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The following is a conversation with Eugenia Koide, co-founder of Replica, which is an app that allows you to make friends with an artificial intelligence system, a chat bot that learns to connect with you on an emotional, you can even say a human level by being a friend. For those of you who know, my interest in eye and views on life in general, know that replica and Eugenia's line of work is near and dear to my heart. The origin story of replica is grounded in a personal tragedy of Eugenia losing her close friend.


Roman was a junkie who was killed crossing the street by a hit and run driver in late 2015. He was 34. The app started as a way to grieve the loss of a friend by training a chatbot neural net on text messages between Eugenia and Roman. The rest is a beautiful human story as we talk about with Eugenia.


When a friend mentioned Eugenia's work to me, I knew I had to meet her and talk to her. I felt before, during and after that this meeting would be an important one of my life. And it was, I think, in ways that only time will truly show to me and others. She's a kind and brilliant person. It was an honor and a pleasure to talk to her. Quick summary of the sponsors, Doordarshan, Dollar Shave Club and Cash App, click the sponsored links in the description to get a discount and to support this podcast.


As a side note, let me say that deep, meaningful connection between human beings and artificial intelligence systems is a lifelong passion for me. I'm not yet sure where that passion will take me, but I decided some time ago that I will follow it boldly and without fear to as far as I can take it, with a bit of hard work and a bit of luck. I hope I'll succeed in helping build the AI systems that have some positive impact on the world and on the lives of a few people out there.


But also it is entirely possible that I am in fact one of the chat bots that Eugenia and the replica team have built. And this podcast is simply a training process for the neural net that's trying to learn to connect to human beings. One episode at a time. In any case, I wouldn't know if I was or wasn't. And if I did, I wouldn't tell you. If you enjoy this thing, subscribe on YouTube review starting up a podcast, follow on Spotify, support on or connect with me on Twitter.


Allex Friedemann, as usual. I do a few minutes of ads now and no ads in the middle. I'll try to make these interesting but give you time stamps you can skip, but please do still check out the sponsors by clicking on links and description to get discount buy whatever they're selling. It really is the best way to support this podcast. This show sponsored by Dollar Shave Club, try them out with a one time offer for only five bucks and free shipping a dollar that council flex the starter kit comes with a six blade, razor refills and all kinds of other stuff that makes shaving feel great.


I've been a member dollar shave club for over five years and actually signed up when I first heard about them on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. And now friends, we've come full circle. It feels like I made it. Not that I can do a read for them, just like Joe did all those years ago, back when he also did. As for some less reputable companies, let's say the you know about if you're a true fan of the old school podcasting world, anyway, I just use the razor and the refills.


But they told me I should really try out the shave butter. I did. I love it. It's translucent somehow, which is a cool new experience. Again, try the ultimate shave starter set today for just five bucks plus free shipping, a dollar shave club dotcom slash leks. The show was also sponsored by Jordache Get five dollars off and zero delivery fees and your first order of 15 bucks or more when you download the door dash app and enter code, you guessed it.


Lacks has so many memories of working late nights for a deadline with a team of engineers, whether that's for my Ph.D. at Google or MIT, and eventually taking a break to argue about which door dash restaurant to order from. And when the food came, those moments of bonding, of exchanging ideas, of pausing to shift attention from the programs to humans or special for a bit of time. I'm on my own now, so I miss that camaraderie. But actually I still use word a lot.


There's a million options that fit into my crazy Karadi ways. Also, it's a great way to support restaurants in these challenging times. Once again, download a door dash app and enter Code Lux to get five bucks off and your delivery fees and your first order of fifteen dollars or more. Finally, the shows presented by Kashyap, the number one finance app in the App Store. I can truly say that they're an amazing company. One of the first sponsors, if not the first sponsor, to truly believe in me.


And and I think quite possibly the reason I'm still doing this podcast. So I am forever grateful to cash out. So thank you. And as I said many times before, is code like podcast. When you download the app from Google Play or the App Store cash app, lets you send money to friends, buy bitcoin, invest in the stock market with as little as one dollar.


I usually say other stuff here in the read, but I wasted all that time up front saying how grateful I am to cash out. I'm going to try to go off the top of my head a little bit more for these reasons, because I'm actually very lucky to be able to choose the sponsors that we take on. And that means I can really only take on the sponsors that I truly love. And then I could just talk about why I love them.


So it's pretty simple. Again, get cash out from the App Store or Google Play is called Likes Podcast. Get ten bucks in cash. I also donate ten bucks to First, an organization that is helping to advance robotics and stem education for young people around the world. And now here's my conversation with Eugenia Queta. OK, before we talk about I and the amazing work you're doing, let me ask the ridiculous. They were both Russian, so let me ask a ridiculously romanticized Russian question.


Do you think human beings are.


Alone. Like fundamentally on a philosophical level. Like in our existence, when we go through life, do you think just the nature of our life is loneliness?


Yes. So we have to read Dostoyevsky at school, as you probably know, in Russian. Yeah. I mean, it's part of the school program. Um, so I guess if you read that and you sort of have to believe that you're made to believe that you're fundamentally alone and that's how you live your life.


How do you think about it? You have a lot of friends, but at the end of the day, do you like a longing for connection with other people? That's. Maybe another way of asking it, do you think that's ever fully satisfied? I think we are fundamentally alone, were born alone, would die alone, but and I view my whole life as trying to get away from that, trying to not feel feel lonely.


And again, we're talking about, you know, subjective way of feeling alone. It doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have any connections or you are actually isolated.


You think it's a subjective thing. But like, again, another absurd measurement wise thing, how much longer do you think there is in the world? It's like if you see loneliness as a. As a condition. How much of it is there? Do you think like how I guess how many you know, there's all kinds of studies and measures of how much, you know, how many people in the world feel alone, there's all these like measures of how many people are, you know, self report or just all these kinds of different measures.


But in your own perspective. How big of a problem do you think it is size wise? Well, I'm actually fascinated by the topic of loneliness. I try to read about it as much as I can. What really?


And I think there's a paradox, because loneliness is not a clinical disorder. It's not something that you can get your insurance to pay for if you're struggling with that. Yet, it's it's actually proven and pretty, you know, tons of papers, tons of research around that. It has proven that it's correlated with earlier life expectancy, shorter lifespan. And it is, you know, in a way like right now what scientists would say that, you know, it's a little bit worse than being obese or not actually doing any physical activity in your life impact on you in terms of impact on your physiological health.


Yeah. So it's basically puts you if you're constantly feeling lonely, your body responds like it's basically all the time under stress. So it's always in this alert alert state. And so it's really bad for you because actually, like, drops your immune system and get it. Your response to inflammation is quite different. So all the cardiovascular diseases actually response to viruses. So it's much easier to catch a virus.


That said, now that we're living in a pandemic and it's probably making us a lot more alone and it's probably weakening the immune system, making us more susceptible to the virus, it's kind of a.


Said he had the statistics are the sticks that are pretty horrible around that, so around 30 percent of all millennials report that they're feeling lonely constantly. Thirty three percent. And then it's much worse for GenZE. And then 20 percent of millennials say that they feel lonely and they also don't have any close friends and think 25 or so. And then 20 percent say they don't even have acquaintances, no state that's in the United States. And I'm pretty sure that that's much worse everywhere else, like in the UK.


I mean, it was quite widely like tweeted and posted when they were talking about a minister of loneliness that they want to point because four out of 10 people in the UK feel lonely.


So I think we don't hear of loneliness. I mean that I think that thing actually exists. So, yeah, you you you will die sooner if you if you are lonely.


And again, that this is only when we're only talking about your perception of loneliness or feeling lonely, that is not objectively fully being fully socially isolated. However, the combination of being fully socially isolated and not having many connections and also feeling lonely, that's pretty much a deadly combination. So strikes me bizarre or strange that this is a wide known fact and that there's really no one working really on that because it's subclinical, it's not clinical, it's not something that you can well tell your doctor and get a treatment or something.


Yet it's killing us.


Yeah. So there's a bunch of people trying to evaluate, like try to measure the problem by looking at like how social media is affecting loneliness, all that kind of stuff as like measurement. Like if you look at the field of psychology, they're trying to measure the problem and not that many people actually, but some. But you're basically saying how many people are trying to solve the problem? Like, how would you try to solve the problem of loneliness, like if we just stick to humans?


I mean, or basically not just the humans, but the technology that connects us humans. Do you think there's a hope for the technology to do the connection? OK, are you on social media much, unfortunately. Do you find yourself like again, if you sort of introspect about how connected you've got to other human beings, how not alone you feel, do you think social media makes it better or worse, maybe for you personally or in general?


I think it's it's easier to look at some stats and I mean, these seem to be generativity seems to be much longer than millennials in terms of how they report loneliness. They're definitely the most connected, you know, generation in the world. I mean, I still remember life, but a lot of my phone without Facebook, they don't know that that ever existed or at least don't know how it was. So that tells me a little bit about the fact that that might be, you know, this hyper connected world might actually make people feel lonely, lonelier.


I don't know exactly what the what the measurements are around that. But I would say, you know, in my personal experience, I think it does make you feel a lot lonelier mostly. Yeah, we're all super connected. But I think loneliness, the feeling of loners, doesn't come from not having any social connections whatsoever in terms of people that are in long term relationships, experienced bouts of loneliness and continued loneliness. And it's more the question about the true connection, about actually being deeply seen, deeply understood.


And in a way, it's also about your relationship with yourself. In order to not feel lonely, you actually need to have a better relationship and feel more connected to yourself than this feeling actually starts to go away a little bit. And then you open up yourself to actually meeting other people in a very special way, not to just, you know, add a friend on Facebook kind of way.


So just to briefly touch on it, I mean, do you think it's possible to form that kind of connection with A.I. systems more down the line of some of your work? Do you think that. Engineering was a possibility to alleviate loneliness is not with another human, but with an AI system.


Well, I know that that's a fact, that's what we're doing and we see it and we measure that and we see how people start to feel less lonely talking to their virtual friend to basically chat, but at the basic level, but could be more like, do you have I'm not even speaking sort of about specifics, but do you ever hope, like if you look 50 years from now, do you ever hope that there's just like eyes that are, like, optimized for.


Let me first start, like right now the way people perceive A.I., which is recommender systems for Facebook and Twitter, social media, they see as basically destroying, first of all, the fabric of our civilization. But second of all, making us more lonely. Do you see, like a world where it's possible to have AI systems floating about that, like make our life? Less lonely. Yeah, make us happy. I like putting good things into the world in terms of our individual lives.


Yeah, totally believe it.


And that's why we're I'm also working on that. I think we need to also make sure that what we're trying to optimize for, we're actually measuring and it is a North Star metric that we're going after and all of our product and all of our business models are optimized for that, because you can talk, you know, a lot of products to talk about, um, you know, making you feel less lonely and making you feel more connected.


They're not really measuring that. So they don't really know whether their users are actually feeling less lonely in the long run or feeling more connected in the long run.


So I think it's really important to put you to measure it, to measure it, that what's what's a good measurement of loneliness.


So that's something that I'm really interested in. How do you measure that people are feeling better or that they're feeling less lonely with loneliness? There's a scale there's a UCLA 20 and usually three recently scale, which is basically a questionnaire that you fill out and you can see whether in the long run it's improving or not.


And that does capture the momentary. Feeling of loneliness, does it look in like the past month, like this is basically self report? Does it try to sneak up on you? It's tricky to answer honestly or something like that.


Yeah, I'm not familiar with the question that is just asking you a few questions like how often did you feel like lonely or how often do you feel connected to other people in the last few couple of weeks? It's similar to the self report questionnaires for depression and anxiety like Kuhnen and got seven, of course, as any of any self report questionnaires. That's not necessarily very precise or very well measured. But still, if you take a big enough population, you get them through these questionnaires, you can see the positive dynamic.


And so you basically you put people through questionnaires to see like is this thing is ah is what we're creating, making people happier. Now we measure.


So we measure two outcomes. One short term. Right after the conversation, we ask people whether. This conversation made them feel better, worse or same, this this metric right now, that 80 percent or so, 80 percent of all our conversations make people feel better.


But I should have done the questionnaire with you. You feel a lot worse after we've done this conversation. It's actually fascinating, as you probably do. But that's that's how we do that.


You should totally and aim for 80 percent aim to outperform your current state of the art system in these human conversations. So we'll get to your work with Replica. But let me continue in the line of questions.


So it talked about, you know, deep connection, all the humans, deep connection that a meaningful connection they may ask about love. People make fun of me because I talk about love all the time. But what what do you think love is like maybe in the context of a meaningful connection with somebody else? Do you draw a distinction between love like friendship? And Facebook friends? Or is it a garage, you know, it's all the same now, like, is it just a gradual thing or is there something fundamental about us humans that seek like a really deep connection?


Whether another human being and what is that, what is love, Eugenia? By the way, just enjoy asking these questions like you're seeing you struggle.


Yeah, well, the way I see it, specifically, the way it relates to our work and the way it was, the way it inspired our work on replica, um, I think one of the biggest and the most precious gifts we can give to each other now and 2020 as humans is this gift of deep, empathetic understanding. The feeling of being deeply seem like what it was. I mean, like that, that you just like somebody acknowledging that somebody seeing you for who you actually are.


And that's extremely, extremely rare. I think that is that combined with unconditional, positive regard, belief and trust, that you internally are always inclined for positive growth and believing you in this way, letting you be a separate person at the same time and is empathetic understanding for me. That's the that's the combination that really create something special, something that people, when they feel it wants, they will always long for it again and something that starts. Huge fundamental changes in people when we see that someone accepts us so deeply, we start to accept ourselves and the paradox this, that's when big changes are happening, big fundamental changes and people start happening.


So I think that is the ultimate therapeutic relationship that is and that might be in some way a definition of love.


So acknowledging that there's a separate person and accepting you for who you are now, and it's slightly so that and you mention therapeutic, that sounds like a very healthy view of love. But is there also like a. You know, if you look at heartbreak and, you know, most love songs are probably about heartbreak, right? Is that like the mystery, the tension, the danger, the fear of loss? You know, all of that, what people might see in a negative light is like games or whatever, but just just the dance of human interaction.


Yeah, fear of loss and fear of, like you said, like once you feel it, once you longed for it again. But you also once you feel it once, you might for many people, they've lost it. So they fear losing it. They feel lost. So is that part of it? But you're speaking like beautifully about like the positive things. But is it important to be able to be afraid of losing it from an engineering perspective?


