By Courtney Humphries
Hossein Rahnama knows a CEO of a major financial company who wants to live on after he’s dead, and Rahnama thinks he can help him do it.
Rahnama is creating a digital avatar for the CEO that they both hope could serve as a virtual “consultant” when the actual CEO is gone. Some future company executive deciding whether to accept an acquisition bid might pull out her cell phone, open a chat window, and pose the question to the late CEO. The digital avatar, created by an artificial-intelligence platform that analyzes personal data and correspondence, might detect that the CEO had a bad relationship with the acquiring company’s execs. “I’m not a fan of that company’s leadership,” the avatar might say, and the screen would go red to indicate disapproval.
Creepy? Maybe, but Rahnama believes we’ll come to embrace the digital afterlife. An entrepreneur and researcher based at Ryerson University in Toronto, and a visiting faculty member at MIT’s Media Lab, he’s building an application called Augmented Eternity; it lets you create a digital persona that can interact with people on your behalf after you’re dead.