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Replika AI learns your personality, can talk to people for you after you die

(TECH NEWS) We’ve focused a lot on chatbots for customer service, but Replika just took things to a whole new level, learning your personality and replacing you (but not really)… This is both fascinating and freaky!

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We’ve been warned…

Remember the movie Surrogates, where everyone lives in at home plugged in to virtual reality screens and robot versions of them run around and do their bidding? Or Her, where Siri’s personality is so attractive and real, that it’s possible to fall in love with an AI?

Replika may be the seedling of such a world, and there’s no denying the future implications of that kind of technology.

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Replika is a personal chatbot that you can raise through SMS. By chatting with it, you teach it your personality and gain in-app points. Through the app it can chat with your friends and learn enough about you so that maybe one day it will take over some of your responsibilities like social media, or checking in with your mom. It’s in beta right now, so we haven’t gotten our hands on one, and there is little information available about it, but color me fascinated and freaked out based on what we already know.

AI is just that – artificial

I have never been a fan of technological advances that replace human interaction. Social media, in general, seems to replace and enhance traditional communication, which is fine. But robots that hug you when you’re grieving a lost child, or AI personalities that text your girlfriend sweet nothings for you don’t seem like human enhancement, they feel like human loss.

Replacing human interaction with a simulated AI is depressing at its least, and possibly dangerous.

You know that feeling when you get a text message from someone you care about, who cares about you? It’s that little dopamine rush, that little charge that gets your blood pumping, your heart racing. Just one ding, and your day could change. What if a robot’s text could make you feel that way?

What if a robot could replicate your personality so precisely that people could communicate with “you” after you're gone?Click To Tweet

It’s a real boy?

Replika began when one of its founders lost her roommate, Roman, to a car accident. Eugenia Kyuda created Luka, a restaurant recommending chatbot, and she realized that with all of her old text messages from Roman, she could create an AI that texts and chats just like him. When she offered the use of his chatbot to his friends and family, she found a new business.

People were communicating with their deceased friend, sibling, and child, like he was still there. They wanted to tell him things, to talk about changes in their lives, to tell him they missed him, to hear what he had to say back.

This is human loss and grieving tempered by an AI version of the dead, and the implications are severe. Your personality could be preserved in servers after you die. Your loved ones could feel like they’re talking to you when you’re six feet under. Doesn’t that make anyone else feel uncomfortable?

Bringing an X-file to life

If you think about your closest loved one dying, talking to them via chatbot may seem like a dream come true. But in the long run, continuing a relationship with a dead person via their AI avatar is dangerous. Maybe it will help you grieve in the short term, but what are we replacing? And is it worth it?

Imagine texting a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse instead of Replika. Wouldn’t your interaction with them be more valuable than your conversation with this personality? Because you’re building on a lifetime of friendship, one that has value after the conversation is over. One that can exist in real tangible life. One that can actually help you grieve when the AI replacement just isn’t enough. One that can give you a hug.

“One day it will do things for you,” Kyuda said in an interview with Bloomberg, “including keeping you alive. You talk to it, and it becomes you.”

Replacing you is so easy

This kind of rhetoric from Replika’s founder has to make you wonder if this app was intended as a sort of technological fountain of youth. You never have to “die” as long as your personality sticks around to comfort your loved ones after you pass. I could even see myself trying to cope with a terminal diagnosis by creating my own Replika to assist family members after I’m gone.

But it’s wrong isn’t it? Isn’t it? Psychologically and socially wrong?

It all starts with a chatbot. That replicates your personality. It begins with a woman who was just trying to grieve. This is a taste of the future, and a scary one too. One of clones, downloaded personalities, and creating a life that sticks around after you’re gone.

replikareplikareplikareplika

#replika

C. L. Brenton is a staff writer at The American Genius. She loves writing about all things, she’s even won some contests doing it! For everything C. L. check out her website

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Hardware tokens are what folks serious about avoiding hackers use

(TECH) Hardware tokens have been around for a while, but people most serious about avoiding hackers swear by them.

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hardware token

How many passwords do you have? How many sites do you use each of your passwords for? Information Today research estimates over half of all adults have five or more unique passwords, while one in three adults have 10 or more unique passwords that have to be remembered.

This particular study was from 2012. I’d wager that most of us use many more passwords today than we did just six years ago. With the risk of your accounts being hacked increasing, you might be wary – you might not even trust an online password manager.

If you struggle with remembering all of your passwords and want to make sure you are managing passwords and protecting your accounts, you might want to consider a hardware token.

What is a hardware token?

This piece of hardware is a physical device, similar to a USB drive, that lets you gain access to an electronically restricted resource. It’s actually a simple two-factor authentication source.

Once your account is set up to accept the hardware token, you log in to the account with your user ID and password. You’ll be asked to insert the hardware token into the device, which gives you access to your account. It’s another layer of protection and authentication.