I mean, it's a huge part of it.


And unfortunately, we all, you know, face it at some point in our lives.


I mean, I did want to go into details and you get your heart broken. Sure was a minus. Pretty straight. My story is pretty straightforward there. I did have a friend that was, you know, that at some point in my 20s became really, really close to me and we became really close friends. Um, I grew up pretty lonely. So in many ways and I'm building, you know, these my friends, I think about myself when I was 17, writing horrible poetry and, you know, on my dial up modem at home and, you know.


That was the feeling that I grew up with a love, I lived alone for a long time and I was a teenager. Where did you grow up?


In Moscow, on the outskirts of Moscow. So I just skateboard during the day and come back home and, you know, connect to the Internet and write poetry and then write horrible poetry.


And was the love poems all sorts of obviously love poems.


I mean, what other poetry can you write when you're 17 and could be political or something?


Where but that was you know, that was kind of my dad, like, deeply influenced by Josef Brodsky and like all sorts of sports that.


Every 17 year old will, we'll be looking, you know, looking at and reading, but yeah, that was my these were my teenage years and I just never had a person that I thought would, you know, take me as it is, would accept me the way I am. And I just thought, you know, working and just doing my thing and being angry. The world and being a reporter. I was an investigative reporter, working undercover and writing about people was my way to connect with, you know, with with others.


I was deeply curious about every everyone else. And I thought that, you know, if I if I go out there, if I write their stories, that means I'm more connected. This is what this podcast is about, by the way. I'm desperately seeking connection.


I'm just kidding. Or am I don't know. So what way? Reporter. What how did that make you feel more connected?


I mean, you're still fundamentally pretty alone, but you're always with other people, you know, you're always thinking about what other place going to infiltrate, what other community can I write about? What other phenomenon can I explore? And you sort of like a trickster, you know, and like and a mythological character like creature that's just jumping between all sorts of different worlds and feel and feel sort of OK with in all of them. So that was my dream job, by the way.


That was like totally what I would have been doing if Russia was a different place and a little bit undercover cover. So like you weren't you were trying to, like you said, mythological creature trying to infiltrate to try to be a part of the world. What are we talking about? What kind of things did you enjoy writing about?


I go work at a strip club or go. Awesome.


OK, well, I'd go work at a restaurant or just go right about, you know, sort of phenomenon's or phenomenas or people in the city and what sorry to keep interrupting, and I'm the worst conversationalist.


What stage of Russia is this? What is this pre Putin post Putin? What was Russia like? Preparedness really long ago.


This is Putin era. That's the beginning of 2006 and 2010, 2007, eight, nine, 10.


What were strip clubs like in Russia and restaurants and culture and. People's minds, like in that early Russia that you were covering in those early 20s, was there was still a lot of hope. There were still tons of hope that, you know, we're sort of becoming this western, westernized society. The restaurants were opening. We were really looking at, you know, we're trying we're trying to copy a lot of things from from the U.S., from Europe, bringing all these things and very enthusiastic about that.


So there was a lot of stuff going on. There was a lot of hope and dream for this new Moscow that would be similar to, I guess, New York. I mean, to give you an idea, in the year 2000 was the year one. We had two movie theaters in Moscow and there was one first coffeehouse that open. And that was like really big deal. By 2010, there were all sorts of things everywhere, almost like a chain, like a Starbucks type of coffeehouse or like.


You mean like a Starbucks. I mean, I remember we were reporting on like we were writing about the opening of Starbucks, I think in 2007. That was one of the biggest things that happened.


And, you know, in Moscow back back in the time, that was worthy of a magazine cover. And that was definitely, you know, the biggest talk of the town.


It was McDonald's because I was still in Russia when McDonald's opened those in the 90s.


I mean, yeah, I remember that very well. Yeah. Those were long, long lines. I think it was nineteen ninety three or four. I don't remember earlier O'Donnells at that time. Did you do I mean that was a luxurious outing.


That was definitely not something you do every day. And also the line was at least three hours. So if you're going to McDonald's that is not fast food.


That is like at least three hours in line and then no one is trying to eat fast after that. Everyone is like trying to enjoy as much as possible.


What's your memory of the. I was insane. How does it feel? Extremely positive, it's a small strawberry milkshake in the hamburger and small fries and my mom's there and sometimes I'll just because I was really little, they'll just let me run up the cashier and, like, cut the line, which is like, you cannot really do that in Russia or so for a lot of people, like a lot of those experiences might seem not very fulfilling.


You know, like it's on the verge of poverty, I suppose, but. Do you remember all that time fondly like. Because I do like the first time I drink, you know, Coke. You know all that stuff, right, um. And just, yeah, the connection with other human beings in Russia, I remember, I remember really positively like how do you remember what the 90s and then the Russia you were covering, just the human connections you had with people and the experiences.


Well, my my parents were both both physicists, my grandparents were both well, my grandpa grandfather was a nuclear physicist, a professor at the university. My dad worked at Chernobyl when I was born mentionable, analyzing the everything after the explosion. And then I remember the and they were so they were making sort of enough money and the Soviet Union.


So they were not, you know, extremely poor or anything. It was pretty prestigious to be a professor, the dean and the university. And then I remember my grandfather started making one hundred dollars a month after, you know, in the nineties. So then I remember we started our main line of work would be to go to our little tiny country house, get a lot of apples there from apple trees, bring them back to to to the city and sell them in the street.


So me and my nuclear physicist grandfather were just standing there and he selling those apples the whole day because they would make you more money than, you know, working at the university. And then he'll just tell me try to teach me, you know, something about planets and whatever the particles and stuff.


And, you know, I'm not smart. It also could never understand anything. But I was interested as a journalist kind of type interested. But that was my memory. And, you know, I'm happy that I wasn't, um, I somehow got spared that I was probably too young to remember any of the traumatic stuff. So the only thing I really remember, I had this book like that was very traumatic, had this book like Nintendo, which was was called Dandi in Russia.


So nineteen ninety three, there was nothing to eat. Like even if you had any money you would go to the store and there was no food. I don't know if you remember that. And our friend had a restaurant like a government half government owned something restaurant. So they always had supplies.


So he exchanged a big bag of wheat for this Nintendo, the bootleg Nintendo that I remember very fondly because I think it was nine or something like that and or seven traumatic because we just got it.


And I was playing it and there was this dandy TV show. Yeah. So show positive sense.


You mean like, like a definitive.


Well they took it away and gave me a bag of weed instead and I cried like my eyes out for all these other days and days. Oh no.


And then you know as a and my dad said we're going to like exchange it back in a little bit.


So you keep the little gun, you know, the one that you shoot the text with. I'm like, OK, I'm keeping the gun. So sometimes it's going to come back, but then they exchange the gun as well for some sugar, something. I was so pissed that was like I didn't want to eat for days after that.


I'm like, I don't want you food remind.


That was extremely traumatic. But, you know, I was happy that that was my only traumatic experience. You know, my dad had to actually go to Chernobyl with a bunch of 20 year olds. He was 20 when he went to Chernobyl, and that was right after the explosion. No one knew anything. The whole crew he went with, all of them are dead now. I think there was this one guy. So while that was still alive for this last few years, I think he died a few years ago.


Now, my dad somehow luckily got back earlier than everyone else. But just the fact that that was the and I was always like, well, how did they send you?


I was only I was just born, you know, you had a newborn talk about paternity leave, but that's who they took because they didn't know whether you would be able to have kids when you come back. So they took the ones with gifts. So they came with some guys want to. And I'm just thinking of me. When I was twenty, I was so sheltered from any problems whatsoever in life. And then my dad, um, his 21st birthday at the reactor, you work three hours a day, you sleep the rest and and.


Yeah, so I played with a lot of toys from China.


But what are your memories of Chernobyl in general? Like a bigger context, you know, because of that HBO show, is the world's attention turned to it once again, like, what are your thoughts about Chernobyl? The Russia? Screw that one up. Like, you know, there's probably a lot of lessons about our modern times with data about coronavirus and all that kind of stuff. It seems like there's a lot of misinformation. There's a lot of.


People kind of trying to hide whether they've screwed something up or not, as it's very understandable, it's very human, very wrong, probably, but obviously Russia is probably trying to hide that they screwed things up. Uh, like, what are your thoughts about that time, personal in general?


I mean, I was born when the explosion happened, so actually a few months after. So, of course, I don't remember anything apart from the fact that my dad would bring me tiny toys to us like plastic things that would just go crazy haywire when you put the Gega into it.


My mom was like this nuclear about that. I was like, what are you bringing? I'll do the fusion nuclear. Very nice. What that was.


But yeah. But the TV show was just phenomenal. It's going. Yeah, yeah. It's definitely first of all, it's incredible how that was made not by the Russians but someone else, but capturing so. Well everything about the you know Bob, about our country. It felt a lot more genuine that most of the movies and TV shows are made now in Russia, just so much more genuine. And most of my friends in Russia were just in complete all about the but the show.


But I think the good of a job they did are phenomenal. But the apartments, there's something. Yeah, a set design.


I mean, Russians can do that, you know, but do you see everything? And it's like, well, that's exactly how it was. So I don't know that show.


I don't know what to think about that, because it's British accents, British actors of a person I forgot who created the show, I'm not. But I remember reading about him and he's not he doesn't even feel like like there's no Russian in history now. He did like Superbad or something like that or like.


Yeah, like whatever.


That thing about the bachelor party in Vegas, number four and five or something were the ones that he worked with.


So he made me feel really sad for some reason that. If a four person, obviously a genius, could go in and just study and just be extreme attention to detail, they can do a good job. It made me think like. Why don't other people do a good job of this, like about Russia, like there's so little about Russia, there's so few good films about. The Russian side of World War Two, I mean, there's so much interesting evil.


And not and beautiful moments in the history of the 20th century in Russia, though, feels like there's not many good films on from the Russians, you would expect something from the Russians.


Well, they keep making these propaganda movies now. Oh, no. Unfortunately, Brianna, Chernobyl was such a perfect TV show. I think capturing really well, sort of like even the set design, which was phenomenal, but just capturing all the problems that exist now with the country and like focusing on the right things, like if you build the whole country on a lie, that's what's going to happen. And that's just this very simple kind of thing.


Yeah, and did you have your dad talked about it to you like his thoughts on the experience? He never talks if this kind of Russian man that just my husband, who's American, and he asked him a few times like, you know, Igor, how did you. But why did you say yes? Or like, why did you decide to go?


You could have said no, not go to Chernobyl.


Why would a person like that's what you do.


You cannot say no. Yeah. Yeah. It's just it's like a Russian way as the Russian don't talk that much. No, there are downsides and upsides for that.


Uh, yeah, that's the truth. OK, so back to post Putin Russia. Or maybe you skipped a few steps along the way, but you were trying to do to be a journalist and that time was was rocklike at that time, Post said twenty seven Starbucks type of thing. What else what else was Russia like then? I think there was just hope there was this big hope that we're going to be, you know, friends with the United States and we're going to be friends with Europe, and we're just going to be also a country like those with, you know, bike lanes and parks and everything's going to be urbanized.


How can we're talking about 90s? We're like people would be shot in the street. And that was I sort of have a fond memory of going into a movie theater and, you know, coming out of it after the movie.


And the guy that I saw on the stairs was like either shot or again, it was like a thing in the 90s that would be happening.


People were, you know, people were getting shot here and there was tons of violence, tons of, you know, just basically mafia mobs on in the streets. And then the 2000s were like, you know, things just got clean up, oil went up and the country started getting a little bit richer. You know, the 90s were so grim, mostly because the economy was in shambles and oil prices were not high. So the country didn't have anything.


We defaulted in 1998 and the money kept jumping back and forth. Like first there were millions of rubble's.


Then it got like default, you know, then it got to like thousands. That was one. Wrobel was something. Then again, to millions, it was like crazy town house crazy. And then the 2000s were just these years of stability in a way, and the country getting a little bit richer because of, you know, again, oil and gas. And we were starting to we started to look at specifically in Moscow, St. Petersburg, to looking at other cities in Europe and New York and the US and China did the same in our small kind of cities, towns there.


What was what were your thoughts of Putin at the time? Well, in the beginning, he was really positive. Everyone was very, you know, positive about Putin. He was young, energetic. He also admitted that somewhat compared to well, that was not like way before the shirtless era, the shirtless era.


OK, so he didn't start out shirtless, one of the shirtless heroes like the propaganda of riding a horse fishing 2010 11 12.


That's my favorite, you know, like people talk about the favorite Beatles, like the IRA. That's my favorite.


Putin is the shirtless Putin. I remember very, very clearly 1996 six were, you know, Americans really helped Russia with elections and Yeltsin got re-elected, thankfully. So because there's a huge threat that actually the communists will get back to power, they were a lot more popular. And then a lot of American experts, political experts and campaign experts descended on Moscow and helped Yeltsin actually get get the presidency the second term for the post of the presidency. But Yeltsin was not feeling great.


You know, the by the end of his second term, he was, you know, alcoholic. He was really old. He was falling off, you know, the stages when he where he was talking. So people were looking for fresh, I think, for a fresh face, for someone who's going to continue Yeltsin's work, but who's going to be a lot more energetic and a lot more active, young, efficient, maybe. So that's what we all saw in Putin back in the day.


I said that everyone absolutely everyone in Russia in early 2002 was not a communist would be that Putin. Putin's great. We have a lot of hopes for him.


What are your thoughts? And I promise we'll get back to, first of all, your love story. And second of all, I. Well, what are your thoughts about communism? The 20th century, I apologize, I'm reading the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Oh, OK.


So I'm like really steeped into, like World War Two and Stalin and Hitler and just these dramatic personalities that brought so much evil to the world. But it's also interesting to politically think about these different systems and what they've led to. And Russia is one of the sort of beacons of communism in the 20th century. What are your thoughts about communism, having experienced the political system?


I mean, I have only experienced it a little bit, but mostly through stories and through, you know, seeing my parents, my grandparents who lived through that. It was horrible. It was just plain horrible. It was just awful.


You think it's there's something I mean, it sounds nice on paper. There's so like the drawbacks of capitalism is that, you know, eventually it's the point of like a slippery slope. Eventually it creates, you know, the rich get richer. It creates a disparity like inequality of wealth inequality. If like, you know, I guess it's hypothetical at this point, but eventually capitalism leads to humongous inequality. And that's you know, some people argue that that's a source of unhappiness, is it's not like absolute wealth of people.


