Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
AI Communications Software Hardware Science Technology

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad (www.cbc.ca) 114

theodp writes: In A Son's Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source), James Vlahos recounts his efforts to turn the story of his father's life -- as told by his 80-year-old Dad in his final months after being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer -- into what Vlahos calls "a Dadbot -- a chatbot that emulates not a children's toy but the very real man who is my father." Given the limits of tech at the time (2016) and his own inexperience as a programmer, Vlahos recognized that the bot would never be more than a shadow of his real dad, but hoped to get the bot to communicate in his father's distinctive manner and convey at least some sense of his personality. Of the first time he demoed the bot for his parents, Vlahos writes: "Emboldened, I bring up something that has preoccupied me for months. 'This is a leading question, but answer it honestly,' I say, fumbling for words. 'Does it give you any comfort, or perhaps none -- the idea that whenever it is that you shed this mortal coil, that there is something that can help tell your stories and knows your history?' My dad looks off. When he answers, he sounds wearier than he did moments before. 'I know all of this shit,' he says, dismissing the compendium of facts stored in the Dadbot with a little wave. But he does take comfort in knowing that the Dadbot will share them with others. 'My family, particularly. And the grandkids, who won't know any of this stuff.' He's got seven of them, including my sons, Jonah and Zeke, all of whom call him Papou, the Greek term for grandfather. 'So this is great,' my dad says. 'I very much appreciate it.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dadbot: How a Son Made a Chatbot of His Dying Dad

Comments Filter:
  • An easy task (Score:5, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @11:35PM (#54843935)

    The chat bot really only needs to handle a few phrases...

    "What a day, I'm beat"
    "Turn the game on"
    "When's dinner?"
    "Bring me another beer!"
    and
    "If you don't start behaving right now, I'm turning this car around!"

  • That's the plot of Zendegi by Greg Egan. It didn't end well...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @11:48PM (#54844001)

    When you speak to a person, it's a low bandwidth transfer. It doesn't really tell you how they feel or all the detail of what they mean.

    As you interact with people over time, you build up a model of them. That model runs in YOUR brain. Part of *them* is actually running in *you*. As they speak that fires the model and its the model that lets you understand them from all the context, not the few words they speak.

    As they grow old, they tire, they speak less, and your model of them fills in more of the detail. They fade, the model of them in you grows.

    Until they pass, and then it's all model and no dad. He's still there, just not running on its main core.

    I'm sure many people notice that as they grow older, they sound like their dads, but its also part that the model of their dad becomes more like them. It's a living model, not a static snapshot.

    You see, you are your dad. The best model you can make is to remember him, run that model, it's far more than words, it's smiles and confusion, and microcues and anger, and pride, etc etc.. the words to someone else do not trigger those memory. They're just words.

    I had a daughter recently, I showed her to my dad, he said "it has a face only a mother could love" with a big smile on his face. But he's just an ashes in an urn, that's just the bit of him that runs in me.

    • I didn't ask for these feels

    • by rastos1 ( 601318 )
      Very, very well said. Hats off to you, sir.
    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      So in this analogy, what is sex?

    • This is just beautiful. And a great thing to say to non-theists when searching for the right words of condolence.
    • Need to activate your garbage collector to delete those code fragments that are deprecated ("look up the address in mapsco") or deemed a waste of resources ("back in my day...") or harmful to the host system ("you'll never amount to anything").
    • ... The best model you can make is to remember him, run that model, it's far more than words, it's smiles and confusion, and microcues and anger, and pride, etc etc.. the words to someone else do not trigger those memory. They're just words.

      Not wholly true.
      I often remember my Father - moments and talks.
      Yet, when I hear a recording of those moments, it brings me much closer to those moments. And, much closer to the context of it.

      I think I get what you might be implying, yet Dadbot seems to have a good application.
      Don't get it if you don't want or need it.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @12:28AM (#54844099)

    Therapists have a lot of work to do.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      The whole idea of a dying parent bot is rather disturbing. One made of yourself at your prime, might be interesting but really egoistic but one of a dying parent, what joy is there in that, apart from making that dying parent feel better, if it makes them feel better. Letting go is the hardest thing to do and this sounds like an emotional torture device. Rather than an emulation, a biography might be more sound, stories, images, videos, people's feelings, find what mattered to them and write it together as

    • the rapists are always hard at work, but their work will never be done.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Eliza: Why do you say "Therapists have a lot of work to do."?

