What if you had your own artificial intelligence that learns and grows with you? An assistant that helps you amplify your potential, in learning, work, and personal life.
Familiar is a speculative design concept of an Artificial Intelligence that only learns what is relevant to the person it is attached to.
It takes a different approach than current personal assistant AIs out there like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo and Google Assistant: these AIs operate in the cloud and communicate with the person through a medium like their phones or a standalone device. They learn from everyone, and are designed with the concept of an average person in mind. They can be tweaked based on personal preferences, but in general, are the same for everyone.
In contrast, the Familiar is a standalone product with a powerful computer optimized for deep learning housed within a 3D printer. All data is stored within your Familiar, and is encrypted. Over time, as it learns and applies what it has learned, it will start hardcoding its neural network into hardware generated using the printer. It also has the capability to expand its memory through the printer. It is designed to learn and grow with you. This growth also symbolizes the gestation period needed for an artificial intelligence to be effective. Its sole purpose is to augment your abilities in this information dense age.
I imagine that a Familiar will be introduced to a child at around 10 years. During the initial few months, it will passively observe their owner, learning what is important to them, perform research through the internet, and make associations. It will occasionally ask clarifying questions. Over time, it will have learned enough to start helping their owner. With enough time and iteration, it will start automating many of the mundane tasks like managing emails, schedule, assisting in research, and eventually editing existing work. It will become an important tool, not unlike owning a computer, and its skillset will be an expected section on your resumé. I could also imagine a Familiar as an heirloom, that could influence the next generation of Familiars and their owners.
Although a Familiar could have its own mic, speakers and camera, it is more like an entity that blends in with your other devices. You can chat with it, talk to it, or even communicate with it through a phone call. This kind of interaction is inspired from J.A.R.V.I.S., the home computing system of Tony Stark / Iron Man of Marvel Comics. This system also has many parallels with the Young Lady’s Illustrator Primer from The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.
Any new technology also brings its own problems and fears. One of the biggest concern for such a personal AI is that people will become anti-social, and dependent on the AI. This effect has already been observed in online social networks platforms. How can we ensure that using Familiar does not lead to this outcome? One way would be to design Familiar with the goal of balancing the social life of their owner. If the Familiar observes that its owner is spending too much time interacting with it, and less time with other humans, it could encourage more social interactions with others.
Another concern that is often raised regarding AIs is that one day they will learn enough to replace their owners. Currently, AI as a technology can only do very specific tasks. Future development of AIs is in our control. We can design AIs with certain limitations, just like car manufacturers limit the speeds of their cars, with the forethought that speeding causes accidents. On way to enforce such limitations could be through a separate bot internet that has higher speeds, special protocols for bots, and censorship on automatically accessing certain kinds of information. This could be regulated through a non-profit organization: Federal Bot Council (FBC). The bots could still access censored information if their own manually accesses that information. Registration will also allow the FBC to have periodic inspections, similar to how we have vehicle registration today. Inspired from Neuromancer by William Gibson, there could be special bots, that are designed to enforce bot laws implemented by the FBC.
Gathering inspiration from the growth of insects, plants, buildings, and 3d printed objects, I started exploring ways to show growth. Initially, I used Rhinoceros 3D software to manually create 2 representations of growth: one that rises, and one that grows around a sphere. Based on peer feedback, I worked further on growth around a sphere, and used Processing to create variations of 3D models that have layers of lattice-like growth. However, after many failed attempts at converting the 3D model into a printable file format, I went back to making a similar model in Rhinoceros with the help of Grasshopper plugin. However, it required several attempts at getting the right balance of complexity, validity of the 3D printable structure, and printing cost. The final iteration was 3D printed on a Form 2 3D printer using a transparent resin, and took over 10 hours to print.