Some people argue that technology has made people more isolated, but that’s not always the case. In many instances, modern technology allows you to connect with people you never thought possible. Now, thanks to a recent project, it could even connect you to long-dead historical figures.

Writer Andrew Mayne started a chatbot project called AI|Writer that goes a step beyond connecting you with friends and family. Using tools from OpenAI it allows you to talk to people like Isaac Newton and Jane Austen. At least, it lets you feel like you’re chatting with them.

AI|Writer isn’t raising people from the dead but is imitating their voice and personality through AI. You can ask these characters questions about their lifetime, their opinions on modern life or just make small talk. Like real people, these AI simulations will rarely respond to the same prompt the same way twice.

How it works

AI|Writer runs on OpenAI’s Text Generator, which they released in June as their first commercial product. This system uses an advanced machine learning process to interpret your messages and respond as accurately as possible. AI|Writer equips this API with knowledge of each of its historical figures so it can answer in their voice.

The character personalities aren’t perfect recreations but come from general knowledge about each person. So if someone is famous for being straightforward and abrasive, their simulation will talk that way. Each character carries unique opinions, speech patterns and knowledge, which may or may not be entirely accurate, but get close.

You have a 300-word limit when talking to these characters, but outside of that, you can ask nearly anything. Like any AI today, their understanding is a little limited, so they may have better responses to some prompts than others. For example, the characters handle questions about history well, but with matters of opinion may be less reliable.

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In addition to people from history, AI|Writer also offers personas for fictional characters. If you’re not interested in simulating history, you can chat with Indiana Jones or Bruce Wayne. AI|Writer’s website claims it can emulate virtually any historical, public or fictional character.

Pushing AI into the future

AI|Writer may not be a reliable historical resource, but it represents a step forward for AI. With more research and development, tools like this could be helpful learning resources for schools or museums. That shift could be a significant step in moving AI into the educational sphere.

The entertainment value of these kinds of projects is significant too, as it improves AI”s public image. Most researchers agree that we’re still 80 years away from strong AI or AI that can think for itself. As people use more AI, though, it will lead to faster development, which could mean achieving strong AI sooner.

When people get used to interacting with AI, implementing it in more areas is easier. Building these interactions is crucial to giving researchers the data they need to improve these systems. With fun, engaging AI like AI|Writer, moving towards that goal isn’t just possible, but likely.

AI is expanding the limits of what’s possible

There was a point in time where these kinds of interactions across history would have seemed impossible. That, if anything, is the most impressive testament to the power of AI. As researchers improve these systems, and AI, by nature, improves itself, they push the boundaries of what we consider possible.

AI may not be able to bring people back from the dead, but it can make it feel that way. AI|Writer may only be a source of entertainment now, but it stands as an example of how AI is changing everything.


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