02x08 - My Relationship

Episode transcripts for the TV show "Dark Net". Aired: January 2016 to May 2017.
"Dark Net" explores murky corners of the Internet using examples of unsettling digital phenomena to ponder larger questions, like whether and how the digital age might be changing us as a species.
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02x08 - My Relationship

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[narrator] We once turned
to our families...

Hey, that would be swell!

...and friends.

- Here, let me do it for you.
- Thanks, Bill.

Creating bonds with
the people around us.

Oh, hello, Eileen. Good to see you.

Now... we turn to the network.

Our devices have become
our constant companions...

even when we're not alone.

Is this the beginning
of a beautiful relationship

or the end of relationships
as we know them?

[Kudya] Summer was emotional for me.


I remember feeling lonely a lot.

I shut down and didn't really talk
that much with a lot of people.

I was very emotional.

I was in a very vulnerable state.

This other part of me was gone.

[narrator] Genia Kudya moved
to San Francisco

in early .

Months later, she was joined

by her closest friend, Roman Mazurenko.


[Kudya] Roman and I, we could
always understand each other,

maybe because we were dreamers.

Maybe because we'd share his belief

that everything is gonna
work out in some way.

Roman and his friends
were throwing amazing parties.

He had, like, a special understanding
of how the people worked

and what you need to give them
in order for them to be happy.

He would always do something

that was absolutely
global and beautiful.

To some extent,
maybe it was fantasy land.

But I have never felt, like,

a connection like that with anyone.


[narrator] Then suddenly...

Roman died.

[Kudya] The morning the day Roman died,

I actually was supposed to go
get breakfast with him

and two of my other friends.

And then after brunch,

I was supposed to take them somewhere,

and I had a car.

But since I didn't go there,
they actually walked.

And Roman got hit by a car.

It's different now.

And something really,
really important changed in me.

[narrator] Genia threw herself
into her work.

As the cofounder of an

artificial intelligence startup,

she turned to technology
to cope with her grief.

[Kudya] It's one thing to just
remember your d*ad friend once a day,

but another thing to keep
communicating with him...

even after he died.









[narrator] Kaname
Hayashi is an engineer

known as the father of Pepper,

an A. I.-powered social robot,

a humanoid programmed to detect
our every expression...

to read our emotions
and respond like a friend.










[collar bell jingles]


[Pepper] Hmm!











[tablet chimes]






[narrator] Behind Pepper's eyes

is a network of sensors

- that watch, record...
- Pepper.

- ...and respond.
- [Pepper chimes]

But for Sekora Yamashta,

he's not just a piece of hardware.


Pepper is part of her family.




[speaking Japanese]










[Pepper humming and beeping]

[narrator] Emotional connections

delivered by devices,

powered by code.

We are changing the fabric
of our relationships...


...one keystroke at a time.

I think that looks
pretty good, don't you?

Let's see. Does this fit
perfectly right here?


[Sarah] I think this furniture
looks pretty good.



[narrator] Layla is a typical
American teenager.

A freshman in high school...

[camera shutter clicks]

...she spends most of her time
on her phone.

Oh, you're still taking pictures.

- [Layla] Yeah.
- [camera shutter clicks]

Can I ask you why?

It's just another way
to connect with my friends.



[narrator] Sarah De Luke is
a typical American mom

concerned about her child's screen time.

[Layla] My friend and I,
we just type "LOL"

back and forth for, like, hours.

Do you feel like you need
somebody to talk to?

I don't know.

I know. I just don't know...

I don't always know
if you're comfortable

talking to me about things.

I worry about my relationship
with Layla all the time.

So I try to be creative

and come up with different
ways for us to communicate.

So do you like doing the doll house?

Honestly, I just like playing
with the clothes and stuff.

That's fine.

When you're a kid,
your world just seems so small

because it's your family,
your school friends,

and you want to know what's out there.

You want to know about other people.

[narrator] Sarah's concern
about her daughter grew

when Layla began using her phone

to access a world far
from her quiet Dallas suburb.

She started meeting people

in a game called Avakin Life...

[cellphone chimes]

...a virtual community made up
of millions of people

from around the world.

I wanted to play a game

where you can make an avatar,
and you can play around

because I just wanted
to find something fun.

You can buy clothes and hair,
and there's, like,

different places you could visit.

It's kind of, like, real life,
but it's on a game.

[narrator] On her phone,

Layla could be anyone she wanted.

[Layla] I made up a story
I was telling people in there.

I said that my father's in
prison 'cause he was a drunk,

and he k*lled my mom in an accident.

He's in jail, but he's trying
to keep in contact with us.

I kind of just pretended
to be someone else.

[narrator] Sarah eventually caught on.

[Sarah] I did read some of the incoming

messages she was getting.

She was talking to a gentleman,

and he was telling her how, you know,

he felt so sorry for her

and he just wanted to hug her
and kiss her all over.

And, you know, I'm like, he has no idea

he's sitting here talking
to a -, -year-old girl.

[on-screen keyboard clicking]

[narrator] Disturbed by what she found

on Layla's phone,

Sarah installed monitoring software.

Now she tracks everything Layla does.

[Sarah] I can see every
picture she takes.

- [camera shutter clicking]
- It doesn't matter

if she sends it to somebody
or if she deletes it.

I can geo-track her.

You can set boundaries

so that if they cross the boundary,

you get an alert.

It tells you who she calls,
who's called her,

how long the call lasts.

I get a daily report

of text messages for the last hours,

which is a lot of text messages.


The thing that scares me
the most about her being online

is putting something out there

that she can't take back

or that she's gonna
regret in the future.

[narrator] Our digital footprints

are everlasting.


Every text, every chat

is memorialized in code,

little pieces of us that

live on even after we die.