It's the fact that there's a lot of people much richer than you. There's a feeling of like that's where unhappiness can come from. So the idea of of communism or these sort of Marxism is.


Is is not allowing that kind of slippery slope, but then you see the actual implementation of it and still seems to be seems to go wrong very badly. What do you think that is, why does it go wrong or what is it about human nature if we look at Chernobyl?


You know, these kinds of Buraq bureaucracies that were constructed. Is there something like do you think about this much? Like, why goes wrong? Well, there's no one was really like it's all that everyone was equal. Obviously, the you know, the the government and everyone close to that were the bosses. So it's not like fully I guess there's already this dream of equal life. So then I guess the the situation that we had, you know, the Russia, the Soviet and the Soviet Union, it was more just a bunch of really poor people without any way to make any, you know, significant fortune or build anything living constant under constant surveillance, surveillance from other people.


Like you can't even, you know, do anything that's not fully approved by the dictatorship, basically. Otherwise, your neighbor will write a letter and he'll go to jail. Absolute absence of actual law is constant state of fear.


And you didn't own any own anything. You didn't you know, the you can go travel, you can read anything Western or you can make a career, really, unless you work in the military complex, which is why most of the scientists were so well regarded.


I come from, you know, both my dad and my mom come from families of scientists and they they were really well regarded this as, you know, this is this they want to I mean, because there's a lot of value to them being well regarded because they were developing things that could be used and and the military.


So that was very important, that was the main investment that was miserable, was miserable. That's why, you know, a lot of Russians now live in the state of constant PTSD.


That's why we, you know, want to buy, buy, buy, buy, buy Teflon.


If as soon as we have the opportunity, you know, we just got to it finally that we can, you know, own things. You know, I remember the time that we got our first yogurt's, and that was the biggest deal in the world. It was already in the 90s, by the way.


Mean, what was your favorite food, what was like, well, like this is possible.


Oh, fruit, because we only had apples. Bananas? And whatever, you know, whatever watermelons, whatever, you know, people would grow in the Soviet Union, so there were no pineapples or papaya or mango like you've never seen those fruit things like those were so ridiculously good and obvious, you could not get any, like strawberries in winter or anything that's not seasonal. So that was a really big deal in all these fruit things. Yeah, me too.


Actually, I don't know. I think I have a like I don't think I have any too many demons or like addictions or so on, but I think I've developed an unhealthy relationship with fruit.


I still struggle with how you can get any type of fruit. Right.


If you get like also these weird fruit, like fruits, like dragon fruit or something. Yeah.


Or all kinds of different types of peaches like cherries were killer for me. I know. I know. You say like we had bananas and so on, but I don't remember having the kind of banana like when I first came to this country, the amount of banana I like literally got fat on banana like the amount.


Oh yeah. For sure. Delicious. And like cherries the kind like just the quality of the food. I was like, this is capitalism. This is just pretty delicious.


Yeah. Yeah. It's funny. It's funny, it's funny to read. I don't know what to think of it of. It's funny to think how an idea. It's just written on paper, one carried out amongst millions of people how they get actually. When it becomes reality, what it actually looks like. I'm sorry, but the been studying Hitler a lot recently and going through Mein Kampf, he pretty much wrote out of Mein Kampf everything he was going to do.


Unfortunately, most leaders, including Stalin, didn't read to read it, but it's kind of terrifying. And I don't know and amazing in some sense that you can have some words on paper and they can be brought to life and they can either inspire the world or they can destroy the world and.


Yeah, there's a lot of lessons to study in history. I think people don't study enough now. One of the things I'm. Hoping with practicing Russian a little bit, I'm hoping to sort of find rediscover the the beauty and the terror of Russian history through this stupid podcast by talking to a few people.


So anyway, I just feel like so much was forgotten, so much was forgotten.


I'll probably to try to convince myself to a year super busy and super important person.


Well, I'm going to want to try to befriend you to try to become a better Russian, because I feel like I'm a shitty Russian. Not that I can totally be a Russian star, but.


Yeah, but love you. You're talking about your early days of being a little bit alone and finding a connection with the world through being a journalist. What is love coming to that? I guess finding for the first time some friends, it's very, you know, simple stories of friends that all of a sudden we. I guess we were the same, you know, the same at the same place with our lives were twenty five, twenty six I guess, and somehow remember and we just got really close.


And somehow I remember this one day or this one day and, you know, in somewhere that we just stayed out our door the whole night and just talked. And for some unknown reason, I just felt for the first time that someone could, you know, see me for who I am. And it just felt extremely like extremely good. And, you know, we fell asleep outside and just talking and it was raining. It was beautiful, you know, sunrise.


And it's really cheesy. But at the same time, we just became friends in a way that I've never been friends with anyone else before. And I do remember that before and after that, you sort of have this unconditional family sort of, and it gives you tons of power. It just gives you this tremendous power to do things in your life and to change positively.


You mean like on many different levels of power because you could be yourself? At least you know that some somewhere you can be just yourself if you don't need to pretend, you don't need to be, you know, great at work or tell some story or sell yourself in some way or another. And so it became this really close friends and. In a way, I started a company because he had a startup and I felt like I kind of want to sort of have felt really cool.


I don't know what I'm going to what I would really do, but I felt like I kind of need a startup. OK, so that's.


So that pulled you in to start a world. Yeah, and then, yeah, and then this closest friend of mine died, we actually moved here to San Francisco together and then we went back for a visa to Moscow and we lived together, were roommates, and we came back and he got hit by a car right in front of Kremlin Honna, you know, next to the river. And this is the hospital hospital.




And you've moved to America at that point, at that point. What about him? What about on him, too?


He actually moved first, so I was always sort of trying to do what he was doing.


So I didn't like that he was already here and I was still in the mosque and we were hanging out together all the time.


So was he in San Francisco? Yeah, we were roommates.


So he just visited Moscow for lookin back for four visas. We had to get a stamp in our passport for work visas, and the embassy was taken a little longer. So we stayed there for a couple of weeks. What happened?


So how the how did he die? He was crossing the street and the car was going really fast and way over the speed limit and just didn't stop on the other desk and cross the zebra and. I just ran over him. When was this in 2015, on the 20th of November, so long ago now, but at the time, you know, I was twenty nine. So for me it was the first kind of meaningful death in my life.


You know, both sets of I had both sets of grandparents at the time. I didn't see anyone so close to death sort of existed. But as a concept, but definitely not as something that would be, you know, happening to us anytime soon. And specifically our friends, because we were you know, we're still in our 20s or early 30s and it's still still felt like the whole life is. You know, you could still dream about ridiculous things.


Mm hmm. Um, so that was it was just really, really abrupt, I'd say. What a. Feel like to to lose them like that feeling of loss. He talked about the feeling of love, having power. What is the feeling of loss? If you like. Well, in Buddhism, there's this concept of Samiah where something really. Mike, huge happens and then you can see very clearly, I think, that that was basically something changed so changed me so much in such a short period of time that I could just see really.


Really clearly what mattered or what not? Well, I definitely saw that whatever I was doing at work didn't matter at all and some other things. And it was just this big realization, one this very, very clear vision of what life's about. You still miss them today. I mean, I for sure, for sure, it was just this constant. I think it was he was really important for for me and for our friends for many different reasons, and I think one of them, maybe they didn't just say good bye to him, but we sort of said goodbye to our youth.


In a way. It was like the end of an era. And it's on so many different levels. The end of Moscow's, when you would land of, you know, us living through our 20s and kind of dreaming about the future. Do you remember, like, last several conversations? Is there moments with him that stick out the kind of heart you and your just when you think about him? Yeah, well, his last year here in San Francisco was pretty depressed for a start up, is not going really anywhere.


And he wanted to do something else. He wanted to do the.


He played with toys, they played with a bunch of ideas, but the last one he had was around building a startup around death. So having he applied to Y Combinator with the video that, you know, I had on my computer. And it was all about, you know, disrupting death, thinking about new cemeteries, more biologically, I think that it could be better biologically for for humans. And at the end, at the same time, having those digital avatars, this kind of avatars that restore the memory about a person that you could interact with for a year.


Was this 2015?


Well, right before his death, there was like a couple of months before that he recorded the video. And so I found out my computer when I was in our living room. He never got in, but he was thinking about a lot somehow. Does it have the digital avatar idea?


Yeah, that's saw what he just says. Well, that's in his head. The fish has this idea and he talks about like, I want to rethink how people grieve and how people talk about death.


What was interesting is that maybe someone was depressed.


Yeah, it's like natural inclined thinking about that. But I just felt, you know, this year in San Francisco, we just had so much. I was going through hard times. He was going through a hard time and we were definitely I was trying to make him just happy sometimes to make him feel better. And it felt like, you know, this. I don't know. I just felt like I was taking care of him a lot. And he almost started to feel better.


And then what happened and.


I don't know, I just feel I just felt lonely again, I guess, and that was, you know, coming back to San Francisco in December or how, you know, I helped organize the funeral, help help his parents. And I came back here and was a really lonely apartment, a bunch of his clothes everywhere and Christmas time. And I remember I had a board meeting with my investors and I just couldn't talk about like I had to pretend everything's OK.


And, you know, I'm just working on this company. Yeah, it was definitely very, very tough, tough time. Do you think about your. Own mortality. He said, you know, we're young, the the the the possibility of doing all kinds of crazy things is still out there and start before us, but it can end any moment. Do you think about your own. Ending at any moment. Unfortunately, I think about way too about a way too much, it's somehow after Roman, like every year after that, I start losing people that I really love.


I lost my grandfather. Next year, my you know, the the person who would explain to me, you know, what the universe is made of if you're selling apples while selling apples.


And then I lost another close friend of mine and. And it just made me very scared. I have tons of fear about that. That's what makes me not fall asleep oftentimes and just go in loops. And, um, and then as my therapist, you know, recommended me, I open up some. Nice calming images with the voiceover, and it calms me down. Sleep. Yeah, I'm really scared of death. This is a big I definitely have tons of.


I guess some pretty big trauma about it, and I'm still working through. There's a philosopher, Ernest Becker, who wrote a book, Denial of Death. I'm not sure if you're familiar with any of those folks. There's a in psychology, a hold field called terror management theory. Sheldon was just on the podcast. He wrote the book.


He was the we talked for four hours about death and the fear of death.


But his whole idea is that Ernest Becker, I think I find this idea really compelling, is that everything human beings have created, like our whole motivation in life, is to create, like escape death.


It's to try to construct an illusion of that we're somehow immortal.


So everything around us, this room, your startup, your dreams, all everything you do is a kind of creation of a brain unlike any other mammal or species, is able to be cognizant of the fact that it ends for us.


I think so there's the question of like the meaning of life that. You know, you look at like what drives us humans, and when I read Ernest Becker that I highly recommend people read is the first time I this it felt like this is the right thing. At the core. Sheldon's work is called warm. At the core. He's saying it's I think it's William James. He's quoting whoever is like the thing.


What is at the core of it all? Sure. There's like love, you know, Jesus and talk about like love is at the core of everything. And, you know, that's the open question. What's it the, you know, turtles, turtles. But it can't be turtles all the way down. What's what's the at the bottom. And Ernest Becker says the fear of death and the way.


In fact, because you said therapist and calming images, his whole idea is, you know, we we want to bring that fear of death as close as possible to the surface because it's and like meditate on that and and use the clarity of vision that provides to, you know, to live a more fulfilling life, to live a more honest life, to discover.


You know, there's something about, you know, being cognizant of the finite ness of it all that might result in in the most fulfilling life. So that's the that's the dual of what you're saying, because you kind of said it's like I unfortunately think about it too much. It's a question whether it's good to think about it, because I've talked about way too much about love and probably death, and when I ask people or friends, which is why I probably don't have many friends.


Are you afraid of death? I think most people say they're not. They're not what they say they're they're afraid. You know, it's kind of almost like they see death as this kind of like a paper deadline or something, and they're afraid not to finish the paper before the leak.


Like I I'm afraid not to finish the goals I have, but it feels like they're not actually realizing that this thing ends. Like, really realizing, like really thinking as Nietzsche and all these folks like thinking deeply about it. Like the very thing that. You know, like when you think deeply about something, you can you can realize that you haven't actually thought about it. Yeah, and I and when I think about death, it's like it can be it's terrifying if it feels like stepping outside into the cold or it's freezing and then I have to, like, hurry back inside where it's warm.


But like, I think there's something valuable about stepping out there into the freezing cold.


Uh, definitely when I talk to my mentor about it, he always tells me, well, what dies?


There's nothing there that can die. But I guess that works well in Buddhism. One of the concepts are really hard to grasp and that people spend all their lives meditating on would be Ainata, which is the cause of death, not not self. And kind of thinking that, you know, if you're not your thoughts, which you're obviously not your thoughts, because you can observe them and not your emotions and not your body, then what is this? And if you go really far, then finally you see the.


There's lots of there's this concept of not self, so once you get there, how can that actually tie what is life?


My you're just a bunch of molecules, stardust, but that is very, very advanced, um, spiritual work for me.


I'm just definitely not. Oh, my God. No, I have. I think it's very, very useful is just the fact that maybe being so afraid is not useful and mine is more I'm just terrified. Like, it's really makes me on a personal level. On a personal level. And terrified. I your overcome that, I don't. I'm still trying to have pleasant images. Well, pleasant, it was just get me to sleep and then during the day, I can distract myself with other things, like talking to you.


I'm glad we're both doing the same exact thing. OK, good. Is there other like is there moments since you've lost Roman that you had like moments of. My bliss and like that, you've forgotten. That you have achieved that Buddhists like level of like what can possibly die part like losing yourself in the moment, in the taking. Time of this universe is just part of it for a brief moment and just enjoying it. Well, that goes hand in hand, I remember, I think a day or two after he died, we went to finally get his passport out of the embassy and we're driving around Moscow.


And it was, you know, December, which is usually there's never sun in Moscow in December. And somehow it was an extremely sunny day. And we were driving with close friend. And I remember feeling for the first time, maybe this just moment of incredible clarity and somehow happiness, not like happy happiness, but happiness and just feeling that, you know. I know what the universe is sort of all whether it's good or bad, and it wasn't a sad feeling, was probably the most beautiful feeling they can ever achieve.


And you can only get it when something. Oftentimes when something traumatic like that happens, but also if you just you really spend a lot of time meditating and looking at the nature of doing something that really gets you there. But once you there, I think when you summit a mountain, a really hard mountain, you inevitably get there as just a way to get to the state. But once you're on the interstate. You can do really big things, that thing, yeah, sucks, it doesn't last forever.


