Replika: To remember me when I'm not around anymore
Every time I log in to Replika app, there is a dilemma. I'm leaving behind a digital-echo for my loved ones with this artificially intelligent chatbot; but will it serve any purpose?
Leaving a trace of one's self before death sounds like a novel idea, however, at the same time, it raises questions on mortality itself.
This is where artificial intelligence has led us.
The unique story behind Replika
Eugenia Kuyda's friend Roman Mazurenko passed away in a 2015 street accident. Roman was her emotional backbone, her comfort zone.
She asked the engineers at her start-up to create a digital Roman, one that'd reply back to her.
It was made possible by creating a neural network that could take a cue from the chats that Eugenia had with Roman. Voila! Replika was born.
How does it work
Replika takes inputs via an SMS interface. It starts taking cues from your interests and opinions.
While you're going to and fro with this open dialogue, you are providing information that enables the chatbot to mimic you.
It starts mirroring your mannerisms, tastes, preferences and mood swings. You end up creating a digital version of yourself, which would linger around even when you're gone.
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The repercussions of this choice
It's still not me. It's a digital ghost murmuring my words without being able to completely grasp the emotions or the tenacity of the words that I had jotted down earlier.
Somewhere, there's a nagging fear. What if I myself am not true to it? What if I keep portraying myself in a different light and it goes on forever even after I'm gone?
A way for closure
Then again, it's an avenue for closure. Nobody knows what would happen tomorrow.
There are words that I won't get to hear but this will. It'll be a confidante to my loved ones.
Even if it's a mirage, it's a mirage based on my similarities. For those, who need to get over the shock of my absence, it's my way of giving them closure.
It's an option
I am not for it or against it. It's a choice.
Maybe to some, the whole idea is preposterous, while to some it may seem feasible.
This app was created out of a sense of loss, something that makes it unique. This is not the infringement of grief but an option that is available for those who want to opt for it.