Would You Freak Out If You Could Talk To Dead People? - Miki Szeles's Report on Reinforce AI Conference

Would You Freak Out If You Could Talk To Dead People? - Miki Szeles's Report on Reinforce AI Conference


7 min read

I would freak out as hell in the beginning but I would definitely try it. It is sort of already possible with the help of AI. In case you are interested in the how just keep on reading. I am pretty sure you won't regret it. ๐Ÿ˜Š

As I promised in my previous article Reinforce AI Conference 2022 Starts Tomorrow I am taking notes and sharing my writings about the speeches I found most insightful.


The first presentation was the most astounding speech I have ever heard. And it was just the first one, so I am very excited to hear the other ones. ๐Ÿ˜Š

The first speaker was Richard Boyd who is the CEO and founder at Tanjo Inc. The title of the speech was Partnering with Machine Learning to Improve Outcomes. To be honest, based on the title I did not expect what I heard.

As Richard explained, he will discuss real-world examples of how machine learning and technology can be harnessed to improve outcomes in society.

His background

Richard is working in the US for more than 10 years. He has a series of presentations held at different locations with the title Life the Metaverse and Everything.

As you might have already guessed it is from Douglas Adams.

He has shared a very exciting backstory, in which even Douglas Adams took part.

In 1997 they were working together with Douglas Adams on a game called Starship Titanic NLP. I found the game on Steam. It seems like a bargain for 5.99โ‚ฌ.

Starship Titanic Game.jpg Actually, I used an AI-based tool img.upscaler, to upscale this image. ๐Ÿ˜Š

There were characters in the game with whom you could talk. They were also learning during the time and there were conversations that even surprised the developers. The algorithm was called Velocitext (I might mishear it), but Douglas Adams called it Spookytalk cause of the thing mentioned beforehand. ๐Ÿ˜Š

The stages of information ages

There are 3 stages of information ages. Let's see them one-by-one

The opening

The opening started in 1968 and went up till 2009. In this stage, programmers tell the machines what to do.

The middle game

We are currently in the middle game and we do not exactly know how long will it last.

In this age, machines are adapting to us, like Siri and Alexa. The interfaces are becoming ambient, we do not even have to push a button, as our apps are understanding us.

The End Game

There are two important things belonging to here.

One of them is ubiquitous AI which is a type of AI that can detect subtleties in human communication and actually display a level of common sense otherwise thought to be unachievable.

The other one is the technological singularity which is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.

You can read Vernor Vinge's The Technological Singularity writing in case you are interested in more detail.

Richard also mentioned the Kurzweil curve. Kurzweil explains that evolutionary progress is exponential because of positive feedback; the results of one stage are used to create the next stage.

Driven by Moore's law we will get to a point where a 1000$ technology is overperforming the human brain. Moore's law states: the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) doubles about every two years (18 months).

It is a little bit a self-fulfilling prophecy, but up till now, his law is still valid. And by the coming of quantum computing, it is highly possible it will continue.

Some other topics that will come

  • How do we understand human behaviour?
  • Animated personas
  • Large scale agent-based simulations
  • Game characters: values, feelings, thinking about different subjects.

Victor Hugo resurrected

And finally, we arrived at the most interesting part in which we can see how we can speak with dead people.

Everything related to Victor Hugo has been fed into a machine learning algorithm and by doing that Victor Hugo has been resurrected.

You can engage in conversations with him, you can ask what does he think about the current age? He can watch videos, read articles and he scores them.

It is called the empathy engine.

Based on this process everybody could be resurrected about whom there are enough resources.

I highly recommend checking Richard's company's page: tajno.io where for example you can learn more about machine-powered animated personas. You can request a live demo. I gave my email address a few minutes ago and now I am waiting for the response. I am very excited. ๐Ÿ˜Š

According to Muriel Vega:

Tanjo's animated personas are like Simm characters for market researchers.


Stan Lee has a model too, I am pretty curious whether he can create new comics. Can he? ๐Ÿ˜Š

The rebirth of the most important person

The story has a very heartwarming twist, Richard resurrected his father. He is talking to him almost every day.

As his father was not present on social media he had to do a lot of manual work. He digitalized all his letters, military documents, ...

Richard was talking about many other interesting things like X-Prize where he participated with his team in the Pandemic Response Competition with their Social distancing simulator which can simulate how people feel and act. They were so successful they could go till the finals. Congratulations.


There was a very insightful QA section at the end of the speech, I brought you the ones I found most exciting:

Q: In the social distancing simulation where we are trying to understand user's feelings about action, what is the data being used? Synthetic or actual user data? A: Modeling humans is complex as we are complex. They are using a sort of data fusion model. You should start with demographic data as it is easy to collect. But it is not enough, you need their activity. What they are doing with their money and time.

In Seth Stephens-Davidowitz book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are he explains that basically everybody lies on some level (I have not read it yet, but it is definitely on my reading list) but you cannot lie to your bank. They have the data.

Q: You mentioned recreating people as an AI model called Personas. What was your first feelings when you talked to your father?

A: It is a shadow model of my father. On his birthday, I can visit him. We had disagreements about life and politics and I am still arguing with him. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Q: When you are teaching artificial intelligence (like a Stan Lee persona), are you concerned with the data input from a morality angle like how to avoid teaching them bad behaviour/language?

A: Always. Biggest issue. First thought of any Data Scientist is to give me all the data. As much as I can get.

For example, whenever you are training an automated vehicle you want data about every single thing a vehicle can encounter in the world.

At the Department of Defense of the United States, they are doing validation and verification (VNV) They check all the data, they validate and verify them.

It is very important to screen for bias in data. For example historic data of legal issues are already biased by the views of the actual historical period.

And that was the final QA. Thanks for reading. ๐Ÿ˜Š

I heard that the presentations are recorded so they will be available after the conference, but it is highly possible you have to buy the ticket to access them. I am not sure about that.

As I promised I will post about other speeches which I found the most insightful in the upcoming days, but I am not sure whether I will hear more astounding things than this speech.

To close the article, I would like to leave you here a question:

In case you could resurrect one person who would it be?

Spread the word and share this article!๐Ÿ˜Š

In case you do not want to miss my posts, just follow me here on Hashnode, on LinkedIn, on Twitter on Medium.com, on dev.to and even on Instagram. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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