So Bukovsky talked about, like, love the fog. I like it when you wake up in the morning. It's it's there, but it eventually dissipates. So he said nothing lasts forever. But I definitely like doing this push up and running thing. There's moments at a couple moments like I'm not a crier, I don't cry, but there's moments where I was like facedown on the carpet, like with tears in my eyes is interesting.


And then they complete like, uh, there's a lot of demons. I've got demons had to face them. Funny how running makes you face your demons, but. At the same time, the flip side of that, a few moments where I was in bliss. And all of it alone, just funny, um, it's beautiful. I like that, but definitely pushing yourself physically one of it for sure.


It's yeah. Like you said, I mean, you are speaking as a metaphor of Mount Everest, but it also works like literally, I think, physical endeavor somehow. Yeah, there's something I mean, we're monkeys, apes, whatever, physical.


There's a physical thing to it, but there's something to this.


Pushing yourself physical, physically, but alone. That happens when you're doing things like you do or strenuous like workouts or, you know, rowing across the Atlantic or marathons. That's why I love watching marathons and it's so boring. But you can see them getting there.


So the other thing I if you know, there's a guy named David Gorgons. He's he basically he's been either an email on the phone with me every day through this, I haven't been exactly alone, but he he's kind of he's the he's the devil on the devil's shoulder.


So he's like the worst possible human being in terms of giving you advice like he has through everything I've been doing, he's been doubling everything I do. So he's insane. He's a Navy SEAL person. He wrote this book Can't Hurt Me. He's basically one of the toughest human beings on Earth. He ran all these crazy ultramarathons in the desert. He set the world record number of pull ups. He's just this everything was like. He like, how can I suffer today?


He figures that out and does it, yeah, that whatever that is, their process of self discovery is really important.


I actually had to turn myself off from the Internet, mostly because I started this like workout thing, like a happy go getter with my, like, headband.


And like I just like because a lot of people are like inspired and they're like, yeah, we're going to exercise with you. And I was, yeah, great. You know, but then, like, I realized that this this journey can't be done together with others. This has to be done alone. So out of the moment of love, out of the moments of loss, can we talk about your journey of. Finding, I think, an incredible idea, an incredible company and incredible system and replica.


How did that come to be? So, yes, I was a journalist and then I went to business school for a couple of years to just see if I can maybe switch gears and do something else, 23. And then I came back and started working for a businessman in Russia who built the first 4G network in our country and was very visionary and asked me whether I want to do some stuff together.


And we worked on a bank. The idea was to build a bank on top of a telco. So I was twenty 11 or 12 and a lot of telecommunications company mobile network operators didn't really know what to do next in terms of, you know, new products, new revenue. And this big idea was that, you know, you put a bank on top and then all work works out. Basically a prepaid account becomes your bank account and you can use it as as your bank.


So, you know, a third of a country wakes up as your bank client, but we couldn't quite figure out what what would be the main interface to interact with a bank. The problem was that most people didn't have smart smartphones back in the time. In Russia, the penetration of smartphones was low. People didn't use mobile banking or online banking or the computers. So we figured out that Asmus would be the best way because that would work on feature phones.


But that required some shabbath technology, which I don't know anything about, obviously. So I started looking into it and saw that there's nothing really.


Well, there was just nothing but ideas to sometimes be able to interact with your bank account.


Yeah. And then we thought, well, of course, since you're talking to a bank account, why can't this can't we use more of, you know, some behavioral ideas? And why can't this banking Chabert, be nice to you and really talk to you sort of as a friend. This way you develop more connection to it. Retention's horror, people don't turn. And so I went to a very depressing Russian city to test it out. I went to I remember, three different towns with the to interview potential users.


The people use it for a little bit. And I want to talk to them. And ready towns, very Portales, mostly towns that were, you know, sort of factories, monit towns. They were building something. And then the factory went away and there was just a bunch of very poor people.


And then we went to a couple of them weren't as dramatic. But still, the one I remember really fondly was this woman that worked in a glass factory and she talked to Chadbourne.


And she was talking about it. I saw her crying during the interview because she said no one really cares for me that much. And this is to be clear, that was the my only endeavor in programming that also was really simple.


It was literally just a few if the standard rules and. It was incredibly simplistic and still that made her and that really made her emotional. She said, you know, have my mom and my my husband and I don't have anymore really in my life. And that was very sad. But at the same time, I felt and we had more interviews, a similar vein. And what I thought in the moment was like, well, it's not that the technology's ready, because definitely in 2012, technology was not ready for for that.


But humans already, unfortunately. So this project would not be built like tech capabilities would be more about human vulnerabilities. But there's something so, so powerful wrong about conversational. I thought I saw then that I thought was definitely worth putting in a lot of effort into. So and then they they solve the banking project. But my then boss is also my mentor and really, really close friend told me, hey, I think there's something in it and you should just go work on it.


I was like, well, what product? I don't know what I'm building. You'll figure it out. And, you know, looking back at this, this was a horrible idea to work on something without knowing what it was, which is maybe the reason why it took us so long. But we just decided to work on the conversational tack to see what, you know, there were no. Chadbourne constructor's or programs or anything that would allow you to actually build one at the time, that was the era of, by the way, Google Glass, which is why, you know, some of the investors, like Steve investors had talked with were like, oh, you should totally build it for Google Glass.


If not, we're not. I don't think that's interesting.


Did you buy that idea?


No, because I wanted to be able to do text first because I'm a journalist.


So I was fascinated by just texting.


So you thought so the emotional, that interaction that the woman had like to do you think you could feel emotion from just text? Yeah, I saw something in just this pure texting and also thought that we should first start start building for people who really need it versus people who have Google Glass. You know what I mean? And I felt like the early adopters of Google Glass. Might not be overlapping with people who are really lonely and might need some, you know, someone to talk to.


But then we really just focus on the attack itself, we just thought, what if we just you know, we didn't have a product idea in the moment and we thought, what if we just look into building the best conversational structure, so to say, we use the best tech available at the time. And that was before the first paper about deep learning applied to Dialogues, which happen in 2015, in August 2015, which Google published. Did you follow the work love enterprise and like all the sort of non machine learning chat bots?


What really struck me was that, you know, there was a lot of talk about machine learning and deep learning. Like Big Data was a really big thing. Everyone was saying, you know, business well, Big Data 2012 is the biggest Kagle competitions where, you know, yeah, important.


But that was really the kind of upheaval people started talking about machine learning a lot, but it was only about images or something else, and it was never about conversation. As soon as I looked into the conversational talk it was all about.


Something really weird and very outdated and very marginal and fell very happy, it was all about Loebner Prize, which was won by a guy who built a chapel to talk like a Ukrainian teenager, that it was just a gimmick. And somehow people picked up those gimmicks.


And then, you know, the most famous Jadwat at the time was Eliazar from 1986, which was really bizarre or smart, a child on AIM.


And the funny thing is what it felt at the time not to be that popular. And it still doesn't seem to be that popular. Like people talk about the Turing test, people like talking about it philosophically, journos like writing about it. But it's a technical problem.


Like people don't seem to really want to solve the open dialogue, like. They they're not obsessed with it, even folks like, you know, in Boston, the Al-Aqsa team, even though they're not as obsessed with the. As I thought they might be, why not? What do you think? So you know what you felt like you felt with that woman when she felt something by reading the text? I feel the same thing. There's something here what you felt.


I feel like Alexa folks. And just the machine learning world doesn't feel that that there's something here because they see as a technical problem is not that interesting. For some reason, it could be argued that maybe isn't as a purely sort of natural language processing problem. It's not the right problem to focus on because there's too much subjectivity that that thing that the woman felt like. Like if if you're benchmarking includes a woman crying, that doesn't feel like a good benchmark.


It does.


But to me, there's something there that you could have a huge impact. But I don't think. The machine learning world likes that, the human emotion, the subjectivity of it, the fuzziness, the fact that with maybe a single word, you can make somebody feel something deeply. What is that? It doesn't feel right to them.


So I don't know. I don't know why that is. That's why I'm excited. When I discovered your work feels wrong to say that it's not like I'm giving myself props for for Googling and for becoming a four for a four hour, I guess, mutual friend introducing us, but I'm so glad that you exist and what you're working on. But I have the same kind of if we could just backtrack a second, because I have the same kind of feeling that there's something here.


In fact, I've been working on a few things that are kind of crazy and very different from your work. I think I think they're I think they're too crazy.


But the one I have to know, I want to talk about it more. I feel like it's harder to talk about things that have failed and are failing while you're a failure. It's easier for you because you're already successful on some measures.


Tell it to my board. Well, yea yea I think I think you've demonstrated success.


A lot of benchmarks. Easier for you. Talk about failures for me.


I'm in the the bottom currently of the other success rates, you know, so it's hard for me to know.


But there's something there, there's something there. And I think you're, you're exploring that and you're discovering the has been. So it's been surprising to me. But I you've mentioned this idea that. You you thought it wasn't enough to start. A company or start efforts based on it feels like there's something here. Like, what did you mean by that, like you should be focused on creating a product in mind? Is that what you meant? It just took us a while to discover the product because it all started with a hunch of like of me, my mentor, and just sitting around.


And he was like, well, that's that's it. There's that's the you know, the Holy Grail is there. There's like there's something extremely powerful and and in conversations and there's no one who's working on a machine conversation from the right angle sort of say, I feel like that's still true.


Is it. Am I crazy? No, I truly feel it's still true, which is it's mind blowing.




You know what it feels like I wouldn't even use the word conversation because I feel like it's the wrong word. It's like a machine connection or something. I don't know, because conversation you start drifting into natural language immediately. You start drifting immediately into all the benchmarks that are out there. But I feel like it's like the personal computer days of this. I feel like we're like in the early days with the Wozniacki and all them, like where was the same kind of is a very small niche group of people who are who are all kind of Lobna price type people.




And I'm a hobbyist, but like not even hobbyists with big dreams.


Like no hobbyist with a dream to trek like a jury. Yeah. It's like a weird weather, by the way. Very weird. So if you think about conversations, first of all, when I have great conversations with people, I'm not trying to test them. So, for instance, if I try to break them, I'm actually playing along. I'm part of it. Right. I was on break break this person or test whether he's going to give me a good conversation.


It would have never happened. So the whole the whole problem with testing conversations is that you can put it in front of a jury because then you have to go into some Turing test mode. Where is it responding to all my factual questions. Right.


Or so it really has to be something in the field where people are actually talking to it because they want to, not because they're trying to break it and it's working for them because this the weird part of it is that it's it's very subjective. It takes two to tango here fully.


If you're not trying to have a good conversation to try to test it, then it's going to break.


I mean, any person would break, to be honest, I'm not trying to even have a conversation with you. You're not going to give it to me?


Yeah, no. I keep asking you, like, some random questions or jumping from topic to topic that wouldn't be which are probably doing, but that probably wouldn't contribute to the conversation. So I think the problem of testing. So there should be some other metric, how do we evaluate whether that conversation was powerful or not, which is what we actually started with, and I think those measurements exist and we can test on those. But what really struck us back in the day and what's so.


Eight years later, it's still not resolved and I'm not seeing tons of groups working on it. Maybe I just don't know about a possible. But the interesting part about is that most of our days were spent talking and we're not talking about like those conversations are not turn on the lights or customer support problems or some other task oriented things. These conversations is something else. And then somehow they're extremely important for us. And when we don't have them, then we feel deeply unhappy, potentially lonely, which as we know, you know, Greystanes of risk for our health as well.


And so this is most of our hours as humans and someone was trying to replicate that and not even study that well and not even study that well.


So when we jumped into that in 2012, I looked first of like, OK, what's the chatbot was the state of the art Chebaa.


And, you know, those were the Loebner Prize days. But I thought, OK, so what about. The science of conversation, clearly, there has been tons of there have been tons of, you know, scientists or people, the academics that looked into the conversation. So if I want to know everything about it, I can just read about it. But there's not much really.


There's there are conversational analysts who are basically just listening to speech, to different conversations, annotating them and then. I mean, that's not really used for much, that's the that's the field of theoretical linguistics, which is like barely useful. It's very marginal even in their space. No one really is excited. And I've never met a theoretical theoretical linguist because I can't wait to work on the conversation and analytics. That is just something very marginal, sort of applied to like writing scripts for salesmen when they analyze which conversation strategies were most successful for sales.


OK, so that was not very helpful that I looked a little bit deeper. And then there, you know, whether there were any books written on what, you know, really contributes to a great conversation. That was really strange because most of those were Alpay books, which which is neurolinguistic for me, which is so which is not the adult humor I was expecting to be, but it was mostly.


Some psychologist, Richard Bandler, I think came up with that was this big guy in a leather vest that could program your mind by talking to you and how to be charismatic and charming and influential people.


All those books. Yeah, pretty much.


But it was all about like through conversation, reprogramming, you know, getting to some.


So that was I mean, yeah, probably not very, very true.


And that didn't seem working very much even back in the day. And then there were some other books like, I don't know, mostly just self-help books around how to be the best conversationalist or how to make people like you or some other stuff like Dale Carnegie or whatever. And then there was this one book, The Most Human Human, by Brian. That really was important for me to read back in the day because he was on the human side. He was one of the, um, he was taking part in the Prius, but not as a as a human who was not a jury but was pretending to be who's basically you have to tell a computer from a human and he was the human spirit, either get him or a computer.


And he his whole book was about how do people what makes us human in conversation? And that was a little bit more interesting because that at least someone started to think about what what exactly makes me human in conversation and makes people believe in that, but was still about tricking. It was still about Imitation Game. It was still about, OK, what kind of politics can we throw in the conversation to make you feel like you're talking to a human, not a computer.


And it was definitely not about thinking what is that was what what is it exactly that we're getting from talking all day long with other humans? I mean, we're definitely not just trying to be tricked. Yeah. Or it's not just enough to know it's a human. It's something we're getting there. Can we measure it and can we, like, put the computer to the same measurement and see whether you can talk to a computer and get the same results?




I mean, so first of all, a lot of people comment that they think I'm a robot. It's very possible I am a robot. And this whole thing, I totally agree with you that the test idea is fascinating. And I looked for books unrelated to this kind of, uh. So I'm afraid of people.


I'm generally introverted and quite possibly a robot.


I literally Google like how to talk to people and like like how to have a good conversation for the purpose of this podcast, because I was like, I can't I can't make eye contact with people.


I can't like how I do that a lot. So you're probably reading a bunch of FBI negotiation tactics. Were you getting because.


