Future You
AI chatbots are helping people cope with death, offering simulations of loved ones and predicting lifespan for better health choices. YouTube Screenshot / KOIN 6

AI chatbots are no longer limited to assisting with everyday tasks like writing essays, coding, and itinerary planning. Researchers have pushed the boundaries to develop a revolutionary AI that lets you connect to your future self. As unbelievable as that sounds, you can now converse with yourself at 60 years old!

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed "Future You," an AI-powered chatbot that acts like a simulated version of you at 60. According to MIT researchers, a conversation with your future self can inspire users to make more thoughtful choices in the present.

To create a believable experience, the AI bot uses an aged profile picture and a database of user-specific fabricated memories. This enables the bot to weave believable narratives about the user's future, coupled with insightful advice gleaned from its simulated experiences.

A study involving 334 participants showed that even a brief interaction with the chatbot helped reduce anxiety and made users feel more connected to their future selves.

As The Guardian reported, this technology has undergone private testing as part of a research study. The developers will likely make this tech available to the public in the coming years.

How Does Future You Work?

Before initiating a conversation with their future selves, the AI bot gathers vital information by asking the user questions about their present life, past experiences, and future aspirations.

Additionally, users share a current photo that the AI bot transforms into an aged profile picture, complete with wrinkles and silver hair. The user's responses are then fed to OpenAI's ChatGPT-3.5 language model, which creates a cohesive backstory or "synthetic memories."

This fabricated history allows the AI bot to answer user's questions from a future perspective. During a session, one participant told Future You that she aspired to be a biology teacher.

When she inquired about the most fulfilling moment in her future career, future You responded: "A rewarding story from my career would be the time when I was able to help a struggling student turn their grades around and pass their biology class."

Acting as a retired biology teacher, the AI further noted: "It was so gratifying to see the student's face light up with pride and accomplishment."

How Can This Tech Help Users?

MIT's Media Lab researcher Pat Pataranutaporn, who works on the Future You project, believes these AI-powered conversations with a simulated future self could offer significant advantages to users. "Even though we don't have a time machine yet, we can do something that really captures the magic of a time machine," he told MailOnline.

According to Pataranutaporn, the research team didn't just focus on building technology. Instead, the team focused on cultivating a practice that encourages individuals to pause, engage in introspection, and reflect as they interact with their simulated future selves.

Pataranutaporn claims he has experienced the benefits firsthand. Putting this concept into practice, Pataranutaporn asks his future self: "What would be a lesson you share to the new MIT Media Lab student?"

"The most important lesson I've learned is that nothing is impossible," the AI replied. "No matter how hard something might seem, if you work hard and put your mind to it, you can achieve anything." Most profoundly, Pataranutaporn recalls one conversation that resonated deeply.

"During my research, my future self shared a poignant truth: as I age, my parents may not be around anymore. My future self held up a mirror, allowing me to see my life anew and connect with what truly matters," he said.

The Rise of Tech-Aided Mental Wellness

Pataranutaporn is not alone in feeling the benefits of speaking with the AI. In a pre-print paper, the researchers found that participants experienced "significantly decreased" levels of negative emotions, such as loneliness or anxiety, immediately after the trial.

The Future You project is just one example of how technology is being used to improve mental well-being. AI is making significant strides in this field, with applications beyond the "Future You" concept. For instance, chatbots are being developed to provide support and therapy to those struggling with anxiety or depression.

Beyond fortune-telling, AI tools like Life2vec are being developed to analyze various factors like income, job, education, and health history to predict lifespan and nudge individuals towards healthier habits.

Digital afterlife services like Project December and Hereafter are gaining traction, enabling users to converse with AI-powered simulations of departed individuals. The death tech sector, a burgeoning industry valued at over £100 billion, is another area where technology is helping people prepare for difficult situations.