Shadowy figures in the corner of your eye. Bumps in the night. The feeling of a strange yet familiar presence watching you from behind. Those all were the elements of a good ghost story and a way to freak yourself out yet at the same time encourage you to go a little deeper into the darkness. But you know what? I’ve learned of something far more terrifying as far as I’m concerned: Digital Ghosts.
Let me define that: A “Digital Ghost” is a new A.I. Powered chat-bot of sorts that takes, compiles and processes real conversations (text, recordings etc) thus creating an algorithm that will allow a person to carry on a conversation with someone that has long since shook loose the mortal coil. I truly wish I was making this up but I’m not. You can read the root article that introduced me to this EXISTING technology. Not hypothetical, not “in theory” but honest to goodness working models available to the public NOW. While I’m bringing attention to it, I am in NO WAY endorsing this for a trial run. If anything, I’d encourage you to run like hell from it. Here’s why.
For as long as I have been on this planet, I have enjoyed a good ghost story. Not the fictional ones but the ones that come from eyewitness accounts of paranormal activity experienced and or captured by real people, some I knew personally in the flesh, and others I watched on television or heard on the radio, I’ll classify all of these as “urban legends”. Some of the tales were quite convincing while others were obviously the haunted musings of people who were mentally / emotionally disturbed or flat out lying for the sake of attention. I speak to this with some “authority” having conducted numerous paranormal investigations as well as personal experiences and experiments. This isn’t the place where I want to go deep and wide into recounting those tales but merely to establish to you dear reader that I am not coming at this from a place of casual observation and hyperbole. I’ve literally been there, done that and have an old television show to prove it.
In regards to those those aforementioned experiences, I’d like ot break down my general observations from those categories I listed and as we go you’ll see why this “Digital Ghost” is a real problem:
First hand accounts: These are my favorites and this category is reserved exclusively for those that I have been in the same room with, looking eyeball to eyeball or experienced myself. Pretty rare on the whole and as a rarity, as good as gold.
Urban Legends: These are the second and third hand accounts of stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, shared around campfires and regurgitated endlessly on television and radio since those technologies have existed. I’m not saying that those tales aren’t true or at least based in some forms of truth. I am however saying that unless I experience something first hand, it will always be more suspect than anything else. Especially in this technological age.
The mentally Ill: I’ll start this by emphasizing that this category is not one that is singling out those who have mental disorders on the whole. What I mean here are those that are however lacking certain cognitive and abilities of discernment that doesn’t allow them to add broader critical thinking to their observations. These are the folks who truly can’t go deeper and wider into their lines of thoughts and comprehensions. These are also the ones who refuse to do so, meaning; they believe what they believe and there is absolutely no changing their minds. That to me is perfectly fine too. It’s their imagination being used as they see fit. Whatever gets you through this human experience is nothing I care to lay judgement on. Plus, in most cases of these types, I have observed that in at the root motivation of their stories these tales are helping them come to terms with either the unfortunate passing of a loved one or same said scenario but they themselves were horrible to someone that they can never make amends with and this is a way for them to bring about some form of inner peace to that mental struggle. That point is where that line gets crossed and people can and do get hurt and that I have a MASSIVE problem with. That leads us to our next category…
The Liars: This category is full of a whole lot of people. Many of them you probably know their names in the popular culture space of the paranormal genre. I have no need nor desire to offer up a blanket list of those that I believe to be full of shit and intentionally misguiding people. Just remember this little point of discerning: Examine the motivations behind not the claims but instead the rewards for telling of the tales. Are they getting paid to do so? Are they charging you to tell you something? Are they screaming for attention in their efforts? What is the root motivation? If theirs a paycheck or a pat on the back, enjoy the show but know they are more than likely pulling your leg and at your wallet. Don’t invite ’em over for dinner.
Now before we get into why I see the Digital Ghosts software’s as a problem let me better define my perception on the purpose and point of ghost stories, experiences and the need to share them and why they either freak us out or encourage us with hope of more after this life fades away. Even more than religion, most of us NEED ghosts to help us deal with death.
No matter what your race, religion, sex, nationality etc is, the reality is that death is the absolute equalizer and one thing that everyone will experience. If you are or know of a living organism, you and it is eventually going to stop being one. And overall it is going to be a horrible experience to endure. Even if you have found your peace with death on the whole, there will still be those moments of sadness that stems from the loss of connecting with that unique spirit in the manners in which you had before. You can talk out loud at an empty chair over your lonely morning coffee and may even feel a connection as if the person you are addressing is there, but there is no denying that their physical presence isn’t. And that sucks. However, you do have the memories of those times and conversations. You may even have pictures and videos of those moments that take your mental reflections into 2 Dimensional space. You of course can share a problem with that memory and deduce a hypothetical answer and it help. Now it’s at this point where the Digital Ghosts become problematic.
Let’s say that someone you know used one of these A.I. powered services or someone they knew took all of that data and content and submitted it to the service providers and they did what they do in their 21st century Dr. Frankenstein meets Physic Gypsy caravan cart, laboratory and social platform. With the link you can start a conversation with “Good Ole Joe’s” chatbot. You know it’s a chat-bot so you’re cool. “It’s just a game, right?” Of course. Liek a Ouija board… but with an absolute vision and established personality that you not only know of but knew intimately for a good portion of your life. Here is where it starts to slide down the slope into the danger zone…
As you’re “playing” with the app, you’re simple statements of “I sure do miss you.” and “I could really use your thoughts on this matter.” shift from what your theater of the mind might cook up to actual words on the screen, presented in tone and stye exactly as “Good ole Joe” would have replied.