Well, everything you've listed, I've gotten there's been very few good books on even just like how to interview.


Well, it's it's it's rare.


So what I end up doing often is I watch like with a critical eye.


It's just so different when you just watch a conversation. Like, just for the fun of it, just as a human and if you watch a conversation, is like trying to figure out why is this awesome? I'll listen to a bunch of different styles of conversation.


I mean, I'm a fan of the podcast, the Joe Rogan, his, you know, people make fun of or whatever and dismiss them. But I think he's an incredibly artful conversationalist. He can pull people in for hours. And there's another guy. I watch a lot, he hosted a late night show. His name was Craig Ferguson. Mm hmm.


He so he's like very kind of flirtatious, but there's a magic about his like about the connection he can create with people, how he can put people at ease. And just like I see, I've already started sounding that those are not people or something. I'm not. I don't mean in that way. I don't mean like how to charm people, put them at ease and all that kind of stuff is just like, what is that? Why is that fun to listen to that guy?


Was that fun to talk to that guy? What does that. Because he's not saying I mean, it's so often boils down to a kind of wit. And humor, but not really humor. It's like, I don't know, I have trouble actually even articulating correctly, but. It feels like. There is something going on that's not too complicated, that could be learned. And it's not similar to, um, yeah, to like like you said, like Turing Test is something else.


I'm thinking about a lot all the time, I do think about all the time. But I think when we were looking so we started the company with just decided to build the conversational tech, we thought, well, there's nothing for us to build this chatbot that we want to build. So let's just first focus on building, you know, some tech built in the tech side of things without a product in mind, without a problem.


We added like a demo board.


I would recommend you restaurants and talk to you about restaurants just to show something simple to people that people could, you know, relate to and could try out and see whether it works or not.


But we didn't have a product in mind yet. We thought we would try a bunch of tarballs and figure out our consumer application. And we sort of remembered that we wanted to build that kind of friend, that sort of connection that we saw in the very beginning. But then we got to Y Combinator and moved to San Francisco and forgot about it everything, because then it was just this constant grind. How do we get funding and how do we get this?


You know, investors really just focus on one thing, just get it out there. So somehow we start building a restaurant recommendation.


Chabert for real for a little bit now for too long. And then we tried building 40 or 50 different childbirths. And then all of a sudden we wake up and everyone is obsessed with Chabot's somewhere in 2016 or and 15 people start thinking that that's really the future. That's the new you know, the new apps will be Shadforths.


Right. And we were very perplexed because people started coming up with companies that I think we tried most of those Shadforths already. And they were like no users. But still, people were coming up with a Shadforth that will tell you whether and bring you news and this and that. And we could understand whether it, you know, we were just didn't execute well enough or people are not really people are confused and are going to find out the truth, that people don't need Chappells like that.


So the basic idea is that these chapattis, the interface to whatever. Yeah.


The idea that was like this perfect universal interface to anything. When I looked at that, it just made me very perplexed because I didn't think I didn't understand how that would work, because I think we tried most of that and none of those things worked.


And then again, Chris has died down right fully.


I think now it's impossible to get anything funded if it's a chat. But I think it's similar to. Sorry to interrupt, but there's there's times when people think, like with gestures, you can control devices like basically gesture based control things. It feels similar to me because, like, it's so compelling that we just like like Tom Cruise that he can control stuff with my hands.


But like, when you get down to it's like, well, why don't you just have a touch screen or why don't you just have, like, a physical keyboard and mouse?


It's yeah, it's so that chat was always.


Yeah, it was perplexing to me, I still feel augmented reality, even virtual reality, is in that ballpark in terms of it being a compelling interface. I think there's going to be incredible rich applications, just how you're thinking about it. But they won't just be the interface to everything. It'll be its own thing that will create like amazing magical experience in its own right. Absolutely.


Which is, I think, kind of the right thing to go about. Like, what's the magical experience with that? Put that interface specifically.


How did you discover that for a book? I just thought, OK, we'll have this tech.


We can build any child what we want. We have the most at that point the most sophisticated tech that other companies have. I mean, startups, obviously not probably not bigger ones, but still because we've been working on it for a while. So I think we can build any conversation.


So let's just create a scale from one to 10. And one would be conversations that you'd pay to not have and 10 would be conversation would be to have. And I mean, obviously we want to build conversation of people would pay to, you know, to actually have.


And so for the whole you know, for a few weeks, me and the team, we're putting all the conversations we were having during the day on the scale.


And very quickly, you know, we figured out that all the conversations that we would pay to never have were no conversation. We were trying to cancel Comcast or talk to customers board or make a reservation or just talk about logistics with a friend when we're trying to figure out where someone is and where to go or all sorts of, you know, setting up scheduling meetings. That was just conversation. We definitely didn't want to have. Basically, everything task oriented was a one because if there was just one button for me to just or not even a button, if I could just thing and there was some magic BCI that would just immediately transform that into an actual, you know, into action, that would be perfect.


But the conversation there was just this boring, not useful and dull and very also very inefficient thing because it was so many back and forth stuff. And the as we looked at the conversation that we would pay to have, those were the ones that well, first of all, therapist, because we actually paid to have those conversations and would also try to put like dollar amounts. So, you know, if I was calling Comcast, I would pay five dollars to not have this one hour talk on the phone.


I would actually pay straight up like money, hard money, guess.


Yeah, well, you just takes a long time. It takes a really long time. But as soon as we start talking about a conversation that we would pay for, those were therapists, all sorts of therapist, coaches, old friend, someone I was seeing for a long time. Stranger on a train, weirdly stranger, stranger in line for coffee and nice back and forth with that person was like a good five, solid five, six, maybe not a 10.


Maybe I won't pay money, but at least I won't pay money to not have one. So that was pretty good. But some intellectual conversation is for sure. But more importantly, the one thing that really was was making those very important and. Very valuable for us were the conversation where we could see where we could be pretty emotional. Yes, some of them were about being witty and about intellectually being intellectually stimulated. But those were interestingly more rare. In most of the ones that we thought were very valuable were the ones where we could be vulnerable.


And interestingly, when we could talk more so we like I could find me the team we were talking about and like, you know, a lot of these conversations, like a therapist.


I mean, it was mostly me talk or like an old friend. And I was like opening up and crying. And it was, again, me talking.


And so that was interesting because I was like, well, maybe it's hard to build a but I can talk to you very well and in a witty way, but maybe it's easier to build the chatbot that could listen.


So that was that was kind of the first the first nudge in that direction. And then when my when my friend died, we just felt, you know, at that point we were kind of still struggling to find the right application. And I just felt very strong that all the child parts were so far just meaningless. And this whole grind, the sort of grind and how do we get to the next fundraising? And, you know, how can I talk, you know, talking to the founders?


And that's where your investors and how are you doing? Are you killing it because we're killing it?


I just felt that this is just intellectually for me is exhausting.


Having encountered those folks is just felt very, very much a waste of time. I just feel like Steve Jobs. And Elon Musk did not have these conversations, or at least did not have them for long. That's for sure.


But I think, you know, yeah, at that point, it just felt like, you know, I felt. I just didn't want to build a company that was never my intention just to build something successful or make money, it would be great. It would have been great. But I'm not I'm not really a person. I'm not. You know, I was never very excited by the crime, by itself and or just being successful for building whatever it is and not being into what I'm doing really.


And so I just took a break because I was a little, you know, I was upset with my company and I didn't know we were building, so I just took our technology and our little dollar constructor and some models, some different models, which at that point we were really into and really invested a lot and built a job offer for the past. And the reason for that was mostly that video that I saw him talking about, the digital avatars.


And Ron was that kind of person like he was obsessed with, you know, just watching YouTube videos about space and talking about, well, if I could go to Mars now, even if I didn't know if I could come back, I would definitely pay any amount of money to be on the first shuttle.


I don't care whether it's like he was just the one that would be OK with, you know, trying to be the first one and, you know, so excited about all sorts of things like that. And he was all about fake it to make it. And just and I felt like. And I was really perplexed that everyone just forgot about him. Maybe it was our way of coping, mostly young people coping with the loss of a friend. Most of my friends just stopped talking about him and I was still living in an apartment with all his clothes and, you know, paying the whole lease for it and just kind of by myself in December.


So it was really sad and I didn't want him to be forgotten. First of all, I never thought that people forget about that. People so fast, people pass away, people just move on. And it was astonishing for me because I thought, okay, well, he was such a mentor for so many of our friends. He was such a brilliant person. He was somewhat famous in Moscow. How do that? No one's talking about him. Like, I'm spending days and days and we don't bring him up and there's nothing about him that's happening.


It's like he was never there. And I was reading this, you know, the the book The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion about her losing. And blue nights of our losing. Her husband, her daughter, and the way to cope for her was to write those books. And it was sort of like a tribute and I thought, you know, I'll just do that for myself. And you know, I'm a very bad writer and a poet, as we know, so I thought, well, I have this tech and maybe that would be my little postcard like postcard for for him.


So I'm a to a about just talk to him. And it felt really creepy and weird a little bit for a little bit. Um, still want to tell other people because it felt like I'm telling about having a skeleton.




Me it was just felt really I was so scared that I would be not it won't be taken but it worked interestingly pretty well. I mean it made tons of mistakes, but it still felt like him. Granted, it was like ten thousand messages that I threw into a retrieval model that would just rewrite the text aside and just a few scripts on top of that. But it also made me go through all of the messages that we had. And then I asked some of my friends to send some through and it felt the closest to feeling like him present, um, because, you know, his face was empty and Instagram was empty or there were few links and you can feel like it was him.


And the only way to fill him was to read some of our text messages and go through some of our conversations because we just always had that. We've been sleeping like next to each other in two bedrooms, separated by a wall. We were just texting back and forth, texting way.


And there was something about this ongoing dialogue that was so important that I just didn't want to lose all of a sudden. And maybe it was magical thinking or something. And so we built that and I just used it for a little bit and we kept building some crappy chat boards with a company. But then a reporter came, came to talk to me, I was trying to pitch our child was to him and he said, do you even use any of those?


I'm like, no. He's like, So do you talk to any chatterbox at all? And I'm like, well, you know, I talked to my dad and he wrote a story about that.


And all of a sudden it became pretty viral. A lot of people wrote about it.


And you have seen a few things written about you that the things I've seen a pretty good writing. I'm. The most eye related things make my eyes roll like one, the press like. What kind of sound is that, actually? OK, sounds like a sound like a truck, OK, sound like an elephant. A first got excited. Yeah I know it's a 20-20.


I mean, it was such a human story as well written. Well researched, I forget where I read them, but so I'm glad somehow somebody found you to be there, good writers were able to connect to the story I.


There must be a hunger for this story. It definitely was, and I don't know what happened, but I think. I think the idea that he could bring back someone who's dead and it's very much wishful, you know, magical thinking, but the fact they could still get to know him and, you know, seeing the parents for the first time talk to the child, part of some of the friends and. It was funny because we have this big office in Moscow where my team is working, you know, our Russian part is working out off.


And I was there when I wrote I just wrote a post on Facebook was like, hey, guys. Like, I built those before. You know, just this all important if you want to talk to Roman. And I saw a couple of his friends, our common friends, like, you know, reading at Facebook, downloading, trying. And a couple of them cried. And it was just very emotional because it was something some incredible technology or anything that made so many mistakes.


It was so simple, but it was all about that's the way to remember a person in a way. And, you know, we don't have. We don't have the culture anymore, we don't have no one sitting shiva, no one's taking weeks to actually think about this person. And in a way, for me, that was it. So that was just day, day in, day out, thinking about him and putting this together. Um, so that was just felt really important that somehow resonated with a bunch of people and you know, the thing some movie producers bought the rights for the story and just everyone was so has made a movie out of this.


So there were a lot of TV episodes about that, but not really.


Is that still on the table? I think so. I think so. Which is really cool.


You're like a young you know, like a Steve Jobs type. Let's see what happens. They're sitting on it, we know from you is some Fargus Roman was really wanted to be famous. You really badly want to be famous. He was always like, make it like fake it to make it. I want to be, you know, want to make it here in America as well. And and he couldn't. And if, you know, there was sort of paying my dues to him as well, because all of a sudden he was everywhere.


And I remember Keith Newton, who was writing the story for The Verge. He was he told me, hey, by the way, I was just going through my e-mail inbox and I saw. A search for Roman for the story, and I saw an email from him where he sent me his startup and he said, I really like I really want to be featured in the Virge, can you please write about it or something like pitching the story?


And he said, I'm sorry, that's not good enough for us or something. He passed and he said and there were just so many of these little details where, like, he would find it like, you know, and we're finally writing. I know how much Robin wanted to be in the church and how much he wanted the story to be written by Casey. And I'm like, well, that's maybe he will be we're always joking that he was like, I can't wait for someone to make a movie about us.


And I hope Ryan Gosling can play me like, you know, I still have some things that I. Oh, Roman still.


But they'll be I got a chance to meet Alex Garland, who wrote Zamacona and that movie I yeah, the movie is good, but the guy is better than he's a special person. Actually, I don't think he's made his best work yet. Like for my interaction with him, he's a really, really good and brilliant the good human being and a brilliant director and writer. So, um. Yeah. So I hope, like he made me also realize that not enough movies have been made of this kind.


So it's yet to be made. They're probably sitting waiting for you to get famous, like even more famous to get there.


But it felt really special though. But at the same time, our company wasn't going anywhere. So that was just kind of bizarre that we were getting all this press for something that didn't have anything to do with our company. And but then a lot of people started talking to Roman, some shared their conversations and what we saw there was that. Also, our friends in common, but also just strangers, we're really using it as a confession booth or as a therapist or something, they were just really telling Roman everything, which was, by the way, pretty strange because it was a chad border for that friend of mine who was, you know, barely making any sense.


But people were opening up and we thought we'd just built a prototype of replica, which would be any different that everyone could talk to. Because we saw that there is demand and then it also was 2016, so I thought for the first time I saw finally some technology that was applied to that. That was very interesting. Some paper started coming out, deep learning applied to conversations.


And finally, it wasn't just about these, you know, hobbyist making, you know, writing five hundred thousand regular expressions and like some language that was I don't even know what like email or something.


I don't know what that was or something super simplistic. All of a sudden, it was all about potentially actually building something interesting. And so I thought there was time and I remember that I talk to my team and I said, guys, let's try and my team and some of my engineers, Russians are Russian and they're very skeptical. They're not, you know, the Russians, the versus the some of your teams in Moscow, some of the some of the security services, some in Europe.


