Did you have “resurrecting the dead” on your 2024 bingo card?
From painting pictures, to penning prose, to creating their own religion, the speed at which AI technology is moving is rapid – and some might say alarming.
Now, users have come up with a wildly controversial new way to utilize artificial intelligence: speaking with their dead loved ones.
Are we heading towards a future where no one ever truly “dies,” and one can live on as a chatbot forever?
Life After Death
Suddenly, companies are sprouting up left and right claiming they have the technology to let you speak with the dead… or at least an artificial intelligence version of them.
These companies say they can produce interactive, lifelike versions of people using a simple recorded video interview taken before the subject passes away.
Once the subject is dead, their AI avatar can be communicated with by family and friends, just as if it were a casual afternoon FaceTime conversation. You can ask the AI questions, and it will answer them, just as the subject would have.
Some people have reportedly even used the technology to speak at their own funerals.
Actor Ed Asner was one of a few thousand people to record a video before his death in 2021. His son, Matt Asner, says the technology has “blown [him] away.”
“It was unbelievable to me how I could have this interaction with my father that was relevant and meaningful, and it was his personality. This man that I really missed, my best friend, was there,” he says.
Although the younger Asner reports satisfaction with the service, not all of his father’s family and friends agreed. He played the video at his father’s funeral, and invited attendees to stop by and ask the Asner AI questions, which he says “creeped out” some in attendance.
Nevertheless, he says that the curiosity was there – even from skeptics. “You can’t ask just one question,” he stated. “That's the great thing about it, is it draws you in – because the personality is there."
An Ancient Practice
Clearly for some, conversing with a dead loved one brings a sense of peace.
And this desire to communicate with dead spirits is far from novel. In fact, it has likely been around since we started forming families and communities thousands of years ago.
For example, mediums – people who claim to have a special ability to commune with spirits in other realms and relay their messages – have been around for centuries.
This phenomenon gained further traction during the industrial revolution, as people began looking to technology to create potential lines to the dead.
Thomas Edison, for example, famously sought to build a “spirit phone” which could be used to ring up one's dearly departed and talk to them in the spirit realm… Well, let’s just say the spirit phone isn’t exactly listed alongside the light bulb and the phonograph as one of his greater achievements.
If only Edison lived in the age of artificial intelligence, his vision would have come true!
Heed the Cautionary Tales?
There are obvious ethical concerns that come about when meddling with AI (pick up just about any junk science fiction book for a refresher).
And some argue we’re barreling towards an AI future we as a species are unprepared for.
From AI-created religions, to the risk of AI sentience, to human-to-human sex becoming obsolete because the robots are getting too sexy (yes, really), AI is rapidly changing the world as we know it – and many fear for the worse.
Heck, not even Jesus is immune. Earlier this year, He was resurrected (again) on Twitch in AI form, here to answer any and all questions you may have about faith and the afterlife.
Through it all, a few questions linger, plucked straight from classic sci-fi novels:
- If every element of the human experience can ultimately be replicated by AI, what does being human even mean?
- If we can “live” forever on a hard drive, does life still have meaning?
- Would you want to take on quasi-immortality, assisted by AI technology?