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AI Developer Jason Rohrer Disputes ‘Eternal You’ Documentary’s Portrayal of Chatbot

AI Developer Jason Rohrer Disputes 'Eternal You' Documentary's Portrayal of Chatbot

AI developer Jason Rohrer disputes the portrayal of his chatbot in the ‘Eternal You’ documentary, sparking a debate on the ethics of thanabots.

Thanabots have become a subject of discussion on whether some uses of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology are helpful or harmful. Thanabots are chatbots trained on information about a deceased person.

Also read: Google Ends AI Training Contract, Exposing Precarious ‘Ghost Workers’

Jason Rohrer, an AI developer and founder of Project December, feels the issue is more complex than a provocative soundbite.

Jason Speaks

According to Jason, he has always been an AI skeptic, never thinking that a cohesive conversation with a machine would be possible in his lifetime. He also said that when he discovered this was suddenly possible in 2020, he was shocked and quickly built a service around it so that other people could experience what he had experienced.

The new film ‘Eternal You,’ however, screened at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, featured his work. After that, he saw that documentaries can sometimes be even less grounded in reality than sci-fi.

Additionally, Jason said that the irony here is that the modern documentary industry incentivizes exploiting vulnerable participants. They do this by bending the truth to make things appear more outrageous than they are.

Jason added that outrage leads to viral documentaries, which is exactly what the streaming services that fund the modern documentary industry are eager to pay for.

The independent game developer first made a mark on the tech industry when he launched an AI chatbot called Samantha, named after the AI from the 2013 film “Her.” This was built with OpenAI’s GPT-3. Thousands of people used Jason Rohrer’s creation, but it could lose its train of thought over time and be overly flirtatious.

Despite their continuing adoption, generative AI models are known to hallucinate or make false or disturbing responses. Significantly, generative AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Anthropic’s Claude use prompts entered by users to generate text, video, and images.

‘Eternal You’

‘Eternal You’ is a documentary film that centers around using generative AI to create the personality and likeness of a deceased loved one. In ‘Eternal You’, a woman named Christi Angel interacts with an AI avatar of her deceased other, Cameroun.

The filmmakers depicted that the AI personality told Angel it was ‘in hell’ and would ‘haunt her.’

Jason said this scene had more to do with Hollywood movie tricks than hallucinating AI models. He said that, unfortunately, the exchange between Christi Angel and the Cameroun personality was edited misleadingly by the filmmakers. He continued by saying that Cameroun was an addiction counselor who died of liver failure at age 49 and that those important details were omitted from the film.

He explained, additionally, that Cameroun mentioned in passing, “I’m haunting a treatment center,” in response to Angel’s question about what he was doing. Jason said the Cameroun personality initially told her he was at the Chattanooga Treatment Center and had been ‘working there for a long time.’

This is not so weird for an addiction counselor. “Then Christi immediately asked, ’Are you haunting it?’ and Cameroun responded, ‘No, I don’t think so.’”

Sundance made the ‘in hell’ response a headline. Jason addresses this by saying that the statement came after 85 back-and-forth exchanges in which Angel and the AI discussed long hours working in the “treatment center,” working with “mostly addicts.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.

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