-me, behaving like me, simulating my responses to things. Mix artificial intelligence, data mining, social network analysis, simulation methods, prognosis methods. I can ask Vee-me anything about me, with my own quirky, fuzzy way of speaking. Vee-me will understand what I mean.

I can put Vee-me in charge of routine tasks, like screening information for me. That is what we used to call a digital assistant. Vee-me is more like my equal, but ok -- everybody has to start his career as something.

If you want to meet me for lunch and I don't know you, Vee-me can meet Vee-you first. If they hit it off, let's meet!

Of course, there may be a small problem after a while. If I employ Vee-me as a gatekeeper, I have created an organization. And as everybody knows, as organizations mature, the gatekeeper takes over. If Vee-me takes over, then its no longer me people want to deal with, it's Vee-me, because people like talking to the boss :)

Today we have dating services, targeted ads, contextual ads, personal news filters, filters selecting the important emails, and so on and so on. All these applications have business models -- good ones, too! So there is a lot of money to drive the R&D, and a lot of super innovative companies in the different fields. They will see the convergence coming. Can you imagine the competition for taking the lead in creating the tools that build Vee-me? The competition for hosting Vee-me in their clouds?

One day I will pass away. But Vee-mee will still be alive. My family and friends will be able to entertain themselves with Vee-me when they want to remember me. Just like people look at paintings of their great-grandparents, photos of their grandparents or pictures and videos of their parents. My son may ask Vee-me "Do you remember that day when we had the smoke accident at home? What happened?". Vee-me can tell the story to my son as I would have told it to him.

In fact, Vee-me can get a life of his own at any time. Just cut him off from input from me, and let him generate his own memories. Starting as me, he will evolve into himself.

The questions remains for you and me: Humanity has a history of using unintelligent tools. We are beginning to use intelligent and dynamic tools. We get dependent on them, but we don't see that as competition, because we don't perceive them as having personalities. But what happens when we get tools that we see as our intellectual equals?

I think I got to go back and consult those science fiction novels I read as a teen. If I only had been a bit older when I read them, I would have had them as e-books, it would be much easier. :-)

 

Follow David Nordfors on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dnordfors