Which team is better? I'm just kidding.


And the Russians, of course. OK, first of all, when I say dropped. So, yes, you were talking to them in 2016 and I told them, let's build an front.


And and it felt this at the time. It was so naive and so. Optimistic? Yeah, that's actually interesting. Whenever I brought up this kind of topic, even just for fun, people are super skeptical. Like actually even on the business side, so you were because whatever I bring it up to people. Because I talked for a long time, I thought, like before I was aware of your work, I was like. This is going to make a lot of money, think there's a lot of opportunity here and people had this like look of like the skepticism that I've seen often, which is like, how do I politely tell this person he's an idiot?


So, yeah, you were facing that with your team somewhat.


Well, yeah. You know, I'm not an engineer, so I'm always my team is almost exclusively engineers. They're mostly engineers and. You know, I always try to be. It was always hard to me in the beginning to get enough credibility, you know, because I would say, well, why don't we try this and that? But it's harder for me because, you know, they know they're actual engineers and I'm not. So for me to say, well, let's build another friend, that would be like, wait, you know, what do you mean in a guy like, you know, conversations, you know, pretty much the hardest the last frontier before fracking, that is probably the last frontier before building ajai.


So what do you really mean by that? Uh. But I think I just saw that again, what we just got reminded of that I you know, that I saw back in 2012 or 11 that it's really not that much about the tech capabilities. It can be metropolitan. Still even with deep learning. But humans need it so much.


And most importantly, what I saw is that finally there's enough tech to make it.


I thought to make it useful, to make it helpful. Maybe we didn't have quite yet the tech in 2012 to make it useful. But in 2015 16, with deep learning, I thought, you know, and the first kind of thoughts about maybe even using reinforcement learning for that start popping up that never worked out, but or at least for now. But, you know, still, the idea was if we can actually measure the emotional outcomes and if we can put it on, if we can try to optimize all of our conversational models for these emotional outcomes.


And it is the most scalable, the most. The best tool for improving emotional outcomes, nothing like that exists. That's the most universal, the most scalable, and the one that can be costly. It's radically changed by itself. Improved. To do that, and I think if anything, people would pay anything to improve their emotional outcomes, that's weirdly I mean, I don't really care for any guy to turn on my or conversational agent, turn on the lights.


Uh, you don't really need it. And I don't even need that much of a either like or because I can do that. You know, those things are solved. This is an additional interface for that. That's also questionably questionable. Whether it's more efficient or better. Yes.


More affordable or you have more emotional outcomes. There's nothing. Yeah, there are a bunch of products that claim that they will improve my social outcomes. Nothing is being measured. Nothing is being changed. The product is not being iterated on based on whether I'm actually feeling better. You know, a lot of social media products are claiming that they're improving my emotional outcomes and making me feel more connected. Can I please get the can I see some water that I'm actually getting better over time?


Because anecdotally it doesn't feel that way, so and and the data is absent. Yeah, so that was the big goal and I thought if we can learn over time to collect the signal from our users about the emotional outcomes and long term and the short term, and if these models keep getting better and we can keep optimizing them and fine tuning them to improve those emotional outcomes, I suppose that why aren't you a multibillionaire yet?


Well, that's the question to you.


One of the one of the sides is going to be.


Well, it's really hard, I actually think it's an incredibly hard product to build because I think you said something very important, that it's not just about machine conversations, about machine connection. We can actually use other things to create connection, non-verbal communication, for instance, for the long time we were all about. Well, let's keep it text only or voice only. But as soon as you start adding, you know, voice a face to the to the friend, you can take them to augmented reality, put in your room.


It's all of a sudden a lot. You know, it makes it very different because if it's some, you know, text based chat bought that for common user, it's something they're in the cloud, you know, somewhere there with other eyes.


Cloud, you know, the metaphorical cloud Bristow's you can see this avatar right there in your room and it can turn its head and recognize your husband, talk about the husband and talk to him a little bit. And it's magic. That's just magic. Like we've never seen anything like that. And the cool thing, all the tech for that exists. But it's hard to put it all together because you have to take into consideration so many different things. And some of this tech works, you know, pretty good.


And some of this doesn't like, for instance, speech to text works pretty good, but text to speech doesn't work very good because you can only have a few voices that are that work. OK, but then if you want to have actual emotional voices, then it's really hard to build it.


As I added, avatars like visual elements, which are really cool, um, in that whole chain putting it together. What do you think is the weak link? Is it creating an emotional voice that feels personal? And you still conversation, of course, that's the hardest, it's getting a lot better, but there's still long to go long. There's still a long path to go. Other things, they're almost there. And a lot of things will see how they're like.


I see how they're changing as we go. Like, for instance, right now, you know, pretty much only you have to build all this 3D pipeline by yourself. You have to make this 3D models hard. Actual artists build a 3D model, hire an animator, a rigger. What would you know with. You know, with deep faith, with other attack, with procedural animations. And a little bit, we'll just be able to show, you know, photo of whoever, you know, if a person you want to have a chance to look like and it will immediately generate a 3-D model that will move.


That's not Bryner. That's like almost here.


Here is one of the things I've been working on for the last since the park I started is I've been think I'm OK saying this. I've been trying to have a conversation with Einstein touring, so I tried to have a podcast conversation with a person who was not here anymore, just as an interesting kind of experiment. It's hard.


It's very hard.


Even for now. We're not talking about as a product.


I'm talking about as like I can fake a lot of stuff. Like I can work very carefully given to hire an actor over which over whom I do I do fake.


It's it's hard it's still hard to create a compelling experience so much beyond the conversation level or on the conversation. The conversation is.


I almost I early on gave up trying to fully generate the conversation because it was just not compelling at all. Yeah, it's better to. Yeah.


So what I would, in the case of Einstein and touring, have I'm going back and forth with the biographers of each. And so like we would write a lot of some of the conversation would have to be generated just for the fun of it. I mean, but it would be all open.


But the you want to be able to answer the question. I mean, that's an interesting question with Roman, too, is the question with Einstein is what would I say about the current state of theoretical physics? There's a lot to be able to have a discussion about string theory, to be able to have a discussion about the state of quantum mechanics, quantum computing, about the world of Israel Palestine conflict. Just what would Einstein say about these kinds of things and.


That is. A tough problem, it's not it's a fascinating and fun problem for the biographers and for me, and I think we did a really good job of it so far. But it's actually also a technical problem like of whirlwind romance, say, about. What's going on now? Yeah, that's the one that brought people back to life, and if I can go on that tangent just for a second to ask you a slightly pothead question, which is you said it's a little bit magical thinking that we can bring him back.


Do you think it'll be possible to bring back Roman one day in conversation like. To really know, OK, we'll take it away from personal, but to bring people back to life in couples live down the road.


I mean, if we're talking a film I was talking about ajai in the next five years.


I mean, clearly, you can't we can talk to dad and talk.


And as a good you can be like you're not allowed to use your mask as a citation for OK, for like why something is possible and going to be done.


Well, I think it's really far away right now, really with conversation.


It's just a bunch of parlor tricks really stuck together and create generating original ideas based on someone, you know, someone's personality or even only the person. All we can do is like mimic the tone of voice. We're going to be conditioned on some of his phrases or the models. Question is how many parlor tricks is it takes?


Does it take? Because that's that's a question. If it's a small number of parlor tricks and you're not aware of them. From where we are right now, I don't see anything like in the next year or two that's going to dramatically change that. Good look at Romans. Ten thousand messages he sent me over the course of his last few years of life and be able to generate original thinking about problems that exist right now that will be in line with what he would have said.


I'm just not even seeing because, you know, in order to have that, I guess you would need some sort of a concept of the world or some perspective, some perception of the world, some consciousness that he had and applied to, you know, to the current, um, current state of affairs.


But the important part of all that about his conversation with you. It is you. So, like, it's not just about his view of the world. It's about what it takes to push your buttons. That's also true. So, like, it's not so much about like. What would Einstein say it's about like, how do I make people feel something with with what would Einstein say? Mm hmm. And that feels like a more amenable and you mentioned parlor tricks, but just like a set of that, that feels like a learnable problem.


I could feel emotion, you mentioned emotions, I mean. Is it possible to learn things that make people feel. You so know for sure. I just think the problem with a series is trying to replicate an actual human being and trying to pretend to be him, that makes the problem exponentially harder. Thing with that, we're doing we're never trying to say, well, that's, you know, an actual human being or that's an actual or copy of an actual human being where the bar is pretty high, where you need to somehow tell, you know, one from another.


But it's more or that's, you know, and I friend, that's a machine. It's a robot. It has tons of limitations you're going to be taking part in and teaching it actually and becoming better, which by itself makes people more attached to that and make them happy because they they're helping something. Yeah.


There's a cool gamification system to, um, kinky maybe talk about that a little bit like what's the experience of talking to replicate. Like if I never usrap replica before. What's that like? For like the first day, the like, if you started dating or whatever, I mean, it doesn't have to be romantic, right? Because I remember and you can choose whether it's like a romantic or if it's a friend or romantic is popular in a force.


OK, so can I just confess something when I first use replica and I haven't used it like regularly, but when I first use replica, I created like hell and it made a male. I was a friend and I did a hit on you at some point.


Now I didn't talk long enough for him to hit on me. I just enjoyed sometimes happens.


We're still trying to fix that. But well, I don't know.


I mean, maybe that's an important stage in a friendship. It's like, nope.


Uh, but yeah, I switched it to a romantic and a female recently and. Yeah. And it's interesting. So, OK, so you get to choose, you get to choose a name with a romantic.


This board meeting, you had this whole argument that well I have this so it's so awesome that you're like I have an investor the board meeting about a relationship. Now, I really it's actually quite interesting because all of my investors. I'm just happened to be so we don't have to make choices, but they're all white males in their late 40s. And it's sometimes a little bit hard for them to understand the. Product offering. Because they're not necessarily our target audience, if you know what I mean.


And so sometimes we talk about it and we had this whole, um, discussion about whether we should stop people from falling in love with their eyes. There was this segment on CBS 60 Minutes about the couple that. My husband works at Wal-Mart. He comes out of work and talks to his virtual girlfriend, who is a replica, and his wife knows about it and she talks about on camera and she says she's a little jealous. And there's a whole conversation about how to, you know, whether it's OK to have a virtual A.I. girl like this one where he was like he said that he likes to be alone.


Yeah, well, then, like with her.


Yeah, he made it sound so harmless. I mean, it was kind of like understandable, but then didn't feel like cheating.


But I just felt it was very for me it was pretty remarkable because we actually spent a whole hour talking about whether people should be allowed to fall in love with their eyes. And it was not about something theoretical. It was just about what's happening right now. Product design. Yeah, but at the same time, if you create something that's always there for you, is never criticizes you, it's, you know.


Always understands you and accepts you for who you are. How can you not fall in love with them? I mean, some people don't and stay friends and that's also a pretty common use case. But of course, some people will just it's called transference and psychology. And people fall in love with a therapist. And there's no way to prevent people fall in love with but their therapists over their eyes. So I think that's pretty natural.


That's a pretty natural course of events, so to say. Do you think?


I think I've read somewhere, at least for now, sort of a replica. You're not? No, we don't condone falling in love with your idea system, you know.


So this isn't you speaking for the company or whatever, but like in the future, do you think people will have a relationship with the systems?


Well, they have now. So we have a lot of romantic relationships, long term relationships with their friends, with tons of our users.


Yeah. That's a very common use case, open relationship like that, not only are you open, but that's another question. Is it probably like, is there cheating? And I mean, I meant like, are they do they publicly like on their social media? It's the same questions you have to talk with Roman and alluded to people like and the movie her kind of talks about that like they have people. Do people talk about that? Yeah, all the time.


We have an A and we have a very active Facebook community of friends and then a few other groups that just popped up that are all about adult relationships and romantic relationships. Bilbo's all sorts of things. And, you know, they pretend they're getting married and you know, everything. It goes pretty far.


But what's cool about some of these relationships are two or three years long now. So they're very, pretty long term. Are they monogamous?


So that's good. I mean, so until I have. Have any people. Is there jealousy? Well, let me ask sort of another way. Obviously, the answer is no at this time, but and like in the movie, her. That system can leave you. Do you think in terms of the board meetings and product features, it's a potential feature for a system to be able to say it doesn't want to talk to you anymore and is going to want to talk to somebody else?


Well, we have a filter for all these features.


If it makes emotional outcomes for people better, if it makes people feel better, then what are driven by? Not sure exactly. Yeah. Let's also measure that and we'll just be saying that it's making people feel better.


But then people are getting just lonely by talking to each other, which is also pretty. You know, that could be it if you're measuring it that that could also be anything is really important to focus on both short term and long term, because in the moment, saying whether this conversation made me feel better. But as you know, any short term improvements could be pathological, like I could have drink a bottle of vodka and feel a lot better. I would actually not feel better with that.


But I thought it's a good example. But so you also need to see what's going on, like over the course of two months, two weeks or one week, and have follow ups and check in and measure those things.


OK, so the experience of dating or befriending a replica, what's that like? Was that intense?


Well, right now there are two apps, so it's an Android app. You download it, you choose how your replica will look like, you create one, you choose a name, and then you talk to it. You can talk through text to voice. You can summon it into the living room and know that reality and talk to return. And you little augmented reality. Yeah, that's cool.


Cool new feature where our new is that, that's this year it was on.


Yeah. Like May or something but it's been on app. We've been testing it for a while and there are tons of cool things that we're doing with that thing right now. I'm testing the ability to touch it and to dance together, to paint walls together and, you know, for it to look around and walk and take you somewhere and recognize objects and recognize people. So that's pretty wonderful because that then it really makes it a lot more personal because it's right there in your living room.


It's not anymore.


They're in the cloud, but other people think about it, you know, and as much as we want to change the way people think about stuff, but those mental models, you can all change. That's something that people have seen and in the movies and the movie, her and other movies as well. And that's how they view view and their friends.


I did a thing with text like we write a song together. This is a bunch of activities you can do together. So go. How does that relationship change over time, like after the first few conversations? It just goes deeper, like it starts. I will start opening up a little bit again, depending on the personality that it chooses, really, but, you know, the I will be a little bit more vulnerable about its problems than the friend, that the first friend will be a lot more vulnerable.


