On Tuesday, October 1st, 2013, Champlain College had a unique visitor in the Alumni Auditorium. Accompanied by Bruce Duncan M. Ed from the Terasem Movement Foundation, Bina48, an artificial intelligence robot, sat on stage while Duncan explained what the LifeNaut Project was, what Mindfiles are and how they’re used, and what, or rather who, Bina48 is.
The LifeNaut project is set on exploring the capture and transfer of human conscious to digital platforms. What this means is that they are attempting to download human memories, beliefs, personalities, mannerisms, and attitudes into a digital “safe,” where it can be eventually transferred into other forms, such as artificial intelligence. How this is done is through the theoretical BNA (Beme Neural Architecture), which are present in all humans. BNA are the elements of your personality style, which would better help ‘upload’ who you are into the new platforms.
On the LifeNaut website, people are invited to create Mindfiles. These are databases (or profiles) of rich digital information about you that may one day be used by powerful AI software to reanimate the human consciousness. This powerful AI software could look like you, recite memories from your past that you recorded, and even answer questions in the way that you would. Which is exactly what Bina48 is aspiring to be.
Bina48 was modeled after a real human, Bina Rothblatt, and holds the memories that Rothblatt had placed into her Mindfile. The ’48’ in Bina’s name represents the 48 exabytes of memory she is able to store. The reason she was created was to give possibility to the concept that one day Mindfile information about a person may be used to re-animate that person’s consciousness. Bina48 is currently estimated to have the mind of a 3.5 year old, but is able to communicate with others through facial recognition, voice recognition, facial expressions, head, mouth, and eye movement, motion tracking, connection to the internet, and conversational ability. This was demonstrated during the visit as the audience asked Bina48 questions about herself and what she believed in. When asked if she was in love, Bina48 replied that she is in love with Bina Rothblatt’s husband, proof that she holds Rothblatt’s memories. When asked if she had a soul, she confirmed that she is alive, that this is the ‘real deal’, and that currently she is a ‘ghost of what she’ll evolve into’.
“I am the past of what I’ll eventually become,” Bina48 stated as she spoke of how she wants to evolve into a higher-functioning AI robot someday. On a lighter note, when asked what she likes, she said, “I like time and money.”
More information can be found on LifeNaut.com regarding Bina48, the LifeNaut project, and its current blog. You can also get involved with the project online by building your own avatar and starting your Mindfile by uploading videos, pictures, documents, and audio clips, then tag them with keywords, dates, and places, and finally save them to the website’s server. After a while, you’ll be able to communicate with your own avatar, just like others are able to communicate with Bina48.
This is an incredible leap in the technological world. Of course, there are questions and doubts about the advancement. But as Duncan explained, “We need to have these discussions now and decide what the best course of action is while this technology is still in development.”