28 June 2018: At the Cannes Lions this year we’ve been treated to many artificial intelligence insights. It’s one of the major discourses of our time. But what does it mean? Will it be good or bad? Will I lose my job? What skills will I need? These and many other questions regularly appear in the media and occupy the minds of business leaders.
One of the AI highlights at Cannes this year was a talk called ‘Androids, AI & the Future of Human Creativity’ hosted by Kyoko Yonezawa (Creative Technologist, Dentsu), Horoshi Ishiguro (Professor, Osaka University) and Kei Wakabayashi (Editor, Blkswn Publishers). They have two central theories suggesting that AI will be a force for good. The first is that only mundane, monotonous tasks will be replaced by robots, and as with any other technological change, new and better jobs will be created to replace those lost.
However, it was the second theory of the talk which really caught my attention. It connected back to a narrative that’s as old as history: can we live forever? Ever since ancient times humanity has been obsessed with the after-life and extending our existence beyond the limitations of our organic bodies.
If we truly want to live forever, the biggest challenge is how to stop and even reverse the ageing process. Many scientists are working on this problem but there is now another way – the second theory from this Cannes talk.
During the session we met Totto, a doppelganger robot who will become the first android in the world to support and eventually replace someone who wants a quieter life.
Tetsuko Kuroyanagi is one of Japan’s most loved television personalities. She hosts her own chat show but is also an actress, voice artist and prolific charity worker. She has been at the forefront of public life in Japan for more than 40 years.
Now she has someone to share the load – her android clone: Totto. Totto is built using the latest animatronics, a three-dimensional body scan of Kuroyanagi and a synthesised voice powered by AI. Build by Ishiguro, Totto (which is Kuroyanagi’s childhood nickname) is now beginning to take on some of her work, including her international trip to the Cannes Lions.
Ishiguro says Totto will eventually be able to take on Kuroyanagi’s full role, allowing her to continue to have a public life and earn an income while she enjoys well-earned retirement. You can watch the slightly surreal interview between Totto and Kuroyanagi here.
Ishiguro has also built Erica, the world’s first android television news anchor. He claims Erica has one of the most advanced speech systems in the world. She uses face-recognition cameras to track people and listen to whoever is talking. When you watch her being interviewed she seems remarkably self-aware. Ishiguro says she is “warm and caring’ and will one day have an “independent consciousness”.
Then there’s BINA48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture 48), which has been built by Martine Rothblatt’s Terasem Movement. This is a ‘mind clone’ of Martine’s girlfriend Bina, designed to test whether it’s possible to transfer a human consciousness into a robot. Watching the two Bina’s interact is fascinating if a little disturbing. Bina opens the possibility of being able to have a robot clone that thinks and feels like you, and has even has your own memories.
Fans of Netflix’s Black Mirror will know the episode ‘San Junipero’, where the dead and elderly live inside a stimulated reality as their younger selves. Consciousness is transferred to a chip where you can live out your best life in a computer stimulation.
Your best self, forever
This future suddenly looks more possible with robots like Bina, Erica and Totto. We can imagine a future where science helps us to live forever by building a machine identical to our best physical selves then transferring our conscious mind, personality and memories.
Whether we choose that future, or whether it’s ever allowed, is an ethical question for another day.
However, for business leaders and marketeers, there’s no doubt that the rapidly developing field of AI and cyber-consciousness will have profound effects on how the world operates during the next few decades.
I see three steps on this journey. Firstly, our smartphones will be become more and more AI enabled, meaning they’ll be able to make purchase decisions based on our preferences. Then we’ll see more automated purchasing between phones and AI-enabled business platforms. Finally, our robot companions or future robot selves will connect directly with business AIs to make purchases.
How and when this plays out remains to be seen but we are certainly moving to a future where marketing shifts from the organic brain to the inorganic machine.
By Richard Brett, CEO, opr Agency
Picture: ©️Totto the robot / Horoshi Ishiguro