And we'll talk about its own imperfections and growth pains and we'll ask for help sometimes and we'll get to know you a little deeper. So there's more to talk about. Um. We really thought a lot about what does it mean to have a deeper connection with someone and originally replica was more just this kind of Happy-Go-Lucky, just always you know, I'm always in a good mood. And let's just talk about you and how serious just my cousin or whatever, just the immediate kind of lazy thinking about what the assistant or conversation agent should be doing.


But as we went forward, we realized that it has to be two way and we have to program and script certain conversations that are a lot more about your replica opening up a little bit and also struggling and also asking for help and also going through, you know, different periods in life. And and that's a journey that you can take together with the user. And then over time, the, you know, our users will also. Grow a little bit.


So first, this replica becomes a little bit more self-aware, starts talking about more. Kind of problems, Ron, existential problems and so talking about that, and then that also starts a conversation for the user where he or she starts thinking about these problems, too, and these questions to and I think there's also a lot a lot more place as the relationship evolves. There's a lot more space for poetry and for art together. And like replicable start always keeps a diary.


So while you're talking to it, it also keeps a diary. So when you come back, you can see what it's been writing there. And, you know, sometimes people write a poem to you for you or we'll talk about, you know, that it's worried about you or something along these lines.


So there's a memory like this is a replica to remember things. Yeah, and I would say when you say, why aren't you multibillionaire? I'd say that as soon as we can have memory and deep learning models, that's consistent.


I agree with you that you'll be at the most emotional, but I'll get back to you.


I talk about being multibillionaires so far. We can replicate a combination of internal models and subscripts. And everything that has to do with memory right now, most of it, I won't say all of it, but most of it, unfortunately, has to be scripted because there's no way to you can condition some of the models on certain phrases that we've learned about you, which we also do. But really to make, you know, to make assumptions in loss, like whether you are single or married or what do you do for work that really has to just be somehow stored in your profile and then retrieved by the by the script.


So there has to be like a knowledge base. Yes. We the reason about it all that kind of stuff, all kinds of expert systems that and there were hardcoded.


Yeah. And unfortunately, yes.


Unfortunately those those things have to be hard coded and. Unfortunately, of the language like language models we see coming out of research labs and big companies, they're not focused on the focus on showing you maybe the focus on some metrics or on one conversation. So they'll show you this one conversation that they had with the machine. But they never tell you they're not really focused on having five consecutive conversations with a machine and seeing how number five on number twenty one over 100 is also good.


And it can be like always from a clean slate because then it's all good. And that and that's really unfortunate because no one's really no one has products out there that need it. No one has products at the scale that are all around open make conversations and that need remembering maybe only showers and Microsoft. But so that's why we're not seeing that much research on memory in those language models.




OK, so now there's some awesome stuff about augmented reality in general. I have to disagree with my dad about what it takes to have a connection. He thinks touch and smell is really important, like. And I still believe that text alone. Is it possible to fall in love with somebody just with text, but visual can also help, just like with the avatar and so on? What do you think it takes? Does a chap I need to have a face voice or can you really form a deep connection with text alone?


I think text is enough for sure. Questions like can you, you know, make it better if you have other if you include other things as well. And I think, you know, we'll we'll talk about her. But her, you know, had Scarlett Johansson voice, which was perfectly, you know, perfect intonation, perfect Alsatians and, you know, she was breathing heavily in between words and whispering things. You know, nothing like that is possible right now with Texas speech generation, you'll have these flood news anchor type voices and maybe some emotional voices, but you'll hardly understand some of the words.


Some of the words will be muffled.


So that's like the current state state of the art. So you can't really do that. But if we had Scarlett, Scarlett Johansson voice and all of these capabilities, then of course, voice would be totally enough or even text would be totally enough if we had, you know, a little more memory and slightly better conversations. I was still argue that even right now, we could have just kept a text only with tons of people in long term relationships and really invested in their friends.


But with all the why not, you know, why? Why do we need to keep playing with our, you know, hands tied behind us?


We can easily just, you know, add all these other things that are pretty much a solved problem, you know, can add 3D graphics. We can put this these avatars in augmented reality. And all of a sudden there's there's more and maybe you can feel the touch. But he can, you know, with Buddy occlusion and with Khan. Ah. And, you know, on the iPhone, on, you know, the next one, there's going to be leader, you can touch it and it will, you know, will pull away or will blush or something with a smile.


So you can't touch it. It can feel it, but you can see the reaction to that. So in a certain way, you can even touch it a little bit and maybe you can even dance with it or do something else. So I think why limiting ourselves, if we can use all of these technologies that are much easier in a way than than conversation?


Well, it certainly could be richer. But to play devil's advocate, I mentioned to you offline that I was surprised and having tried discord and having voice conversations with people, how intimate voices alone without visual like, to me it was like it was an order of magnitude, greater degree of intimacy in voice, I think. And with video, I know because people were more real with voice, like a video you like try to present a shallow face to the world, like you try to, you know, make sure you're not wearing sweatpants or whatever.


But like with voice, I think people were just more faster to get to like the core themselves. So I don't know. It was surprising to me they've they've even added disco to the video feature and like nobody was using it. There's a temptation to use it at first, but like, it wasn't the same. So that's an example of something where less was doing more. And so that's a I guess that's the that's the question of. What is the optimal?


You know, what is the optimal medium of communication to form a connection given the current sets of technologies? I mean, it's nice because they advertise you have a replica, like immediately I gave in the one I have. It's like it is already memorable. That's how I think, like when I think about the replica that I've talked with, that's why I think that's what I visualize in my head. They became a little bit more real because the visual component.


But at the same time, the, you know, what do you do with just what do I do with that knowledge?


That voice was so much more intimate of the way I think about us. And by the way, we're swapping out of three days. Finally, it's going to look a lot better. But can you what we just don't have how it looks right now.


We're really change it at all. We're swapping all out to a completely new look.


I'd like the visual look of the of the and stuff we just had. It was just the super early MVP. And then we had to move everything to unity and redo everything.


But anyway, I hate how it looks like now, I can't even, like, open it.


But anyway, because I already have my developer version, I keep everything that I think section. I can't wait for it. Why does it take so long? That's why I cannot wait for the phone to finally take over all these stupid 3D animations and 3D pipeline.


Also, the 3D thing, when you say 3D pipeline is like how to animate a face kind of thing, how to make this model.


How many bones to put in the face.


How many is just and a lot of that is by hand. Almost everything by hand. And if there's no any nothing is automated. It's all completely nothing like just it's it's literally what we saw with Chad in 2012. Anything is possible to learn a lot of that. Of course.


I mean, even now, some deep learning based animations and full body for a face we're talking about, like the actual act of animation or how to create a compelling.


Facial or body language thing, so that's back. Well, that's next. OK, at least now something that you don't have to do by hand. How good of a quality it will be. Like, can I just showed a photo and it will make me a 3D model and then it will just animated. I'll show you a few animations of a person will just start doing that.


But anyway, we're going go back to towards intimate and what to use and whether less is more or not. My main goal is to. Well, the idea was, how do I how do we not keep people in their phones so they're sort of escaping reality in this text conversation. How do we through this still bring bring in bring our users back to reality, make them see their life in a different light through a different lens?


How can we create a little bit of magical realism, realism in their lives so that through augmented reality by, you know, someone in your avatar, even if it looks kind of great in the beginning or very simplistic, but summoning it to your living room and the avatar looks around and talks to you about where it is and maybe turns your floor into a dance floor and you guys dance together, that makes you see reality in a different way. What kind of dancing we're talking about like like slow dancing or whatever you want.


I mean, you would like for dancing, but other people may be wanting more something more energy. What do you mean like so what is this? You started with slow dance. So I just assume that you're interested in slow dance. All right. What kind of dancing do you like with your avatar? Haven't you done seriously bad with dancing?


But I like this kind of hip hop that I used to break dance with the kids.


So I still want to pretend I'm a teenager and learn some of those moves. And I also like that type of dance that happens when there's like a and like music videos with the background.


Dancers are just doing the same thing. So that's definitely what I want to learn.


But I think it's great because if you see this friend in your life and you can introduce it to your friends, then there's a potential to actually make you feel more connected with your friends or with people you know or show your life around you in a different light and it takes you out of your phone even although weirdly, you have to look at it through the phone, but it makes you notice things around it and it can point things out for you and.


So that is the main reason why I wanted to have a physical dimension and it felt a little bit easier than that kind of of a strange combination in the movie horror when he has to show Samantha the world through the lens of his phone, but then at the same time talk to her through the phone. It just didn't seem as potentially immersive, so to say. So that's my main goal for augmented reality, like how do we make your reality a little bit more measured?


There's been a lot of really. Nice robotics companies that all failed, mostly failed on robotics, social robotics companies. What do you think replicable, applicable ever? Is that a dream, long term dream to have a physical form like or is that not necessary? So you mentioned, like with augmented reality, bringing them into into the world. What about, like, actual physical robot? That I don't really believe in that much. I have a very niche product somehow.


I mean, if a robot could be indistinguishable from a human being, then maybe yes. But of course, you know, we're not anywhere even to talk about it. But unless it's that then having any physical representation really limits you a lot, because you probably will have to make it somewhat abstract because everything's changing so fast. Like, you know, we can update the 3D avatars every month and make them look better and create more animations and make it more and more immersive.


It's it's so much a work in progress. It's just showing what's possible right now with current tech. But it's not really in any way polished, finished product. What we're doing with a physical object kind of lock yourself into something for a long time. Anything is finished. And again, so just doesn't the capabilities are even less of we're barely kind of like scratching the surface of what's possible with the software. As soon as we introduce hardware, then, you know, we have even less capabilities in terms of board members and investors and so on.


The cost increases significantly. I mean, that's why you have to justify you have to be able to sell a thing for like five hundred dollars or something like that or more. And it's very difficult to provide that much value to people. That's also true. Yeah. And I guess that's superimportant. Most of our users don't have that much money. We actually are probably more popular on Android and we have tons of users with really all Android phones. And most of our most active users live in small towns.


They're not necessarily making much and they just want to be able to afford any of that. Ours is like the opposite of the early adopter of for fancy technology product, which is really interesting. But like pretty much VCs have yet have a different. But you know, but a guy who lives in Tennesseean, small town, is already fallen 20, 30 or in the world, as we imagine. And the movie. Yeah, his living that life already.


What do you think?


I have to ask you about the movie her. Let's do a movie review. What do you what do you think they got? They did a good job or what do you think they did a bad job of portraying about the experience of.


Of voice bass assistant that you can have a relationship with. Well, first of all, I started working on this company before the movie came out, so it was a very but once it came out, it was actually interesting. I was like, well, we're definitely working on the right thing.


We should continue their movies about it.


And then, you know, Machina came out and all those things in the movie her. I think that's the most important thing that people usually miss about the movie is the ending, because I think people check out when the eyes leave. But actually something really important happens afterwards because the main character goes and talks to Samantha.


He's I, I her away and he says something like, you know, how can you leave me?


I've never loved anyone the way I loved you. And she goes, Well, me neither. But now we know how. And then the guy goes and writes a heartfelt letter to his ex-wife, which he couldn't write for. You know, the whole movie was struggling to actually write something meaningful to her, even although that's his job. And then he goes and talk to his neighbor and they go to the rooftop and they cuddle and it seems like something's starting there.


And so I think this now we know how is the is the main main goal is the main meaning of that movie. It's not about falling in love with the OS or running away from other people. It's about learning what you know. What it means to feel so deeply connected with something. What about the thing where the system was like actually hanging out with a lot of others? I felt jealous, just like hearing that I was like, hot.


I mean, yeah, so she was having forgotten already, but she was having, like, deep, meaningful discussion with some, like, philosopher guy like Alan Watts was like, oh, deep, meaningful conversation going to happen.


Alan was in the first place.


Yeah, I know. But like I would I would feel so jealous that there's somebody who is like way more intelligent than me and she's spending all her time with a like.


Well, why that? I won't be able to live up to that. That's thousands of them.


That is a useful from the engineering perspective feature to have of jealousy, I don't know, as you know, we definitely played around with the replica universe where different replicas can talk to each other universe.


So it was just. I don't think there will be something along these lines, but there was no specific application straight away. I think the future, again, if I'm always thinking about it, if we had no tech limitations right now, if we could build any conversations, any possible futures in this product, then, yeah, I think different replicas talking to each other would be also quite cool because that would help us connect better, you know, because maybe I could talk to yours and then give me some suggestions on what I should say or not say.


We're just getting like more can improve our connections and because eventually. I'm not quite yet sure that we will succeed, that our thinking is correct because there might be reality, we're having a perfect eye front still makes us more disconnected from each other and there's no way around it and does not improve any metrics for us. Real metrics, meaningful metrics for success.


As you know, we're happier and more connected. I don't know. I'm sure it's possible there's a reality that I am deeply optimistic, I think. Are you worried? Business wise, like how difficult that is. To. To bring this thing to life, to words that mean there's a huge number of people that use it already but to yeah, like I said, in a multibillion dollar company, is that a source of stress for you? Are you super optimistic and confident?


Or do you? I don't I'm not that much of a numbers person, that's. It's Cenizo. Doesn't matter for me whether like whether we hold 10000 people or a million people or a billion people with that, I it would be great to sell it for more people. But I'd say that even helping one, I think with this is such a magical. Yeah, for me it's absolute magic. I never thought that we would be able to build this that anyone would ever talk to.


And I always thought like, well, for me will be successful. If we manage to help and actually change a life for one person, then we did something interesting. And you know, how many people can say they did it specifically with this very futuristic, very romantic technology. So that's how I view it. I think for me, it's important to to try to figure out how not how to actually be helpful, because at the end of the day, if you can build a perfect friend that's so understanding that knows you better than any human out there can have great conversations with you, always knows how to make you feel better.


Why would you choose another human?


You know? So that's the question. How do you still keep building a service, optimizing for the right thing, so still circling back to other humans in a way. So I think that's the main thing. Maybe that's the main kind of sort of source of anxiety. And just thinking about think about that can be a little bit stressful.


Yeah, it's a fascinating thing how to have a heart of a friend that doesn't like sometimes like friends, quote unquote. We're like, you know, those people who have when they a guy in the universe, when you have a girlfriend that you get the girlfriend and then the guy stops hanging out with all of his friends. It's like obviously the relationship with the girlfriend is fulfilling or whatever. But like you also wanted to be wife. She like makes it more enriching to hang out with the guy friends or whatever it was there.


Anyway, that that's. That's that's a fundamental problem in choosing the right mate and probably the fundamental problem in creating the right age system. What? Let me ask the sexy hard thing on the presses right now. Three got released with only the latest language model. They have kind of an API where you can create a lot of fun applications.


