Putin confronts his AI ‘double’

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared briefly lost for words on Thursday when confronted with an AI-generated version of himself.

The “double” took the opportunity to put a question to Putin about artificial intelligence during an annual news conference where dozens of callers from around the country were hooked up to the president by video link.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, hello, I am a student at St Petersburg state university. I want to ask, is it true you have a lot of doubles?” the double asked, prompting laughter among the audience in the hall with Putin in Moscow.

“And also: How do you view the dangers that artificial intelligence and neural networks bring into our lives?”

The question prompted a rare hesitation from Putin, already in his fourth hour of taking questions at the marathon event.

“I see you may resemble me and speak with my voice. But I have thought about it and decided that only one person must be like me and speak with my voice, and that will be me,” he said.

“That is my first double, by the way,” Putin added as an afterthought.

There has been recurrent speculation, particularly in Western media, that Putin has one or more body doubles to cover for him in some public appearances because of alleged health problems. The Kremlin had denied that and said the president’s health is excellent.

(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Gareth Jones)