    • A rapist's work is never done.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2017 @12:30AM (#54844107)

    Yeah, as opposed to six months later (2017), we now have fully self-aware clone AI and replacement bodies...

    Holy fuck what is it with this nerd narrative of " the limits of tech at the time ", as if we're on a hyper-boosted Star Trek technology cycle?

  • No further comment required.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    why can't Comcast make a working one? I manage our Comcast connections at over thirty locations, and I've never seen their online chat ever offer a useful solution.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This. I work for Comcast and at the last all hands meeting they said we had over 155,000 employees. If even we can't build a believable chat AI, what hope do smaller companies have?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Having interacted with Comcast, I surmise that all of those 155,000 employees are maliciously incompetent.

        Either to customers, intent aside, or intentionally to their own employer. Nothing else explains the pure Golgothan Demon that is Comcast.

        • Having interacted with Comcast, I surmise that all of those 155,000 employees are maliciously incompetent.

          Either to customers, intent aside, or intentionally to their own employer. Nothing else explains the pure Golgothan Demon that is Comcast.

          Or they're all bots. Just some of them inhabit meat suits. Explains the whole "zombie" thing as well. And admit it, you'd like to take a shotgun and help fight that particular zombie apocalypse.

  • Black Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by InfiniteZero ( 587028 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @12:47AM (#54844139)

    There's a Black Mirror episode called Be Right Back exploring the concept. In general all episodes of this show are superbly done.

    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @01:54AM (#54844255)

      I was shocked someone didn't mention Be Right Back earlier. It's eerie how prescient some of those episodes have turned out in the few years since they aired.

      For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, I'd definitely recommend checking the whole series out on Netflix. It's well worth a watch, and less than a dozen episodes in total so far.

      • and less than a dozen episodes in total so far.

        If by "less" you mean "more." There have been thirteen (one of which was an anthology).

        People don't realise that it started on Channel 4 before it moved to Netflix.

        San Junipero is my favourite, but also the least "black."

        • I knew it started on Channel 4, since it was a big coup when Netflix won the rights for the third series. What I forgot, however, was that the third series had so many episodes. My memory only pinned it at about 3-4 episodes, like the previous series, not 6, like it actually was.

        • by thoper ( 838719 )

          San Junipero Fked me up a lot. every episode of black mirror is intense.

          Heaven is a place on earth.

    • Fuck yeah, I'd forgotten about this show. It's like a modern day twilight zone.

    • There's a Black Mirror episode called Be Right Back exploring the concept. In general all episodes of this show are superbly done.

      I was thinking this too. What would have been creepier is if the person who was dying did this ahead of time and it showed up at your door a week after they passed...

      Is there an Echo Dot for that? (evil grin)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2017 @12:58AM (#54844171)

    While this strikes me as an odd way to go about capturing those experiences that our elders have went through, but have not shared for one reason or another, that does not matter.

    If we allow our elders to pass away, or become unable to communicate before we ask them to share what they think are the important lessons they have learned, or have shared the important memories they can recall, they will be lost forever.

    Society will suffer if we don't learn from the experiences of our elders.

    • Yes, I think we should start working on developing online consciousness of people based on their Slashdot post history!
    • Hey, looks like I found the other Max Headroom fan!

      Although it's possible I was more of a Theora Jones fan, if truth be told...

  • Starring Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany, iirc.
  • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @01:19AM (#54844205)

    More like Deadbot!

          Kid's gonna have some things to work through, I think.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @01:19AM (#54844207) Homepage

    I simply do not understand the people that think making an AI "copy", whether it be programmed or "downloaded" is in any way a copy.

    There is older tech that copies the way you look and sound, it is called a MOVIE CAMERA. But a movie of you is not you, even if it looks and sounds like you. Neither is any form of AI, no matter how similar it is to you.

    • It might be possible one day to make a copy 'close enough' that it is, for practical purposes, a second you.

      That day is a long way off though. Existing technology isn't even close.

    • It's not about the dead person, it's about the ones still living. Having a photograph of a dead person doesn't make them any less dead, but provides some comfort to those that are left. The same is true of tape recordings of their voice. This is just the next step in that.
      • Having a photograph of a dead person doesn't make them any less dead, but provides some comfort to those that are left. The same is true of tape recordings of their voice. This is just the next step in that.

        The photograph is actually a faithful representation of how the person looked, at least from one angle. The tape recordings are a faithful representation of how they sounded. A robot stringing recordings together and maybe twitching spastically is not anything like that. It's a freakish horrorshow caricature.

