Sunday, December 06, 2009

Digital personas

There are more machines than humans on the internet, and more machine-to-machine traffic than human-to-human traffic despite the trillions of text messages sent every year. Perhaps the most interesting category of messaging is machine-to-human. There are many mundane examples of this such as RSS feeds, automated email notifications and status updates from entities (groups, companies and other organizations). Coming innovations in machine-human communication could be quite fun and life-enhancing.

There are already fan-run Twitter accounts, FaceBook parodies and other interaction sites for fictional characters, often contemporary television characters. The next step could be creating digital emulations that could automatically respond in character. For example, subscribing to the Ben Franklin feed – “ooh-zapped the heck out of myself with my kite last night.”

There could be many uses for digital personas in addition to entertaining status updates, for example, having kids hang out with Marie Curie and the Wright Brothers as role models. It could be interesting to have a society where dead or fictional characters become part of the conversation, having a voice and a lasting ongoing presence. Digital personas could be managed with sliding parameters (e.g.; amp up Churchill’s humor), and have add-on modules (get the early-adopter technophile package for the great-grandmother persona...”I’m off to text in my response to Dancing with the Stars.”)

Digital personas would not need to be exclusively reserved for dead or fictional characters, anyone could create one as a facsimile with some sort of fidelity from current digital content, data and other artifacts. Celebrities could possibly earn greater remuneration by renting their emulations rather than through live engagements involving their actual physical persona.

As robotics continue to advance, digital persona overlays could be applied so that Franklin Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry could walk around and discuss home renovation plans with you, Lady GaGa could be at your next soiree or Einstein and Feynman could join a scientific brainstorming session. A new field for productive and entertainment endeavor could emerge to create and bring together the digital personas of historical figures for problem-solving and fun. Would ‘Lost’ be better with Genghis Khan, Ella Fitzgerald, Moctezuma, Rosalind Franklin and Sherlock Holmes in the cast? Lawmakers could obtain measured input by running the Thomas Jefferson and John Adams personas simultaneously. The world’s great scientific and intellectual minds could be assembled to focus on current problems.

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