The loss of a loved one is an incredibly challenging ordeal that can leave individuals in deep grief and sorrow, struggling to envision a path forward. But what if there existed a way to bring back our departed loved ones using artificial intelligence?
In the realm of grief and bereavement, AI is already making strides towards potentially simulating the presence of deceased individuals in a virtual sense.
One avenue being explored is the creation of digital avatars that replicate the appearance and behavior of the deceased. By utilizing photos, videos, and audio recordings, these avatars can be programmed to interact with the living in a manner reminiscent of their departed loved ones.
In 2020, a Korean documentary team collaborated with VR creators to facilitate a heartbreaking experience for a mourning mother—to virtually ‘reunite’ with her departed daughter. The venture stirred diverse reactions, with some finding it unsettling. Yet, the mother expressed that the encounter aided her grieving journey, and she stood by her decision without remorse.
This orchestrated encounter, featuring incredibly lifelike graphics, allowed the mother to engage with a simulated version of her deceased seven-year-old daughter, although within certain limitations.
Another approach involves constructing virtual realms using AI, effectively resurrecting the deceased within these simulated environments. These virtual worlds can emulate the appearance and actions of the departed, allowing the living to engage with them and potentially find solace amidst their grief.
Companies Developing AI-Powered Technologies
- Eterni.me: Eterni.me is a company that is developing a virtual assistant that can be programmed with the personality and memories of a deceased person. This virtual assistant can then be used to interact with the deceased person’s loved ones in a new way.
- MyHeritage: MyHeritage is a company that is developing an AI-powered technology that can be used to create digital representations of deceased people. These representations can then be used to create realistic videos and images of the deceased.
- DeepMind: DeepMind is a research laboratory that is developing AI-powered technologies that can be used to create realistic simulations of the human brain. These simulations could potentially be used to create digital copies of people’s minds, which could then be used to bring people back from the dead in a virtual sense.
- It can help people cope with grief and loss by providing emotional support and comfort.
- It can preserve the memories and legacy of the deceased by allowing their stories and values to be shared with future generations.
- It can enhance the quality of life and well-being of the living by reducing loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
Challenges and Risks
- It can create ethical and legal dilemmas regarding the consent, privacy, and ownership of the data and the digital replicas of the deceased.
- It can cause psychological and social harm by creating unrealistic expectations, dependency, or confusion for the living.
- It can undermine the natural process of grieving and acceptance by preventing closure and detachment from the deceased.
Should We Consider This?
Reflecting on the emergence of photography and filmmaking as innovative technologies, early proponents, including scholars and philosophers, saw them as potential answers to the inevitability of human mortality.
From a philosophical perspective, death has long been viewed as an intrinsic aspect of life. Predicting the societal and species-wide implications of eradicating death remains speculative, given that evolution continuously shapes our perspectives to adapt to the realities of our existence.
Conversely, some argue that knowing we will endure indefinitely could influence us to exhibit improved behavior. The idea is that with the absence of an escape through death, we may reckon with the enduring repercussions of our actions.
What remains unequivocal is that humanity will persistently grapple with the enigma of mortality. As advancements like AI, digital twins, and virtual reality redefine human experiences, we will invariably explore their potential impact on mortality.