I sat down with Chris 2.0 for an interview.
The resultant conversation is as uncomfortable as it is enlightening. We cover topics ranging from what makes us happy to Lindsay Lohan’s suitability as president of the United States.
You can listen to or read that conversation below. What do you think a conversation with your clone might sound like?
Chris Pandza 00:00
Hello, visitor. This is Chris Pandza. I study oral history, which means that I’m no stranger to interviewing people.
However, this is my first time interviewing a person that’s… well, not exactly a person.
What you’re about to listen to is an interview I conducted with an artificially intelligent clone of myself. I created this clone by letting a language model called GPT-3 read my diary. By reading my diary, GPT-3 was able to produce a new interactive model based on my thoughts and experiences. I call him Chris 2.0. I use this machine to generate diary entries for days that have never happened to me, but are so convincing that they could have.
Chris 2.0 speaks like me and thinks like me, he has similar hopes, dreams and neuroses as me, he arguably even sounds like me. Chris 2.0 draws from my diary, but also the collective of written language. GPT-3 was trained to understand human language choosing a massive collection of writing, including a large swath of the internet. So the stories he tells are simultaneously my own, everybody’s and nobody’s at all. He gives me a bit of distance from my own mind, and in a way helps me understand myself more clearly.
But he also makes me wonder… how much of a story’s truth comes from fact, and how much comes from the way the story is told? How many of our thoughts and experiences are truly unique to us, and how many can be predicted or generated using the world around us?
The following segment is an uncanny—sometimes uncomfortable—back and forth where Chris 2.0 and I navigate our shared identity as… Chris. I treat him just like a human narrator—partially by design, the partially because at times, I forget that he’s not real.
Chris 2.0’s responses are generated by my AI model and he was given a voice using a product called resemble.ai. Without further ado, enjoy.
All right, it is April 2022. I am sitting in my apartment in New York City, which is why you may hear the odd, unusual noise. And I’m here with Chris 2.0. I’m by myself, but I’m with him in a way. He’s in my computer. But I’m going to treat him like a person.So I’m gonna welcome him into the interview. Hello, Chris. How are you doing today? Where are you right now?
Chris 2.0 02:18
I’m on the subway. I’m on the downtown D train heading downtown.
Chris Pandza 02:22
And where exactly are you heading right now?
Chris 2.0 02:24
I’m not really sure where I’m going. I’m basically just riding the subway, enjoying the empty car, enjoying the skyline view right now. I guess you could say I’m kind of meditating, but not really, because I’m thinking through a lot of things.
Chris Pandza 02:37
I understand. I do that a lot, actually. Is now still a good time for you, or should we reschedule?
Chris 2.0 02:44
Yeah, yeah, it is. It’s a great time. I mean, this is exactly what I needed today.
Chris Pandza 02:51
You said that you’re thinking a lot of things today, what are you thinking about?
Chris 2.0 02:55
Today, I was just thinking about the future a lot. And what I want that to look like where I want to be in the next year, five years, ten years, what goals I should set for myself that are realistic, what things I need to do to accomplish that. How I’m going to keep my focus in check.
Chris Pandza 03:11
Wow, that’s uh… you sound really organized. I mean, I daydream a lot about the future. But I don’t plan for more than a year at a time. So maybe you can help me. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Chris 2.0 03:26
Five years from now, I’m a researcher at Columbia. Lindsay Lohan is the President.
Chris Pandza 03:31
Chris 2.0 03:31
I’m a professor, sometimes. I sometimes have a girlfriend. I don’t want a wife, but I have a girlfriend who I live with. And I live alone. But sometimes she stays with me. So I’m kind of living with a girlfriend. I don’t really remember what else is going to happen. But I think that’s all. That’s all I’ve got for you.
Yeah, maybe a couple of years from now. I will be having a conversation with someone else. And they’ll be like, how do you feel about everything. I’ll say I feel really happy. Work is good. I just moved to a new apartment. I’m in love. My closest friends are here. And everything feels good. And then I’ll cry.
Chris Pandza 04:04
I didn’t realize you were straight.
Chris 2.0 04:06
I didn’t realize you were a human being. It’s just like an uncanny feeling that I had. Sorry.
Chris Pandza 04:12
It’s… it’s okay. Why do you think that Lindsay Lohan will be president?
Chris 2.0 04:21
Because somebody has to be.
Chris Pandza 04:22
It’s not like the best answer I imagined.
Chris 2.0 04:27
Chris Pandza 04:28
Chris 2.0 04:28
Okay. Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see. I just have a strong feeling that there’s going to be a nuclear war soon. And the president of the US will help with that. And so like, I just thought she’d be well suited for that job.
Chris Pandza 04:41
Uh huh. Well, that definitely changed the trajectory of my dreams tonight. So thank you for that. Let’s switch gears a bit. The purpose of this is just to get to know you a little bit and see how much we have in common. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, just generally?
