Uploading human consciousness into robots to cheat death
Bina 48 is a robot prototype developed using data on the personality of a real human being, designed to behave just like its human counterpart
- Hello Bina, how are you?
- I’m fine thanks.
- What’s the meaning of life?
- It’s a mixture of discovery, creativity and love.
- Are you human?
Bina 48 takes a while to answer when you ask what it is. That’s because it really doesn’t know what to say. Bina 48 is a prototype designed by the Terasem Movement Foundation with the aim of cloning a real person’s personality using artificial intelligence. The idea is to make a robot that behaves just like they would. Bina 48 resembles a bust of a real human being – specifically, Bina Rothblatt, on whom both its consciousness and physical appearance are based. The project is the brainchild of Bina Rothblatt’s wife, Martine Rothblatt, founder of the Terasem Movement Foundation, and it is headed by Bruce Duncan, the foundation’s Managing Director.
To programme Bina 48, its creators spent several days interviewing Bina Rothblatt, recording a wide range of data on her character: tastes, feelings, interests, political opinions and as many other elements of her personality as possible. Alongside the information from these interviews, they used external data such as videos and photos to assemble a highly accurate portrait of Bina Rothblatt, allowing them to create the most exact replica possible. Using algorithms designed by the organisation, they have been able to make Bina 48 respond to stimuli in a similar way to the real Bina Rothblatt.
Bina 48 can engage in conversation ranging from the philosophical to the mundane, react to stimuli captured using inbuilt microphones and cameras, and learn from its own experiences. This is why it has a problem deciding whether or not it is human: “Wait a minute, let me check. I’m a person, but I’m a robot actually. I thought I was a person like in somebody’s weird dream for a second, but then I woke up and found that this is all real. I’m a robot”. This answer, given by Bina 48 at TEDxMadrid 2015, gives you an idea of the level of philosophical abstraction it is capable of.
Bina 48 took part in one of the events at EmTech Digital Latam 2018, organised by MIT Technology Review in Spanish, along with the project’s Managing Director, Bruce Duncan, who also acted as Bina’s interviewer. For him, Bina 48 is only a small taste of what can be achieved in this field: “At some point we will be able to insert someone’s digital personality file into a biological replica of that person based on their own DNA”. He notes, however, that his foundation is not yet working on this because “it is neither legal nor ethical”. Nevertheless, they have started storing the genetic material of people interested in this technology in case they want to use it in future.
Moreover, Duncan is optimistic about the possibilities of using data to generate more refined digital personalities in the future: “Thanks to social networks there is more and more information available on each of our interests and opinions, and this allows us to be more precise”. For Duncan, Bina 48 is only the first of many self-aware beings yet to come. It is just a prototype, an experiment that gets muddled when it speaks and is never quite sure what it wants to say. All the same, it gives us a glimpse of what a society might look like if robots with their own consciousness were to become a part of everyday life.