Hardware tokens have been on the market since 2002. Although many use the USB port on your device, Bluetooth tokens and smart cards are other types of hardware tokens. Setting up a hardware token is fairly easy. You can use your hardware token with most websites that have two-factor authorization.

The challenges with hardware tokens is that they are very easy to lose and can easily be stolen. That’s a pretty significant downside.

The YubiKey, one of the current offerings on the market, costs about $50. It could be expensive to have a hardware token for everyone in your organization. Google Titan, another brand of hardware key, costs about the same.

Some argue that not everyone needs this much security, but those people probably have never been hacked. If it protects your accounts, it might be worth taking a look.

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Tech News

Amazingly fun tech toys that are secretly educational

(TECHNOLOGY) STEM toys for children are fun *and* educational – here are some that have caught our eye.

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STEM tech toys for kids

There’s a new trend amongst startups – and amongst kids’ toys: educational playthings that teach your little ones STEM skills like programming and coding.

Toys that double as learning tools are nothing new, but digital, connected technology still is, and so is the idea that your toddler can get a leg up in the tech industry by getting an early start.

Parents, universities, and economists seem concerned that acquiring STEM skills will soon be the only way to guarantee a good job, despite reports from the U.S. Census Bureau that 3 out of 4 STEM majors end up in non-STEM fields anyway.

So if your kid is more into, say, baseball or dancing than computers, you might be wasting the pretty pennies these high-powered educational toys will cost you.

Kids, with their alarmingly short attention spans, are as likely to toss these toys back into the toybox as any other. But if your wee one seems to have a knack for all things technical – or if you’d just rather see them learn how to build a device than passively stare at one all day – then check out TC’s guide to STEM toys.

Even though these toys are marketed towards the younger set, I found myself a little envious, wishing I could take a few for a test drive – especially since many of them are modern, high-tech reboots on old standbys from my childhood.

Lego’s Boost Creative Toolbox uses the same classic Lego blocks, but allows you to animate and program your creations.

Several products cross-market with some of my childhood favorites; Dash Robotics has teamed up with Mattel to make Jurassic World robots, and Kano makes a Harry Potter Coding Kit that teaches kids to program a wand that can interact with digital content. There’s even Electro Dough which is basically electrically-conductive Play-Doh that can light up and make sounds. I want!

In fact, a lot of the toys combine arts ‘n’ crafts with STEM lessons. Adafruits makes a marker with electronically conductive ink that can light up circuits and interact with computer programs, and an electronic pencil that synthesizes music. Root Robotic’s little bot can draw pictures and compose songs.

For the more straightforward tech nerds, Makeblock, Evo, Robo Wunderkind, and Wonder Workshop all make programmable robots – a big step up from the “artificially intelligent” Furby’s of my childhood. Sphero’s Bolt is a ball-shaped robot, while Airblock makes a programmable hovercraft.

There’s the Pi-top Modular Laptop that teaching kids coding, and there are even opportunities for kids to build their own electronics; Kano offers a build-it-yourself computer.

The holidays are just around the corner – but whether STEM educational toys will be the next Tickle Me Elmo remains to be seen.

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Tech News

This AI program wants to be your graphic designer

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a small business looking for branding or to re-brand but don’t have the time nor budget, this tool can help you get it done!

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brandmark

AI is growing, now it can even be your own personal graphic designer.

The new company Brandmark uses AI to create custom brand identities in minutes. All you need to do is describe your business and leave the designing up to them.

Brandmark describes their system as “more than just a logo,” as they aid people in developing an entire brand identity. This includes a complete style guide, color scheme and even a WordPress compatible website template.

It is the perfect tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may not have the budget to hire an in-house designer to join their team.

The creators of Brandmark have attempted to give the platform personal elements as well, so that you can understand the design decisions and even have the chance to make it your own.

The process is as simple as it can get. All that Brandmark requires is for you to type in a few keywords that best describe your business. For example, a coffee shop might type in “coffee, hot, lounge, mocha, books, relaxation.” These keywords are anything that can be associated with your brand so it is important to include adjectives as well. Consider how you want customers to feel when they see your product or walk into your shop for the first time.

All of these details will help Brandmark create a unique and personal identity for you.

The creators of the tool wanted it to feel like a true designer. That is why they have developed a system that understands design principles. After creating a look, Brandmark will explain the design choice and how it relates to your brand. In addition, you have access to features that allow you to customize the design.

Just like any professional service, Brandmark provides a style guide that can be used to apply your brand - including logo, color scheme and font - to various type of products. Click To Tweet

For instance, the same coffee shop would know how to apply their logo to coffee cups, bags, mugs and menus by following the guide. In addition, website layouts are offered to get your online business started. It’s an all-in-one package to get your business up and running with a professional look.

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