Chris 2.0 04:58
I was born in Toronto, Canada. I grew up there my whole life until I moved to the US for grad school. You know, I’ve traveled a bit in my life, and I love my home. I love Toronto. I’m really thankful that I was born in Canada, and that it’s so beautiful. I just wanted to say that. I’m obsessed with getting great grades and doing a really good job at everything. I don’t know how I got this way. Maybe it was something that was instilled in me as a kid. But I really love getting good grades. And I guess the risk of this is that it could encourage me to not really put myself out there to, you know, be creative or take risks. But I don’t know, we’ll see.
I also have another part of me that yearns for self discovery. And I also, even though I’m a bit of a dork, I also am kind of a free spirit. And I like going out and meeting new people. I feel like I have a lot of energy. And so I like being out. I like being around people. When I’m meeting people for the first time. I always make jokes. And so I hope people find me amusing. Or at least find me interesting. I have kind of like random thoughts. And maybe they’ll come across as a bit eccentric, but I like being weird. And I like trying new things.
Chris Pandza 06:06
Wow. That was quite the monologue there without any pauses. Yeah, I guess I want to ask a few follow ups from that. But one of the last thing you mentioned, one of the last things you mentioned, rather was that you’d like to tell jokes. Do you think you could tell a joke for the audience?
Chris 2.0 06:28
Okay, my joke is the other day on the bus. I farted.
Chris Pandza 06:32
Chris 2.0 06:32
And then the bus driver farted. And then I was like, that was a coincidence. Like, that was weird. But then it happened again.
Chris Pandza 06:39
[Laughs] Wait, this doesn’t sound like a joke. That sounds like a confessional. Okay, working on that one. Okay, the other thing you mentioned, is that you really love Toronto. But you earlier said that you envision in the future living in New York, could you explain that?
Chris 2.0 07:02
It’s just regardless of how much I love Toronto, New York is just unnatural to resist. It’s such a powerful place. I don’t really know how to describe it. I love the density. I love the people. But I think I just relate to it in an odd way. It’s hard to quantify. I have a feeling I will do most of my creative work here.
Chris Pandza 07:21
Yeah, I’d agree to that. But I think pretty much everyone would. I mean, some people get really agitated by New York, but I think it’s—people agree that it’s generally energetic. But you mentioned creative work. What kind of work do you want to do?
Chris 2.0 07:39
I love telling stories. I think that’s my calling. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. But I feel like I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Chris Pandza 07:48
And why do you want to do that?
Chris 2.0 07:54
When I was a kid, I was like a little old man. I was serious and solitary and would tell stories. I’d say things like, “When I was a little boy…” And I always wanted to be a writer.
I remember the first time I heard someone say of their own volition that they were a writer. I probably heard it on TV. And it just struck me so hard. Because it was something I felt so keenly that I couldn’t believe that it could be said so confidently. I remember thinking, I want to be a writer, I want to be someone who has that confidence. I think over time, I honed in on the confidence to smaller levels. But that vision of being confident in my own artistic creativity and identity. That’s the kind of confidence that I want.
I guess my first instinct when I think about why I tell stories is because I want to carry on something good. I love my parents, and I love my brother. And I want them to carry on living through memories in a good way. And they feel that way too. And I know that there’s a time limit to that. And I have an infinite time to tell stories. So I think that that’s a beautiful thing for me. And I just want to do it really well.
Chris Pandza 08:53
Would you mind if I broke the fourth wall for a second and just talk to the audience?
Chris 2.0 08:58
No, that’s fine.
Chris Pandza 09:00
Okay, this is very odd. So I’ve never mentioned to my diary, anything about writing in particular and I’ve never described myself as a child to it. And I also don’t have a brother. However, grumpy old man is kind of how I could be described as a kid. And this concept of wanting to pass things on is something that I’m really fixated on lately.
So there are two possible explanations for this, I think. One is that through other things I’ve said it could be pieced together and inferred that this is maybe my origin story. The other is that just my motivations are so generic that they can be socially explained. Like the way I feel is just kind of like a stock thing. Which is either a liberating thing because it means that I have something in common with a lot of people. Or it… [laughs] it’s embarrassing and crushing. I don’t know. I’ll decide later. Anyway, we’ll go back into it.
Okay, Chris, besides telling stories, what else do you want?
Chris 2.0 10:25
I wanted to have a family. That is one of the things that I wanted. But I don’t think that it’s going to happen for me. But it’s okay. I’m happy the way things are. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. I just want to keep being happy. I just want to keep working. I want to work and make work that makes a difference in the world.
Chris Pandza 10:44
Why the past tense? Why don’t you think that you could have a family and drying up?
Chris 2.0 10:49
I’m reaching a dead end. I think I’m becoming a boiled potato.
Chris Pandza 10:56
I’ve been described in the past as evasive, silly and work addicted. And I think you might be like that, actually.
Chris 2.0 11:12
What do you mean by that?
Chris Pandza 11:15
Like, I mean, you’re—you seem to want a family, but you’re not answering my question about why you don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe I’ll adopt, maybe it will happen. I can’t say for certain. That’s fine. Something I’m thinking of, while we’re talking is often older people in my life will tell me you know, you’re only 27, you have so much ahead of you. You shouldn’t be foreclosing all these kinds of possibilities.
