Fake Avatars and the Duplicates Paradox: An Essay by Extropia DaSilva


But if it is true that more than one person can convincingly roleplay a specific digital person, PrimaryBound cannot be true in all cases.  But there are still some hurdles to clear out of the way. For one thing, it is no doubt the case that ‘those who are very good-excellent at roleplaying avatar X’ are in a minority compared to ‘those hopeless at roleplaying avatar X’. If you were to grab some random stranger and ask them to log in and pretend to be me, it is a lot more probable that the person you chose would not be able to roleplay that part convincingly. Even if you were lucky enough to have picked someone excellent at roleplaying that part, the fact that hitherto they have not is another problem. They would have little to no memory of that character’s past interactions. Friends would realise something is amiss when ‘I’ do not seem to remember important events from a shared history.

So while in principle ‘PrimaryBound’ is wrong when applied to digital people, in practice it is not, simply because it is so unlikely that you could find a suitable replacement roleplayer. However, certain technological developments might converge on a solution.

The first trend is the growing proliferation of sensors. We already have the technology to record where we have been, what we have seen, what we have heard, what we have said, what we have read/written. There are also plans for future sensors that will be able to infer a person’s emotions, allowing a person to track their changing emotional states as they go through life, compiling extensive psychological profiles.

The second trend is increasing storage capacity and the move to cloud-based applications. We are nearing the point where the storage capacity exceeds one’s ability to fill it. This will make the prospect of having to delete old stuff in order to make room for new obsolete. You could save everything a person sees, hears, reads and says over their whole lifetime.

The third trend is the increasing capability of search software. If this trend should continue, we will reach a point where a person can easily recall anything specific that has been uploaded to the Cloud, be it in text form, or audio, or video.

What these three trends are converging on, are ‘digital memories’ providing total recall. That is, the augmented ability to recall, in vivid detail, every event that happened in our past. How, though, does this help the PrimaryBound problem?

For one thing, it would enable the search for a suitable replacement to be carried out in a systematic way. Here’s how. Take the digital memories of a particular digital person. Everything s/he has seen, heard, written, said, and all  emotional reactions to every event. All those digital memories are then compared to the digital memories of every RL person, searching for those that are the closest match. You can think of it as a kind of automatic casting agent that is searching for people who would be excellent at playing that role.

OK, so let’s assume a person who would be excellent at roleplaying that part is found. What do we do about the fact that he or she has little to no knowledge of personal details about that digital person’s past interactions with others? I guess you know the answer. Not only does the replacement roleplayer gain access to that character’s online accounts, they also get access to its digital memories.

The great thing about this idea is that it divides the task of roleplaying a digital person between the strengths of human and machine intelligence. Humans are likely to remain far better at creative and emotive thinking for the foreseeable future, so a digital person is much more convincing when a human is the pupeteer, rather than a bot. Computers, on the other hand,  are much better at accurate, repetitive thinking, and this will be especially true in the era of digital memories and total recall.

So, a human roleplayer provides the necessary qualities a digital person needs in order for other people to think they are ‘real’, and the Total Recall system would work in the background, supplying the right information at the right time so that, no matter what anybody else asks, the roleplayer is able to make that character respond in a manner that is consistent with what others expect.

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