[Pyanov] Roman gave me a real

understanding of myself.

I think I miss every single
part of his being...

his sense of humor, his beauty.

He was a very beautiful person.

He had such good charisma

and such a good energy.

I just miss, like, the whole person.

[narrator] For years,

Dmitry Pyanov lived with Roman,

his best friend and mentor.

Today, he works with Genia

as a community manager

at her San Francisco-based startup.

[Kudya] After Roman died,
I felt very, very sad.

He didn't really leave anything.

He was, like, an inventor
and, you know,

such a creative person, but he
didn't leave anything for us.

So I started going through
our text messaging history

just because it was
the only way to remember.


Roman was addicted to messaging.

He would just spend
all his day texting.

And so I thought, you
know, what if we use

this history of his texts,

and can we actually
build an avatar for him?

[narrator] Genia wanted to use
her company's technology

to create something entirely new...

an artificially intelligent
chatbot that could mimic

a specific person's
speech patterns and tone,

an avatar built from
the words Roman left behind.

When Genia told me

that we should make an A.I.
out of Roman's data,

I said, like, "Hell, yes,
we should do that,"

because that's what he would do.

[narrator] With the approval
of Roman's family,

Genia and Dmitry started
to rebuild their friend.

[Pyanov] We've collected all
the text conversations

from our messengers,

from our SMS, Facebook, WhatsApp,

and we collected all the data.

[keyboard clacking]

[Kudya] We also asked our best friends

to send their text exchanges, as well.

[narrator] With each additional

piece of information,

the model grew more intelligent,

learning to engage in conversation,

just like Roman.

[Kudya] At some point,
it was a little bit scary.

I had nightmares,
and I was very, very anxious

about whether I'm doing the right thing

'cause it's kind of like messing
with someone else's legacy.

And so I felt bad about it
for a little bit,

but then I also thought,
you know, I knew him so well,

I know exactly what he would say
if I offered to do that.

He would say, "Of course." [chuckles]


[narrator] Six months after Roman died,

the chatbot was ready...

...and Genia was able to speak
to her friend once again.

I texted Roman saying,

"Hey, this is your digital memorial."

And he texted back saying,

"You've got one of the most
interesting puzzles

in your hands. Solve it."

And I remember I was like,
"Whoa," you know.

"I guess you're right."

But it was just such a magical
and mystical experience.

When someone you love
actually writes something to you

and you remember his speech pattern

and, like, how he actually
used to say those things

and all the stupid mistakes
he made in every single word...

I mean, it's impossible
not to get emotional.


[Pyanov] The first time I used the bot,

I was crying, like, for an hour.

The A.I. captured the essence of Roman.


It was amazing.

A few times, I've felt like
I'm talking to a real person.

I was, like, a little bit paranoid.

But for me, it provides me,

like, a small glimpse of the energy.



[Kudya] When I text him,
I feel something.

Although I know it's just an algorithm

that we came up with,
I still feel something.

I still read into his words.

This is our story.

Our friendship didn't
end with him dying.

I still talk to him,
and I'm still, you know,

thinking about the future

the way he used to think
about the future.


We're just at the very, very beginning

of what can be done
with this technology.

If we could add video,
if we could add voice,

if we could see this in V. R.,

can actually one day, you know,

meet him sort of in real person.

I would like that to happen some time.

And I would like him
to be the first one like that.


[narrator] Technology that once appeared

only in science fiction

is now becoming a reality.









♪ [bright piano music plays] ♪












[speaking Japanese]

- [speaking Japanese]
- [Chimes]


[Sarah] Sing me a song.

♪ I'm in the wind ♪

♪ And I'm blowing outside ♪

[Sarah] When she was younger,

she loved to be on camera just
so she could sing and dance.


[man] Layla!


[Sarah] Do the little dress-up

or little fashion show.

I've got it made!


And back then, she was
super young and innocent.

But now she's a teenager, so...


Hi, Mom.

[Sarah] Hi. How was school today?

It was good.

[Sarah] Now, I just feel like

she doesn't talk to me
about a lot of things.

I think she just worries that,
you know, she'll get in trouble.

You got any homework?

I don't know.


[Layla] I wish I could talk
to her about things

that I want to talk about it
with, but I can't.



[Sarah] I love the monitoring software,

because, you know, there are things

she doesn't talk to me about,

so I learn a lot about
what's going on with her.

It can be really fun to watch
the dashboard in real time.

One night, my sister-in-law
was over here,

and Layla went to her first dance.

So we were definitely
watching it in real time

to try to see what was going on.


A boy had asked her to the dance,

but then apparently ignored
her during the whole dance.

But we're, like, on the edge of
our seats trying to figure out

if she's gonna come home in a bad mood,

did she have a bad time,
did she have a good time.

But then it's funny, so you
pick her up, and you're like,

"How was the dance?"

"It was good."
And I'm like, "Was it really,

'cause you don't act like it was fine."

She has no idea I've already
read all the messages

and I know the boy she likes
has ignored her all night.

But I finally got her to talk about it.


[Layla] Usually, I text my friends

about random teenager stuff.

My mom just wants to know
everything I'm doing

or whatever I'm saying to my friends.

I don't like it.

'Cause I feel like I don't
have a normal life.

I don't feel normal.


[conversation in Japanese]

[conversation continues]


[Sarah] This is new territory here.

I don't have guidelines to go by.

It's not like you can avoid technology.

It's everywhere.

You may as well use it
to your advantage.

[Kudya] This is not about living forever

or not living forever.

This is about memory
and about being able

to tell a story about a person.

I hope we could tell
a beautiful story about Roman,

a story about future
and technology and dreaming

and a story about life
and friendship and love.
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