24 year old with life-threatening skin condition works to upload his personality into a machine
Posted: 30 November 2017 | By Charlie Moloney
Picture from James's fundraising page at http://fighteb.org.uk/
A man with a rare and life-threatening genetic skin condition is investigating methods to upload his personality into a robot.
James Dunn, 24, was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), which causes his skin to blister and burn at the slightest touch, and is likely to kill him before he is 30.
One of the side-effects of James’s EB is a terminal type of skin cancer, with which he was diagnosed in 2015, but was successfully treated.
Despite being in constant pain, James, from Merseyside, England plays wheelchair football, drives, and found work as a HR administrator.
He has been fundraising this year for the charity DEBRA to fund research into EB by collecting photos of celebrities, and currently has snapped Danny DeVito, Cheryl, and Spiderman star Tom Holland.
However, James announced in a Youtube video on November 8th that he has been diagnosed with cancer again.
Yesterday it was revealed that James has been working with two artificial intelligence (AI) companies based in London to find a way to preserve his legacy inside a machine.
Preserving a legacy
James had been scheduled to give the announcement himself at the Giant Health Event, a public conference on innovation in Healthcare held at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.
However, his recent diagnosis meant he couldn’t attend, so the announcement was made by the Co-Founder of Us.ai, Pete Trainor, who James has been working with.
“For the last 18 months I’ve been working with James on a project together”, Pete said, “He basically said to me could we create an archive memory of his thoughts and conversations so that his nieces and nephews will still be able to talk to him when he’s not around”.
Pete then invited Andrei Danescu, the CEO & Co-Founder of Botsandus, onto the stage along with a black and white tower standing at just over 3 feet tall which was revealed to be a robot called Bo.
The robot which can hold memories
According to Andrei, you can upload your memories into Bo robot by speaking to it and telling it stories. Its natural language processing technology allows it to hear and record what you are saying.
As you feed it information about yourself, it builds up a database in the form of questions and answers.
“That information is in essence a person’s personality”, Andrei said.
Then, if somebody asks Bo a question, it will search the information that exists on its database and find the nearest match. It could give an answer that would represent what James might say if he provided it with enough information.
Pete said, “If we got enough of James’s thoughts into this machine, we can go into schools, we can have children speak to a young man who did remarkable things”.
An audience member asked whether, once James’s machine personality has been created, it could continue to learn new things by crawling the internet or other data sets, using machine learning, which it can, and if so what James’s opinion on that is.
“He’s actually really excited about it”, Pete said, “He thinks it’s really funny and he quite likes the idea of this spiritual version of himself living on in some form or another, but wider society at large may have some dubious views about that”.
Bo is currently being tested by the retail and hospitality industries. Botsandus hope to move into the consumer market when public acceptance of the technology improves.