  • Use of time (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think he should have spent all that time visiting his dying father, instead of in front of a computer.

    But that's just me. YMMV.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @04:56AM (#54844681) Homepage Journal

    Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @07:15AM (#54844937)

    To me it seems that he is just prolonging the grieving period. We live in a time where people think it is bad that we forget things. That we must have all the moments with people and things forever. That it is bad if you forget something.

    I do not believe that is true. If you remember everything, you will not go on with your life. Forgetting things has worked for humanity for a LONG time and I am sure that there will have been studies as to why this is a good thing.

    And by forgetting I do not mean you suddenly have no idea who people talk about, buy forgetting details and remember things that are important to us, even if they might be wrong.

    That said, it is nice to see that Eliza is not dead yet. Just evolved. What we should do now is first have a person see how he does with the Turing test and then see how his bot does.

  • I can relate (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I read the original story and almost started crying, which would have been embarrassing for a 63 year old man at work.

    I lost my father about a year ago, and it wasn't until after he died that I realized that I really should have been recording all of his stories while he was alive. He was a salesman and a preacher (same job different products), and could tell jokes and stories endlessly.

    My Mother has taken my idea and is visiting what few of Dad's relatives that are left to get recordings of what they reme

    • I read the original story and almost started crying, which would have been embarrassing for a 63 year old man at work.

      I lost my father about a year ago, and it wasn't until after he died that I realized that I really should have been recording all of his stories while he was alive. He was a salesman and a preacher (same job different products), and could tell jokes and stories endlessly.

      My Mother has taken my idea and is visiting what few of Dad's relatives that are left to get recordings of what they remember of his stories. Because of distances my grandchildren never knew my dad, and I really regret that. Maybe by collecting his stories from those who remember him we can keep some of that alive.

      My own father died 18 hours after my second son was born. In fact, my parents had just finished dinner and got in the car to drive to hospital. It was dusk, so my mom got into the driver's seat. Dad sat down in the passenger seat, buckled his seat belt, then slumped over. Mom rushed to a different hospital (the hospital I was at doesn't accept their insurance), but it was too late. My sons will have no first-hand memories of him.

      I have photos of Dad on the walls along with all my wife's family in Brazil. I

      • Mom rushed to a different hospital (the hospital I was at doesn't accept their insurance)

        That is fucking insane.
        Thanks, republicans.

        • Mom rushed to a different hospital (the hospital I was at doesn't accept their insurance)

          That is fucking insane. Thanks, republicans.

          It's not a Republican nor Democrat thing. For some reason, all hospitals in Utah are owned by insurance companies. There's a hospital 3 miles from my house, but it's owned by a different insurance company, so I had to go 10 miles for my sons to be born. My parents' insurance owns a third hospital 10 miles from my hospital. This also makes it fun having the insurance company dictating how much their own hospital can charge.

  • by Thyamine ( 531612 ) <thyamine@ofdrag o n s . com> on Thursday July 20, 2017 @11:33AM (#54846091) Homepage Journal
    I enjoy the discussions of making a digital copy of ourselves to live forever, and the idea of 'is it me, or just a copy of me?' discussion/philosophy over some drinks. But I saw this article the other day and started reading it, and I found it creepy. It's a strange mixed bag of morbidness. If this wasn't someone dying, I think I would be ok with it, but the idea here just strikes me strangely. It reminds me of Neuromancer and the Finn, and a weird mix of being them, but not being them, and maybe at the same time knowing they are dead.
  • by swell ( 195815 ) <{moc.citeop} {ta} {kcowrebbaj}> on Thursday July 20, 2017 @11:42AM (#54846137)

    With 7 billion living humans, dead ones who missed the chatbot boat, and more new humans on the way, it would be a good thing to consider the practicality and usefulness of 'chatbots'.

    It is possible that very few lives are worth recording. Of course yours is. But all those others? What did your neighbor accomplish that merits sharing with future generations? Your boss? Sure they were sweet, generous, loving people ... like billions of others. But in what way were they special?

    Some day we may be able to record the contents of a brain, possibly even reproduce its functionality. Is that the next step? Is it a wise thing to do for everyone?

    We already have a lot of noise in our lives. We don't need more. Let the dead lie in peace. Give them the right to be forgotten.

  • I'm sorry. My responses are limited. You must ask the right questions.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama

Working...