How Facebook Could Create Artificial Intelligence

There’s been a few statements from Facebook that have creeped me out. It’s apparent that Facebook is logging and indexing our lives, much the way that Google has indexed the internet over the last decade. Facebook is becoming the segway between a person and an electronic personification of that person. It’s equally an online diary for the living and a place where those who have died remain someway connected to us, albeit with no communication from them.

But for how long?

Just look at everything Facebook already captures and will capture in years to come. This service has has logged our lives from pre-birth (in some cases), to birth and right up to death, through photos, videos, conversations, events, messages, chat, likes, places visited, and even communications extending off the Facebook platform such as sms texts. So when will Facebook be able to create an automated ‘person’ with the ability to respond to realtime communications from others? While Google may log our online history in terms of sites visited and search, Facebook is logging everything else online and offline we do.

And I’m not alone in this thinking, last week Mashable posted this article last week that quotes Yuri Milner, CEO of Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian venture capital firm that invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Facebook. He said Facebook “could change information to such an extent that it could be the basis for artificial intelligence over time”.

The creepiness, for me, started over the summer. Back in August I wrote this over on theNeworld Blog, regarding Facebook Places:

Facebook Places was put into more emotional terms by the vice president of product at Facebook, Christopher Cox, who explained these check ins would serve as a collective memory, lasting over time “Those stories are going to be pinned to a physical location so that maybe one day in 20 years our children will go to Ocean Beach in San Francisco, and their little magical thing will start to vibrate and say, ‘This is where your parents first kissed.”

And it clicked. How is your phone saying this? Is it by text? Or given how technology will inevitably progress, will it say it through a rendered 3D hologram projected from your phone of one of your parents speaking that sentance? Its all very futuristic and science-fictiony, but I’m sure if you told this 102 year old man he would be talking to his son half way across the globe on a service called Skype 60, 40 or even 20 years ago he would have said you are nuts!

Think about the ‘this is where your parents first kissed scenario’, Facebook will eventually have;

- Photo’s and video of the parents in question (allowing 3D rendered models to be created)

- Text conversations relating to that location (giving context and meaning)

- Events, videos and photo’s that relate to that place (more context)

- Text conversations between the parents and others (to build character traits and personalities)

- And who is to say at some stage in the future speech won’t become a method of communication on Facebook (thus logging our speech pattern)

All of this builds into a creepy scenario where that event has been logged and all the involved characters, their interactions and history can be drawn together and brought to life via technology, long after the characters involved have passed. There are already discussions regarding the impact of Facebook on religion and if Facebook is more like the afterlife – at least in terms of a place where friends are never lost through changes in ones life such, as a change in job or moving home.

So how much of our lives does Facebook log? Well this kid is in it for the long haulconsidering his mother has him, or her, already on Facebook as a fetus. At one end of the scale this means our online lives begin before our actual lives begin.

In between Facebook just about logs every activity. It’s increasing list of services are designed to keep us on the website longer to promote more advertising to us, the longer we spend the more information about our likes and preferences the website builds up. Increasingly this information is moving beyond just simple likes. Now we can view‘friendship pages’ within Facebook, these are like a glorified ‘wall to wall’ option from years ago, but show the interactions two people have had over time. But over how long a time? According to the new Facebook Messages service that would be to show messages over all of time, and not just messages within the Facebook platform but also extended out into SMS messages.

So Facebook has just logged your life and almost every activity you have done. From your education and relationship status’s, your likes, holidays, gigs, parties all illustrated through photos and videos, and all your conversations. In fact, given how memories fade over time, it will have a better recollection of you than you will.

What happens then?

Then, inevitably, we die. And I’m sure most of us have had someone pass who’s Facebook profile became a place where friends, colleagues and family can pay respects, post memories, photo’s and videos. The profile becomes like an electronic grave of sorts, but one awash with illustrations of the life that has passed and why it was special. This electronic grave is accessible the world over 24/7, bringing together people to share their stories, sadness, disbelief and gratitude for being lucky enough to have known the person at all.

When the technology is there Facebook will be able to harness an incredible amount of information to build an electonic version of a person, an e-male or e-female if you will. With in depth knowledge of their lives, their hopes, fears, loves and hates, from traits to speech patters, how close will this e-male be to the real thing?  Then of course why not export this information to an external device, like say a robot.

Perhaps a games maker can take all this information of ours (I’m talking us, because we’ll be the first generation that will give Facebook access to all this data) and create a Second Life type scenario where kids can go and relive moments in their parents lives, taking part in the action as Facebook pieces it all back together through SMS texts, Facebook Places, status updates, events, photos and videos we are currently uploading.

So while many people fear about privacy issues that come from using Facebook, I’m actually more concerned about what the culmination of all this information is going to be. One things for sure, there’s no way all this data is going to be left unused.

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