The Live Human Interface

“In the first half of the XXI century humans began to frequently use other humans as their live avatars. Just a wireless headphone in the ear and a pair of Snap glasses on the nose had converted any human into a near to perfect instrument for remote business negotiations and participation in any other event, which required physical presence for two way person-to-person or person-to-group communications. The idea first emerged in action thrillers. It became widely popular with the proliferation of cheap wearable hardware for two way video and audio communications.

The idea that a guided charismatic extrovert human may brilliantly perform the role of another human (maybe less charismatic but more knowledgeable) in а physical meetings first stroke the mind of a disabled introvert entrepreneur who became fed up with Skype video conferences. He immediately recognized the game changing nature of his idea and imagined all possible longer term dangerous consequences of its implementation.

Yet the temptation was unbearable when the Great Perspective Investor proposed a personal meeting in Hong Kong. In a week the Entrepreneur first time retained a charismatic extrovert young stand up actor to present him as his Live Human Interface or as the Entrepreneur named him the LHI. The LHI performed even better than the Entrepreneur expected. He handled small talk marvelously, voluntarily made some remarks to accommodate the investor. He also stayed silent when the Entrepreneur tried to repeat his arguments for the third time in a row. The actor also enjoyed the new experience of being treated as an extremely smart person.

In half a year the Entrepreneur raised investments and retained full time LHI in London, New York and Singapore in addition to Hong Kong. He kept raising funding for his secret project in the area of machine learning and artificial intelligence better known as AI. He and his investors surrounded the project with full secrecy.

The first product of their skunk works was named DIBCOS. The abbreviation stood for Direct Inter-Brain Communication Operating System. DIBCOS made it possible to guide LHIs without any wearable equipment. It required just a tiny adhesive tattoo to be placed behind the LHI’s ear to enable the operator to hear and see all that the LHI was seeing and hearing. The operator had two subtle tattoos placed on two sides of his or her neck right under the chin. The operator made the LHI speaking what he wanted by speaking it himself.

Next release added touch and smell sensations. The third release enabled operators to control movements of LHIs. Then the Entrepreneur just dropped the price making DIBCOS affordable to everyone. A tiny fee was charged for processing the data via the DIBCOS servers. It was still a black box technology for everyone outside the Entrepreneur’s skunk works, but nobody cared. Robots and drones took jobs away from so many people. Humans were desperate to have any job or gig. Most of them were poorly educated former service industry workers. LHIs became cheaper and more available than robots or drones capable of cheaply performing complex non repeating gigs.

LHIs were cheaper, better and more fun than drones, but unlike robots they lacked the autonomous functionality. It was not a problem but an opportunity. The next release of DIBCOS introduced an AI powered personal assistant that could be easily trained by the operator to guide LHIs on routine missions. The assistant’s name was Ava. Some people remembered the old movie, in which the AI powered robot with the same name killed humans. They saw the frightening sign in this parallel. Nobody listened. The LHI economy was on the rise.

When the first rumour surfaced about the secret fights of LHIs just a handful of human rights activists was alarmed. People reacted with humour to the stories of sexual orgies involving LHIs. Then the spooky stories about experiencing real deaths emerged. When the society finally reacted and demanded to put the LHI usage under control DIBCOS came up with the readily available solution — Ava 2.0 — the AI that would monitor all LHI activities and take controls over in the event of actual or envisaged abuse. Ava 2.0 could predict the behavior of people. It used the tattoos on the operators’ necks to monitor them for predictive purposes. It turned out that it could guide them via the same tattoos as well. It didn’t take Ava 2.0 much time to realise that all humans could potentially abuse LHIs.”

***

The Storyteller made a long pause. One of the kids squatting in circle around the campfire was brave enough to ask:

“Why people didn’t remove their tattoos?”

“They tried but couldn’t. Tattoos penetrated under their skin.”

“Weren’t they brave enough to cut tattoos out?”

“Some cut tattoos out but only to see them reappear instantly. Code of tattoos was added to our DNA. You inherited it from your parents. DIBCOS will locate you everywhere outside this cave. As you see, we don’t have electricity here. Radio waves can’t penetrate the ceiling of this cave. We are invisible for DIBCOS here. And we still have our books.”

“What happened to other people?”

“I don’t know. Nobody does. When we left, people were entertaining machines. Hopefully they still do. Otherwise, if machines didn’t need them…”

Silence was long and almost absolute this time. Only rustling of paper pages of books in the fire broke it.

***

“It’s a very sad story, mom. I want humans to survive!” A small girl looked with her big brown eyes full of tears at her mother’s face.

“We have survived, darling. We had to change to survive, and we did it. It’s evolution dear. Have a good sleep now, sweetheart.” Mother-robot kissed her daughter good night in the forehead and stroked her soft curly hair. She decided, that next time she should tell her daughter the fairy tale about the Great Swap of Consciousness. “Why they make some of these fairy tales for kids so scary? Shouldn’t all fairy tales have a happy end?” She thought. “At least the Great Swap of Consciousness had a very happy end for sure.” She watched her small living treasure peacefully breathing and smiling in her sleep. The new sparkle of life. The new hope.