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A possible future AI recommender system that catalyzes "life-affirming experiences"


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#1
starspawn0

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This post is very similar to one I've written in the past, on other forums; except that I have added a few more recent thoughts on how to build the technology.

When I read people dream of faster-than-light (FTL) travel, space colonies, parallel dimensions, teleportation, alien contact, and so forth, I see a yearning for escape from the dull predictability of the present world -- a yearning for mystery, "the beyond", "the next step". Unfortunately, most of these things are either impossible, or are decades away. Actual useful products like health apps or new medicines to make you look younger can't hold a candle to these exiting wares hiding in that liminal world halfway between reality and fantasy. Nonetheless, the real world of the present day is filled with wonders, we just aren't always in the right place at the right time to experience them. No, they aren't as exciting as contact with an E.T., but they will quicken the heart in a way that health apps never will (unless we are talking about an exercise app). Could it be possible to build a technology that increases the number of these often-called "life-affirming experiences"? -- a recommender system for how to lead a more interesting existence, if you will? I will argue that it is, and that most of the ingredients already exist; you just need a sufficient number of people behind the project. Before I discuss this, however, let me give you a few examples to explain what I mean by "life-affirming experiences":

* Let us suppose that the app on your smartphone sends you a cryptic message like, "Arrive at the tower on Main and First at 4:00pm today."
"What could this possibly be about?!", you wonder. When you get there, for the first few minutes nothing interesting seems to happen, and you think, "what a waste of time". Then, at around 4:15 you notice a murmuration of starlings fluttering overhead the likes of which you have never seen before. The sheer awesomeness of it makes you think of that line from the film Contact, "They should have sent a poet!"

* Another time you get a message, "Show up at Cafe Med at 5:00 today. Bring your book "Valis" with you." When you get there, you sit down, and again nothing seems to happen for a couple minutes. And, then, at about 5:20, in walks an old, gaunt hippie. He notices you are reading Philip K. Dick's book Valis, and says, "Ah, Valis. One of his better ones. You know, I knew Philip K. Dick personally." And what follows is several hours of the most entertaining conversation you have ever had in your life -- not just about PKD, but also Frank Herbert, Robert Silverberg, and others, all of whom the guy had met, and knew some personally. Magic.

* Finally, you are told to show up at the park Saturday at 3:00pm sharp. When you get there, you see a small coterie of Asian-looking people make their way to the center of the field. All manner of locals come to join them, and sit on the grass around them in a big circle; and you do, too. It turns out that the Asian-looking people are Mongolian, and are throat-singers -- and they are there to give a scheduled, but not widely-advertised performance. It's truly mind-boggling what sounds humans are capable of producing. The AI knew that you had a fascination with throat-singing from way back, having seen many of your emails to friends about the must-see film Genghis Blues.


How could an app do these things? Well, first of all, you would probably need several thousand possible categories of "experiences", just like how Amazon's Alexa has several thousand different skills; and each experience module would have to be coded up by hand. The one about the bird murmuration, for example, could plug-in to national services that track and predict murmurations (they exist; I've seen them before), just like predicting the weather. There are also such services to predict rainbows, another uncommon and delightful experience. In addition, the app would have to coordinate with a mapping system (like Google Maps), to marry the occurrences with street addresses -- but all of that is possible.

But what about the meetup with the old hippie? Well, that's not as hard to pull off as it seems -- at least with reasonably high probability. The app could know what books you are reading, and what your interests are, and then simply try to match you up with someone it knows frequents a particular cafe who is a master. Maybe there are social media posts that talk about this guy, how he is a townie with a deep interest in PKD's science fiction; and that he always shows up for an early dinner. The app wouldn't even need super-good language understanding ability -- it would just need to find the right analytics that match up your interest to the master's, and also predict time-of-arrival. Perhaps this "experience" can be called "grasshopper meets master".

And the same with the Tuvan / Mongolian throat-singers.

