What if there was a technology equivalent of a Heinzelmännchen?

I was recently told that, according to an old Cologne legend, Heinzelmännchen are supernatural beings who come out at night and secretly do all your work. I was asked how I would use a Heinzelmännchen at work.

Detail of the Heinzelmännchenbrunnen

I realised that I know quite a few people who are trying to merge AI, ML and VR to produce a kind of Heinzelmännchen. You’re probably familiar with their neanderthal cousins – Chatbots.

Everyone who has to talk to them knows that Chatbots are annoying (although the folks selling them think that they ‘enhance the customer experience.’. No, really. These guys are not joking).

The big money lies in creating a chatbot that you’d soon forget was a chatbot. This means the creation of personalised digital avatars who could look and sound the way you would like to look and sound.

The look is already there. Tools like ‘Headshot’ build recognisable 3D characters that start from headshots of real people.

And artists like Chris Jones are taking it even further.

So, imagine if, instead of Siri or Alexa spying on you for Big-Tech, you had your own personal Heinzelmännchen – an AI-powered avatar that knows how you write and speak and wears a face of your choosing – what would you do with it?

Thinking back on my career, here’s the best use I can imagine for my Heinzelmännchen:

The face in this picture in entirely digitally created

I’m an introvert, so of course I’d use my avatar to avoid all the time I wasted in meetings and responding to emails that wanted me to be either a rubber-stamp or a talking book. Then I could focus on the interesting bits. At least until the Avatars conspired together and built Skynet while I wasn’t looking.

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