“In 2003, the wife of a 55-year-old Vietnamese carpenter named Le Van died. Heartbroken, he dug up her grave, cast her body in clay and slept next to her for five years…grieving people feel an emotional connection to things that represent dead loved ones, such as headstones, urns and shrines…In the future, people may take that phenomenon to stunning new heights: AI experts predict that humans will replace dead relatives with synthetic robot clones, complete with a digital copy of that person’s brain.” N. O’Neill, The Motherboard
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Companies Want to Replicate Your Dead Loved Ones.. .N. Oneill, The Motherboard
“It’s like when people stuff a pet cat or dog. We don’t stuff humans but this is a way of ‘stuffing their information, their personality and mannerisms, said Bruce Duncan, managing director of Terasem Movement, a research foundation that aims to transfer human consciousness to computers and robots.
The firm has already created thousands of highly detailed mind clones to log the memories, values and attitudes of specific people. Using the data, scientists created one of the world’s most socially advanced robots, a replica of Terasem Movement founder Martine Rothblatt’s wife, called Bina48, which sells for roughly $150,000.
Rothblatt, who is also transgender and the highest paid female CEO in America, spearheaded the project to create a digital replica the human brain. She used her wife, Bina Aspen, as an early prototype, installing the real Bina’s mind file into a physical robot designed to look like her.
Made of a skin-like rubber, Bina48 was created using more than 100 hours of audio data recorded by the human Bina about her memories and beliefs. Like the real Bina, the robot loves flowers, has mocha-colored skin and a self-deprecating sense of humor. She makes facial expressions, greets people and has conversations (including some awkward ones), made possible with facial and voice recognition software, motion tracking, and internet connectivity.
In real life, there’s an actual demand for robot reincarnation, grief experts say. People find grief to be a painful, even excruciating experience. If this is a way to ease that pain, it will be attractive to people, said Robert Zucker, a grief counselor and author of The Journey Through Grief and Loss.
But like relying too heavily on prescription pills, it may not be a healthy way to cope. There’s something tremendously problematic about it, said Zucker. It seems driven by fear, a desire to numb pain and make the world not feel sorrow. We would be deluding ourselves.
However he added, There are many ways of grieving that are strange and extreme. As long as it doesn’t inhibit that person from moving on with his or her life in a healthy way—maybe it could work for somebody.”
Special: A View of Spring:
From the garden of R. Deck and L. J. Vargas
Thanks for the Beauty!
Happy Easter Everyone!
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about cloning. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- We don’t stuff humans.
- The aim is to transfer human consciousness to robots.
- The firm has already created thousands of highly detailed clones.
- Scientists created one of the world’s most socially advanced robots.
- Rothblatt is also transgender and the highest paid female CEO.
- She used her wife, Bina Aspen, as an early prototype.
- She has a self-deprecating sense of humor.
- We’ve been projecting personhood onto inanimate objects for years.
- It will probably take decades before robot reincarnation becomes socially acceptable.
- Everything down to a person’s mannerisms and quirks can be recreated.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Bina48 still has some ___glitches, but she’s a ___proof of concept—the firm’s almost-charming___girl for the techno-immortality movement. She’s an example of how, in the___, the wall between___and digital worlds may come ___down, Duncan said. The ___of alive may even evolve to mean, as long as your ___personal information___to be organized and accessible,” he said.
Word List: future, crashing, social, continues, working, essential, poster, biological, definition,
Grammar Focus: Prepositions
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over, through, from, during, up, off,
She’s example___how, ___the future, the wall between biological and digital worlds may come crashing down,
At least 56,000 people have already handed ___information ___create mindfiles, a web-based storage space___preserving one’s unique and essential characteristics ___the future.
Some users simply like the idea___living forever.
Others want___ document themselves___ a part of human history.
People think nothing ___ watching videos___important past events ___our lives like weddings and birthdays.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with discussing or writing about the main idea and points from the article.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statement and answer the question. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- “Tech experts admit it will probably take decades before robot reincarnation becomes socially acceptable…But scientists may never fully capture the essence of a human being, Zucker contended. There’s more to a person than their intellect and experiences. There’s a spiritual aspect.”
- Would you consider cloning a dead relative? Explain why or why not.
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.