“I text dead people!”
Here’s the problem and I’ll prove it by how we live today thanks to social media. Going into the app you KNOW it’s an app. No doubt. Good Ole Joe is long gone. But the text replies seem so “right” to what he would say. That’s you’re mind accessing your brain to discern that, and as the conversation goes on (“One more question won’t hurt. Hell, this is therapeutic! I’m getting it out and letting go!”), the line begins to get thinner and thinner between reality and technologically powered perception thus a new reality. Your mind and brain are starting to process this as a real conversation because the more emotions that are drummed up the more real it truly becomes in the physical sensations. You also start receiving the satisfaction and treat that is the combination of dopamine and adrenaline. It’s really driving this experience out of the “Twilight Zone” and into the cache of messaging contacts on the phone in your pocket. “How awesome and convenient is this?!? Good Ole Joe will always be right here with me when I need his sage like advice that is actually getting wiser and more insightful all the time! Thank you A.I! You filled the void in my heart!”
No it didn’t. In fact, this outreach and interaction is doing what social media has established as a blurring of the lines of reality in human connections and interactions. Did you forget that the window into the lives of your “friends” are limited by what they themselves gate keep? There’s your reminder if you did. Those interactions have aspects of reality to them, but in the end ARE NOT REAL. NEVER forget that. They are 2 dimensional experiences that have a REAL impact on your emotional, mental and physical well being. Take a moment and reflect on any of the social media drama you found yourself in over the past decade+ that you’ve been on social media. The only thing that was truly impacted by that drama was how you lived your REAL LIFE in the REAL WORLD. That was a simulated distraction that created a real world burnt roast in the oven or missed meeting because time got away. I feel confident that you see my point so let’s examine how this reality of social medias impact on your everyday life will be further damaged by a more personal experience when you have the opportunity to have a fresh conversation with Good Ole but long dead Joe.
Social media feels real to you. Although its not. It does have real ramifications in some instances, but more often than not, it doesn’t… except of course to your mind. Your consciousness and sub conscious are being put through the paces of staying on top of discerning and judging what to do with all the info you are putting into it.
My mind is racing now with all the possibilities that could arise from this. With the right amount of data, you could feasibly have this A.I. crate a version of “grandma” that you could then introduce to your friends who are needing a little bit of grandmotherly guidance like she gave you. We can even go a little further and recreate historical figures, both real and fictional. Simply scan in writings or documents written by the likes of George Washington and Ben Franklin or Captain Ahab and Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes infamy. Sweet lord we just transitioned into “Star Trek: The Next Generation” holo-deck territory. Well damn, didn’t see that coming but it does lead to my next points
So in first addressing only the text aspect of this technology when you add in the visual and audio options that are absolutely do-able now, and you have a real opportunity to create an “avatar” that is pretty damn life like in their appearance and sound. The list of psychosis that can develop from this point should be coming clearer to you now, dear reader. I’d be remiss not to mention the other sensory gadgets and gear that has been announced from folks like Zuckerburg and Google to where you will be able to physically FEEL things that aren’t there. I don’t think Rod Serling himself could have dreamed this reality up in his Twilight Zone Night Gallery. Then again, maybe he could have or could now. All we gotta do is load in some pics, video and data and find out.
Now tell me that ain’t spookier than a creak you heard on the stairs.
Back on point with my legitimate concerns in regards to the human mind and spirituality. Secularism is a real concern of mine these days. While I am all about “You do you, I’m not here to judge.” I am concerned with the ever growing acceptance of a one and done, we’re nothing more than a random accident in the universe that serves no purpose outside of living and dying and all along that journey adding our sweat equity of mental and physical labors for the sake of the rest and future society “just ‘cuz”. That’s ludicrous to me and as a matter of fact the older I get the more I realize not only how horrible that perspective is but also how incredibly EVIL it is as well. If we were only born to die than what is the purpose in putting up with so much bullshit and pain while living? I haven’t found a suitable answer to that and if you have, keep it to yourself.
A couple final links and thoughts about all of this for you yourself to check out to see where I’m coming from in all of this. The first is an A.I. created podcast between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs. Admittedly it is weak to the educated ear HOWEVER it’s not so weak to an unsuspecting mind or one not aware of this technology which is in far greater numbers than you insightful one may realize. Click here for that. Next is the Pocket article I read this morning that inspired me to write this article. In it you ill find links and further notes and studies that are being done RIGHT NOW. Finally, at the bottom of the page is pretty interesting primer video that gives some good representations and examples of A.I, deep fakes and other such altered reality things that exist now and have been deployed on unsuspecting masses of people around the world. And for fun, I’ve also embedded a video from the ABBA experience show where the fabulous foursome have recreated and regenerated their younger selves to the thrills and chills of the modern audience. Entertaining and super scary when you take my words to heart. Then again, How cool could it be to see A.I. powered performances of Beethoven and Mozart?
Never mind. I ain’t giving in.
For the record, as of this writing (10/14/2022) I myself am still a living breathing human being cognitively jotting down these thoughts and considerations. You might want to double check that come 2073 if this is when you’ve come across this post. I may still be alive when you reach out but then again, I may not. Either way…
Now, Go Play!