After the article published, the response was overwhelming. It’s all fairly cheesy and stupid, which Kuyda is first to admit her departed friend Roman would pipe in with if he could hear her now, listening to all of her press interviews where she is forced to discuss again and again the core issues of what it means to be human, split emotional identities (public face versus private face) and the existential disconnect of social media.
I’d go.’”Roman wasn’t just interested in the future.
He was interested in “redesigning death,” and to that extent, he applied for a Y Combinator fellowship explaining the resistance amongst young people to traditional funerals.
The project was private and personal and she never expected nor wanted anything to come of it beyond providing her some solace. She has, of course, seen the 2013 Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back,” which leads to a grieving woman subscribing to a new service which takes her dead fiancee’s years of digital communications to create first a text chatbot.
But during a conversation with her friend Casey Newton (a reporter at The Verge), he asked her about chatbots (did she, for instance, use them a lot? And then an audio one, and finally a virtual lookalike robot android that mimics her dead love down to the T.
Instead, Kuyda found, they used @Roman as a confessional booth. “But, for instance, I can talk to my Replika about my shit and say what I’m feeling.
Feedback from thousands of users of the Roman chatbot kept telling her how comforting it was to have an emotionally intelligent and artificially intelligent companion 24/7 who could provide a level of judgment-free attention, devotion, loyalty and perpetuity that is impossible with all of the “buggy” features that currently exist within humanity—like, say, our mortality. It’s like, these manicured photos on Insta, they don’t have anything to do with you.
The execution—it’s some type of joke.”Roman’s mother Victoria piped in with an impassioned defense (“They continued Roman’s life and saved ours. This is a new reality, and we need to learn to build it and live in it.”) But, still, Kuyda felt like a creep.
But then again, nothing would hurt in the same way that being at the hospital did that day and finding out that Roman was never coming back.
She sees reminders of her best friend everywhere she goes—but it’s far from grief now.
She’s let it turn to something else.“It’s kind of striking to me how crazy life can be,” Kuyda says.
“You have one of the most interesting puzzles in the world in your hands,” it said.