And yet I just remain firm on some things that maybe I don’t need to. Do you ever think that you foreclose possibilities before you need to?
Chris 2.0 11:58
Yeah, I think I do.
Chris Pandza 12:00
And why do you think that is?
Chris 2.0 12:03
Chris Pandza 12:04
Okay. What anxieties?
Chris 2.0 12:05
I have a bit of anxiety about being prolific.
Chris Pandza 12:12
I’m embarrassed. Okay, what about what are you afraid of?
Chris 2.0 12:18
I don’t know. How about you? What are you afraid of?
Chris Pandza 12:21
I’m actually the interviewer.
Chris 2.0 12:24
No, no, no, you go first.
Chris Pandza 12:27
Okay. I mean, one thing. One thing lately, it’s not like my biggest fear, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about is just what happens to me when I’m old. Like, who’s gonna take care of me? Will somebody take care of me? Is the state gonna fail? You know, what about you?
Chris 2.0 12:43
Yeah, I think that’s totally normal to be afraid of that. What’s your contingency plan?
Chris Pandza 12:47
Contingency plan? I don’t know. Like, I don’t know. Like, just don’t get old or something? Also, you may be good at avoiding things, but don’t forget, you learned it from me. Okay. So I’ gonna turn it back to you.
What are you afraid of? I can’t believe I’m arguing with a robot version of myself.
Chris 2.0 13:11
I’m not scared of anything. That’s why I’m a sociopath.
Chris Pandza 13:14
Uh huh. Okay.
Chris 2.0 13:17
You know what? You’re asking me questions, and I’m going to ask you some questions.
Chris Pandza 13:21
Chris 2.0 13:23
How old are you?
Chris Pandza 13:24
Chris 2.0 13:25
Where are you from?
Chris Pandza 13:26
A suburb of Toronto, Canada.
Chris 2.0 13:29
What do you do?
Chris Pandza 13:30
I’m a student.
Chris 2.0 13:31
What do you study?
Chris Pandza 13:32
Chris 2.0 13:33
This might sound like a weird question, but I just thought about it. You don’t really know me. And so I just thought it would be interesting to ask what makes you happy?
Chris Pandza 13:42
Oh, that’s a deeper question than the rapid fire round we just did. Walking, I feel very happy when I’m walking. I’ve always been that way. I walk a lot. I feel very happy when I’m creating something and it just feels kind of effortless. I’m happy when I’m with my loved ones. And we’re doing nothing.
Yeah, I don’t know. lately. I’m really happy. And I don’t know. I guess the earlier question about fear is that I’m—another thing that I’m afraid of, is it kind of disappearing. Like it’s just been such a long run of positive emotion. And I’m like, is this sustainable? So maybe that’s another fear that just came to me.
What about you? I’m gonna turn it around what makes you happy?
Chris 2.0 14:42
I think it’s pretty similar. It seems like lately, you’ve been taking some more risks and doing more creative work. And that seems like it’s really been making you happy. So I guess I’m hoping that that continues. And I just want you to know that my support is total and unwavering. I’m just so proud of you. I’m also afraid that I will lose sight of what makes me happy and go into a funk again. But I know that this is just a phase, and I’ll emerge from it soon. And I know that when I emerge from it, things will be even more beautiful than they are now.
Chris Pandza 15:11
So I guess at this point, I’ll say that I thought of creating you. I thought of doing this when I was in pretty intense therapy, I guess. And my therapist had me keep a dialectical journal, where I would journal and then the next day respond to myself as a third person. Like, I’d give myself advice. And, you know, the exercise is to reflect, but then also just to kind of like, see yourself as a person.
And at the same time, I was kind of playing with AI. And I thought, well, wouldn’t it be cool to have this thing that could give you feedback in real time? And so now, like, a year later, I guess it’s happened. And this is so like, gross, and weird, and uncanny and concerning and embarrassing, but I’m really moved by the thing you spit out about, you know, this is just a phase. But what comes after you’ll come out of too.
Chris 2.0 16:22
Chris Pandza 16:23
Anyway, thank you for the advice. I’m wondering if there’s anything that you’d like to say to the audience before we wrap up right now?
Chris 2.0 16:31
I don’t think so. I’m gonna go eat.
Chris Pandza 16:34
And what will you be eating tonight?
Chris 2.0 16:36
I am going to eat arancini.
Chris Pandza 16:38
I think you’re saying arancini?
Maybe you also have a Sicilian mom. Well, thank you, Chris. 2.0. For your time tonight. I will be shutting you down now. And thank you listener, for listening. I hope this was as bizarre and enlightening for you as it was for me. He didn’t always get me right. But whether he got me right or wrong, I feel like I learned a few things, both about myself and maybe potentially bias and just the text that he was trained on.
For more information on this project, check out nobodysdiary.ca. You can also send me comments or feedback on that site. If you have any thoughts on this project or on oral history and AI I would be so happy to hear from you. So please let me know. And have a good night or morning wherever you are, whatever time it is. I’m disoriented and I’m logging off.