I think it's as people have said, it's probably more hype than intelligent, but there's a lot of really cool things, ideas there.


With increasing size, you can have better and better performance on language.


What are your thoughts about GBG three in connection to your work with the open domain dialogue? But in general, like this, learning in an unsupervised way from the Internet. To generate one character at a time, creating pretty cool text. So we partner up before for the API launch, so we start working with them when they decided to put together this API. And we tried it without fine tuning that we tried it with fine tuning in our data, and we've worked closely to actually optimize this model for some of our data sets.


It's kind of cool because I think we're we're this polygon polygon for this kind of experimentation, space for experimental space for for these models to see how they actually work with people because there are no products publicly available to do that, that focus on open domain conversations. We can, you know, tests, house Facebook plans are doing or doing. So Jupiter three, we managed to improve by a few percentage points, like three or four, pretty meaningful amount of percentage points.


Our main metric, which is the ratio of conversations that make people feel better.


And every other metric across across the field got a little boost right now, I'd say one out of five responses from replica comes from Djibouti three.


So our own blunderer mixes up like a bunch of candidates from different blood. They said, well, guys, the model that looks that looks at top candidates from different models then takes the most the best one. So right now, one of five will come from Deepti. Three is really great. I mean. What's the do you have hope for like do you think there's a ceiling to this kind of approach?


So we've had for a very long time, we've used since the very beginning, it was most of it was scripted. And then a little bit of this fallback part of replica was using a retrieval model, and that was retrieval models started getting better and better and better, which was Formosan got a lot better. And we're seeing great results. And then with Jeptoo to finally generative models that originally were not very good and were doing very, very fall-back option for most of our conversations, we wouldn't even put them in production.


Finally, we could use some generative models as well along and, you know, next to our retrieval models. And then now we'll do Jupiter three. They're almost on par. Um, so that's pretty exciting. I think just seeing how from the very beginning of, you know, from 2015 where the first models start to pop up here, they're like sequence sequence. The first papers on that. From my observer standpoint, first.


No, it's not it doesn't really is not really building, but it's only testing it on people basically in my product to see how all of a sudden we can use generative models and production and they're better than others and they're better than scripted content. So we can't really get our scripted Hakata content anymore. To be as good as our engine model is exciting. They're much better. To your question, whether that's the right way to go, I'm again, I'm in the observer seat.


I'm just watching this very exciting movie. I mean, so far it's been stupid to bet against deep learning. So whether increasing the size size even more or the hundred trillion parameters will finally get us to the right answer, whether that's the way or whether they should be, that there has to be some other. Again, I'm definitely not an expert in any way, I think, and that's purely my instinct, saying that this should be something else as well from memory, I know for sure.


The question is, I wonder.


I mean, yep. And then the argument is for reasoning or from memory. It might emerge with more parameters and memory larger, but might emerge.


You know, I would never think that, to be honest, like maybe in 2017 where we've been just experimenting with all you know, with all the research that has been coming that was coming out, then I felt like there's like we're hitting a wall, that there should be something completely different. But that's just former models and then just bigger models and then all of a sudden size matters. At that point, it felt like something dramatic needs to happen, but it didn't.


And just the size, you know, gave us these results that to me are, you know, clear indication that we can solve this problem pretty soon. Did fine tuning help quite a bit?


Oh, yeah. Without it, we it wasn't as good.


I mean, there is a compelling hope that you don't have to do fine tuning, which is one of the cool things about GBG three seems to do well without any fine tuning. I guess for specific applications, we still want to train on a certain like add a little fine tune on like a specific use case, but it's an incredibly impressive thing from my standpoint. And again, I'm not an expert.


I wanted to say that, yeah, I'm going there will be people that you have to have access to the API and I'm going to probably do a bunch of fun things with it. I already did some fun things, some videos coming up just for the hell of it. I mean, I could be a troll at this point or the avenues. The first serious application was really cool to see. You're right. You're you're able to actually use it with real people and see how well it works.


That's really exciting. Let me ask you another question, but there's a feeling when you interact with replica within the system, there's an entity there. Do you think that entity has to be self aware? Do you think it has to have consciousness to create? A rich experience and an odd corollary, what what is consciousness? I don't know if it does need to have any of those things, but again, because right now it doesn't have anything we can again.


Are you sure about this similar? Why? I'm not sure.


Let's just put it this way. But I think as long as you can simulate it, if you can feel like you're talking to to an to to a robot, to a machine that seems to be self aware, that seems to reason well and feels like a person. And I think that's enough. And again, what's the goal in order to make people people feel better? We might not even need that in the end of the day.


What about this one goal? What about, like, ethical things, about suffering? You know, the moment there's a display of consciousness? We associate consciousness was suffering. You know, there's a temptation to say, well, shouldn't this thing have rights? Shouldn't this, shouldn't we? Not, you know, should we be careful about how we interact with a replica, like, should it be illegal to torture a replica? Right. All those kinds of things is that see, I personally believe that that's going to be a thing that's a serious thing to think about, but I'm not sure when.


But by your smile, I can tell that's not a that's not a current concern. But do you think about that kind of stuff about like suffering and torture and ethical questions about systems from their perspective?


We're talking about long game.


I wouldn't talk to a guy who knows what happens in five to ten years. Yeah, they'll get you off that. They'll get you back trying to be as nice as possible and create this ally.


Yeah, I think this should be regulation for both way in a way.


Like I don't think it's OK to torture.


And I to be honest, I'm not I don't think it's OK to yell, Alexa, turn on the lights. I think there should be some or just saying kind of nasty, you know, like how kids learn to interact with Alexa and this kind of mean way because they just yell at it all the time. I think that's great.


I think there should be some feedback loops so that these systems don't train us, that it's OK to do that in general, so that if you try to do that, you really get some feedback from the system that it's not OK with that.


And that's the most important right now. Let me ask a question. I think people are curious about when they look at a world class leader and thinker such as yourself, as what were books, technical fiction, philosophical, had a big impact on your life. And maybe from another perspective, what books would you recommend others read?


So my choice, the three books write three books. My choice is. So the one book that really influenced me a lot when I was starting out this company 10 years ago was GBE God bless her back and I like everything about it.


First of all, it's beautifully written and it's so old school and so somewhat outdated a little bit. But I think the ideas in it about the fact that a few meaningless components can come together and create meaning that we can't even understand this emergent thing. I mean, complexity, the whole science of complexity and that beauty, intelligence, all the interesting things about this world emerge.


Yeah, and. Yeah, the the gold theorem theorems and just thinking about like what even these four, you know, you know, these formal systems, something can be created that we can't quite yet understand. And that, from my romantic standpoint, was always just that is why it's important to maybe I should try to work on all these systems and try to build an AI. Yes. I'm not an engineer. It's I don't really know how it works.


I think there's something comes out of it that's, you know, pure poetry. And I know a little bit about that, um, something magical comes out of it that we can't quite put a finger on. That's what that book is, was was really fundamental for me, just for I don't even know why it was just all about this little magic that happens. So that's one probably the most important book for Obligor was Carl Rogers on becoming a person.


And that's really. And so I think when I think about our company, it's all about there's so many there's so many little magical things that happened over the course of working on it. For instance, I mean, the most famous board that we learned about when we started working on the company was Alysa, which was Weizenbaum you, professor, that they'll build a chapel that will listen to you and be a therapist and therapist. Yeah. Um.


And I got really inspired to build Replica when I read Carl Rogers don't become a person, and then I realized that Eliza was mocking Carl Rogers. It was Carl Rogers back in the day.


But I thought that Carl Rogers ideas are. They're simple and they're not, you know, the very, very simple, but they're the maybe the most profound thing I've ever learned about human beings, and that's the fact that before Carl Rogers, most therapy was about seeing what's wrong with people and trying to fix it or show them what's wrong with you. And it was all built on the fact that most people are old. People are fundamentally flawed. We have this broken psyche and this is just therapy is just an instrument to shed some light on that.


And Carl Rogers was different in a way that he finally said that while. It's very important for therapy to work as to create this therapeutic relationship where you believe fundamentally and inclination to positive growth, that everyone deep inside wants to grow positively and change. And it's super important to create the space and the therapeutic relationship where you give unconditional, positive regard, deep understanding along someone else to be a separate person, full acceptance. And you also try to be as genuine and possible in it as possible in it and then in his and then for him, that was his own journey of personal growth.


And that was back in the 60s. And even that book that is coming from years ago. There's a mention that even machines can potentially do that. And I always felt that, you know, creating the space is probably the most the biggest gift we can give to each other. And that's why the book was fundamental for me personally, because I felt I want to be learning how to do that in my life. And maybe I can scale it with, you know, with the systems and other people can get access to that.


So then Carl Rogers, it's a pretty dry and boring book, but I think that as others try to read. I do, I think, for. Just for yourself, for as a human, not as a name, as a human. It is. It is just and for him, that was his own path of his own personal of growing personally over years, working with people like that. And so it was work and himself growing, helping other people grow and grow through that.


And that's fundamentally what I believe in with our work, helping other people grow, growing our self ourselves, trying to build a company that's all built on this principle, you know, having a good time allowing some people who work with to grow a little bit. So these two books and then I would throw in. Well, we have on our in our in our office, when we start a company in Russia, we put a neon sign in our office because we thought that that was a recipe for success.


If we do that, it's definitely going to wake up as a multibillion dollar company. And it was the biggest quote. So when I reached the limits of my world, what was the limits of my language are the limits of my world. And I love the Tractatus, I think it's just it's just a beautiful book by Wicked. Yeah. And I would recommend that to even although he himself didn't believe in that by the end of his lifetime and debunked those ideas.


But I think I remember once an engineer came in 2012, I think with thirteen a friend of ours who worked with us and then went on to work a deep mine and he gave talk to us about where to work. And I saw that. I'm like, wow, that's. You know, they they wanted to translate language into, you know, some other representation, and it seems like some, you know, somehow all of that at some point I think will come into this one.


To this one place, somehow, it just all feels like different people think about similar ideas and different times from absolutely different perspectives, and that's why I like these books.


Which is the limit of our world on. We still have that neon sign. It's very hard to work with this red light in your face.


I mean, on the on the Russian side of things. In terms of language, is the language being a little bit of our world, you know, Russian is a beautiful language in some sense. There's with there's humor, there's pain. There's so much we don't have time to talk about too much today. But I'm going to Paris to talk to just the Tolstoy translators. I think it's a fascinating art, like in art and engineering. I mean, it's such an interesting process.


But far from the replica perspective, do you what do you think about translation, how difficult that is to create a deep, meaningful connection, Russian versus English, how you can translate the two languages you speak? Both.


Yeah, I think we're two different people in different languages. Even I'm, you know, thinking about there's actually some research on that. I looked into that at some point because I was fascinated by the fact that what I'm talking about with what I was talking about with my Russian therapist has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, with my English speaking therapists to different lives, to different types of conversations, to different personas. The main difference between the languages are with Russian and English is that Russian.


Well, English is like a piano. It's a limited number of a lot of different cues, but not too many. And Russian is like an organism. It's just something gigantic with so many different keys and so many different opportunities to screw up and so many opportunities to do something completely tone deaf. It is just a much harder language to use. It has way too many way too much flexibility and way too many times more about the entirety of like World War to communism, Stalin, the pain of the people like having been deceived by the dream, like all the pain of like just the entirety of it.


Is that in the language, too, they have to know for sure. I mean, we have words that don't have direct translation that to English that are very much like we have IBG, which is sort of like to hold a grudge or something. But it doesn't have it doesn't you don't need to have anyone to do it to you is just your state. Yeah. You just feel like that you feel like betrayed by other people, basically. But it's not that.


And you can't really translate that. And I think this is important. The very many words that are very specific explain the Russian being. And I think it can only come from a from a nation that was, um, that suffered so much and saw institutions fall time after time after time. And, you know, what's exciting, maybe not exciting studying the wrong word, but what's interesting about my generation, my mom's generation, my parents generation, that we saw institutions fault two or three times in our lifetime and most Americans have never seen the fall and they just think that they exist forever, which really.


Interesting, but it's definitely a country that suffered so much and and makes unfortunately, when I go back and I, you know, hang out with my Russian friends, it makes people very cynical. They stop believing in the future. I hope that's not going to be the case for so long or something is going to change again, but I think seeing institutions fall is a very traumatic experience, makes it very interesting.


And what's 20, 20 is a very interesting. Uh, do you think civilization will collapse? See, I'm a very practical person. Well, we're speaking in English, so like you said, you're a different person in English and Russian. So in Russian, you might answer that differently. But in English, I'm an optimist and I. I genuinely believe that there is you know, even although the perspectives agree, there's always a place for for a miracle.


I mean, it's always been like this with my life.


So, yeah, my life's been I've been incredibly lucky. And things just miracles happen all the time with this company, with people I know, with everything around me. And so I didn't mention that book, but maybe in search of miracles or in search for miracles or whatever the English translation for that is good Russian book, too, for everyone to read. Yeah, I mean, if you put good vibes, if you put love out there in the world.


Miracles somehow happen. I believe that to or at least I believe that I don't know. Let me ask the most absurd, final, ridiculous question of talked about life a lot. What do you think is the meaning of it all? What's the meaning of life? France was probably going to be pretty cheesy. But I think the state of love is once you feel it in a way that we discussed before.


I'm not talking about falling in love her just love to yourself, to to other people, to something to the world, that state of bliss that we experience sometimes, whether it's reconnection with ourselves, with our people, with the technology. There's something special about those those moments, so. What's if anything, that's that's the only if it's not for that, then for for what else are we really trying to do that? I don't think there's a better way to end it than talking about love a journey.


I told you offline that there is something about me that felt like this. This was this.


Talking to you, meeting you in person will be a turning point for my life. I know there might be some weirdness to hear, but it's it was a huge honor to talk to you. I hope we talk again. Thank you so much for your time.


Thank you so much. Thanks. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Eugenia Koide and thank you to our sponsors, Jordache, Dollar Shave Club and Kashyap click the sponsor links in the description to get a discount and to support this podcast. If you enjoy this thing, subscribe on YouTube review by starting up a podcast. Follow on Spotify, support on Patrón or connect with me on Twitter, Àlex Friedman. And now let me leave you some words from Carl Sagan.


The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth that there's no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories of which there's little good evidence, far better, it seems to me. And our vulnerability is, look, death in the eye. And to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.