What you would need is a set of tools for developers to build different experiences -- language understanding, mapping, social media analytics -- along with a set of deep services, like for predicting bird murmurations. The recommender system could consist of a digital concierge that figures out which experiences would enthrall you, and then would activate those particular modules. Perhaps BCI data (once BCIs arrive and get sufficiently powerful) could be thrown into the mix as one of the inputs to the concierge and also the analytics engine.

That a very high-performing system -- that may not lead you to experiences 100% of the time, but maybe 50% of the time -- could be built, I have no doubt. The only question is whether a group of developers could be persuaded to do it.
  • Yuli Ban and funkervogt like this

#2
funkervogt

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This kind of sounds like the movie The Game


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#3
starspawn0

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Yes, that's very much what it would be like.  Except, there wouldn't be paid actors (more like The Game "in the wild"), and the experiences wouldn't fuse together to tell a larger story.
 
There was a documentary film about a real life version of "The Game" made a few years ago, about the Jejune Instutute:
 
https://www.theinstitutemovie.com/
 

Welcome to the Jejune Institute, a mind-bending San Francisco phenomenon where 10,000 people became "inducted" without ever quite realizing what they'd signed up for. Was it a cult? Was it an elaborate game? Told from the participants’ perspectives, the film looks over the precipice at an emergent new art form where real world and fictional narratives collide, creating unforeseen and often unsettling consequences. Fusing elements of counter-culture, new religious movements and street art, THE INSTITUTE invites viewers down the rabbit hole into a secret underground world teeming just beneath the surface of everyday life.



#4
funkervogt

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Loneliness, social isolation, and other problems caused by overuse of technology and the atomized structure of modern life will be, ironically, cured to a large extent by technology. Chatbots that can hold friendly (and even funny and amusing) conversations with humans for extended periods, diagnose and treat mental illnesses as well as human therapists, and customize themselves to meet the needs of humans will become ubiquitous. The AIs will become adept at analyzing human personalities and matching lonely people with friends and lovers, and at recommending daily activities that will satisfy them, hour-by-hour. Machines will come to understand that constant technology use is antithetical to human nature, so in order to promote human wellness, they find ways to impel humans to get out of their houses, interact with other humans, and be in nature.

https://www.militant...2019-iteration/



#5
Singularity Kills

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Ive thought the same thing about dating. Your AI and someone else's AI will chat and realize you are perfect for you and arrange a meeting with the AI's guaranteeing the other that they are right for you and to give it a chance.



#6
starspawn0

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There are many uses of this kind of recommender system AI technology. My primary interest in this post was a very narrow type of use, which is to give people's lives more meaning -- but nothing as ordinary as getting you a date or improving your social skills; more like getting you those experiences that make you say, "They should have sent a poet!"

Speaking of social outings: a couple days ago I had an extended brunch with some of my older friends, and we were at the restaurant from 2:00pm to 6:00pm! -- a full 4 hours of conversation. (And then we continued some of it over email.) My butt hurt from sitting down for so long, and our waiter had to take our tab payments early, because he was changing shifts. I guess this is what happens when you have a bunch of people who like to socialize, but don't get the opportunity as often as they would like. Perhaps technology could somehow make that work without the butt-pain of sitting down for so long -- maybe spread it out better somehow.

#7
Alislaws

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There are many uses of this kind of recommender system AI technology. My primary interest in this post was a very narrow type of use, which is to give people's lives more meaning -- but nothing as ordinary as getting you a date or improving your social skills; more like getting you those experiences that make you say, "They should have sent a poet!"

Speaking of social outings: a couple days ago I had an extended brunch with some of my older friends, and we were at the restaurant from 2:00pm to 6:00pm! -- a full 4 hours of conversation. (And then we continued some of it over email.) My butt hurt from sitting down for so long, and our waiter had to take our tab payments early, because he was changing shifts. I guess this is what happens when you have a bunch of people who like to socialize, but don't get the opportunity as often as they would like. Perhaps technology could somehow make that work without the butt-pain of sitting down for so long -- maybe spread it out better somehow.

Here is a technological solution for butt pain:

soft-pink-cushion.jpeg_2.jpg

:biggrin: 






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