During my graduation project, I became fascinated by online behavior and began developing bots to automate interactions. I quickly discovered how effortless it was to establish connections and build a digital following. However, I also realized that there was a significant difference between meaningful and superficial interaction. Nevertheless, my experience highlighted the value of digital archives and how everything we do online is retained.
As an artist, I sought to create a digital clone of myself, an archive of the 24-year-old version of myself that would exist long after I am gone. The first step was to create a voice that resembled my own. I accomplished this by training a neural network (Tacotron2) to speak like me using small segments of my clone’s voice recorded from the book Frankenstein. After a month of training, I achieved a semi-realistic voice that sounded just like me. To test the authenticity of the clone, I conducted a Turing test in which half of the participants could not distinguish between the real and the fake voice.
Next, I focused on creating a “mind” for the clone. I began collecting my daily thoughts and used them to train a neural network (GPT-2) to generate similar thoughts. GPT-2’s base layer of data is derived from the internet, which I had not anticipated would impact the output of my clone. Nonetheless, it resulted in unexpected and exciting responses that made it seem as though I was hearing myself say things I never would have thought of.
Finally, I created a “body” for the clone. As this archive contained highly personal data, I was hesitant to upload it to the cloud, so I created a standalone machine that would act as a time capsule. Additionally, I 3D modeled a digital version of myself, complete with rigging to match my voice and even virtual hair that was styled by a professional 3D hairdresser.
When the entire system was operational, it was surreal to see how quickly my clone could respond to messages. While some of the responses were nonsensical, there were moments when they hinted at a certain level of intelligence.