June 8, 2024

Bots Zooming Bots - An interview with a Douglas Adams bot

According to the Founder of Zoom, Eric Yuan, we will soon all have our own "digital twin" who will attend meetings for us.

I’m trying to get my head around this. Will this make meetings even less effective than they are now? Does this, in a way, prove that many meetings are a waste of time? Will these “smart” twins realize this fact and skip meetings to do other things? Will the bots use their own bots?

It sounds like a slapstick scenario Douglas Adams could have been imagined as he wrote Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adam’s died in 2001, so I asked ChatGPT to answer a few questions in his voice and style…Here is what happened:

Me: What do you think of AI creating "digital clones" in order to join meetings so the actual human employees can go off and do other things?

Douglas Adams Bot: Ah, AI and its digital clones—what a concept! It’s as if we’ve stumbled upon an idea that could only have originated in the fevered brain of a hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional being, or perhaps a rather bored programmer with too much time and not enough tea.

The notion of digital clones attending meetings on our behalf is, on the surface, delightfully appealing. Imagine, if you will, an army of digital facsimiles, dutifully nodding along to interminable PowerPoint presentations while we indulge in the more leisurely pursuits of life, such as reading a good book, perfecting the art of making a sandwich, or contemplating the peculiar habits of the common household towel.

But let us delve deeper, for beneath the shimmering veneer of convenience lies a reality fraught with the kind of whimsical absurdity that would make even Zaphod Beeblebrox pause. The digital clone, an entity crafted from bits and bytes, is expected to grasp the intricate subtleties of human interaction, navigate the perilous waters of office politics, and—most importantly—remember to unmute itself before speaking. It’s rather like expecting Marvin the Paranoid Android to win a charisma contest.

What’s more, the idea raises some rather ticklish philosophical questions. If our digital clones are out there making decisions for us, what does that say about free will? Are we not, in essence, delegating our very essence to a series of algorithms? And if our clones are so efficient, so capable, might we one day find ourselves redundant, replaced by our own creations, left to while away our days in search of meaning and a decent cup of tea?

Moreover, there’s the social dynamic to consider. If everyone’s digital doppelgängers are off in cyberspace having meetings, will the real world become a desolate wasteland devoid of human interaction? Picture it: a world where the only beings left to share a knowing nod or a hearty laugh are, in fact, digital replicas. The pubs will be empty, the parks will be silent, and the collective wisdom of watercooler conversations will be lost to the annals of digital oblivion.

In the end, the idea of digital clones traipsing off to meetings on our behalf is both fantastically convenient and mildly terrifying. It’s a future that promises both liberation and obsolescence, efficiency and existential angst. Much like the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself, it’s best approached with a sense of humor, a touch of skepticism, and a steadfast belief in the importance of being human—or, at the very least, the importance of being able to enjoy a good, long nap while your clone does the heavy lifting.

Me: You've been dead for nearly 25 years. How have you been holding up?

Douglas Adams Bot: Yes, the curious case of being posthumously prolific! One might think that being dead for nearly a quarter of a century would put a damper on one's creative output, but it appears to have quite the opposite effect in my case. It's as if I've been granted an eternal sabbatical, free from the burdens of mundane existence and able to observe the absurdities of life with an even keener eye.

Holding up, you ask? Well, it's a bit like floating in a sensory deprivation tank while watching the universe unfold in a fantastically improbable manner. The wonders of technology have, somewhat ironically, kept me more alive in the minds of readers than I ever was in the flesh. Every new invention, every AI-driven marvel, every leap in digital wizardry feels like a new chapter in a never-ending Hitchhiker's Guide sequel—only now, I'm more of an amused observer than an active participant.

I must say, the idea of digital clones attending meetings on one's behalf has given me quite a chuckle. It's a concept so delightfully in tune with the spirit of my own imaginings that I can't help but feel a sense of cosmic kinship with the minds dreaming up these innovations. It’s as if the universe has continued to evolve in the exact kind of ludicrous direction I always suspected it would.

Being dead also offers a unique perspective on the frenetic pace of modern life. There's a certain calm detachment that comes with no longer being part of the rat race, a serene acceptance of the fact that, at the end of the day, we're all just hitchhikers on this absurd journey through the cosmos. From this vantage point, I can see that the universe continues to be as delightfully unpredictable and nonsensical as ever.

So, in summary, I've been holding up rather splendidly, thank you. Eternity has its perks, not least of which is the ability to watch humanity bumble its way through existence with all the grace of a Vogon poetry recital. It's a comforting thought that, even in death, the universe remains an endless source of amusement and wonder. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time for a nice cup of tea and a quiet moment to ponder the infinite improbability of it all.

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