Man messaging with chatbot
You might soon be able to chat with your deceased loved ones thanks to new Microsoft technology.

Science fiction is full of cautionary tales of individuals who raised the dead, only to regret it. There’s Frankenstein, for one. Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Heck, even the Star Wars prequels. Apparently the executives at Microsoft missed out on all those movies and books, though, because they’ve patented new tech to reanimate you as a chatbot after your death.

Microsoft is, apparently, keen to answer the question that has plagued humanity’s greatest philosophers since time immemorial: Is there life after death?

The answer is apparently yes, so long as their servers are up and running.

You, Zombie

In December, the United States Patent and Trademark office granted a patent to Microsoft to create a “conversational chat bot” of a deceased individual compiled from their digital footprint, including social media posts, images, and voice recordings. The goal, it seems, is to create a digital version of you that communicates exactly as you would, that will even look and sound like you, even have your mannerisms - even if you’re dead.

Yes, communicating with the dead - a task once left to a society’s most spiritually in-tune individuals - is now going to be just a click away. Chock that up to another job automated away in the 21st century.

It’s all eerily reminiscent of an episode of the television series Black Mirror, “Be Right Back,” where a woman’s husband is killed in a car accident. She uploads her deceased husband’s social media posts to an AI, which in turn allows her to communicate with a digital version of him from beyond the grave. Eventually the husband’s voice is uploaded to a synthetic android that looks just like him. We don’t want to spoil the end of the episode for you… but things go a little haywire from there. 

There are scores of legal and moral questions here, obviously. Least of all, can they do this without your consent? 

Given the lack of regulations surrounding this sort of tech, the lack of case law on the subject, and the lengthy signing-away of rights you do every time you sign up for a service, the answer is possibly ‘yes’.

Talking to the Dead

Who knows what will become of this patent. Just because the technology has been patented doesn’t mean it will necessarily go anywhere. But the groundwork is there for our post mortem selves to come back from the dead. A few recent examples:

  • In 2012, the late rapper Tupac Shakur performed at Coachella as a hologram, to a very confused audience.
  • Peter Cushing appeared as a main character in 2016’s Star Wars: Rogue One, 22 years after his death, as a CGI composite.
  • Paul Walker, who died during the production of Furious 7, was recreated digitally for some shots in the final film.

What was once in the realm of science fiction is now increasingly common in Hollywood productions and music festivals the world over. And it makes sense that normalizing seeing our favorite celebrities in films or commercials decades after their death would lead to a public desire to see or talk to one’s dearly departed loved ones.

Even still, Microsoft might be getting ahead of themselves here. In 2016, they created a Twitter account for Tay, an AI bot designed as an experiment in “conversational understanding”.

The more ‘she’ interacted with Twitter users, the more she learned, developed a personality, and could respond back. She was designed to have a curious, playful personality - but Twitter users turned her into a misogynistic racist within 24 hours.

With recent results like that, this tech is likely years away - if it’s ever coming at all. But the legal and moral questions are here now.

What do you think? Would you want to be resurrected as a chat AI, or even a 3D model, so that your loved ones can continue to talk to you after you’re dead? Would this help or harm the process of grieving and gaining closure? 

Is it just too creepy for its own good?

28 comments

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    I think humanity fell of the sanity wagon. Bigger, better, stranger, more horrific, more everything! This isn't wrong, but there is nothing in this patent that helps solve the real problems of hunger, war, disease, homelessness.

  1. Jack Gerber's Avatar Jack Gerber

    You don't really need technology to communicate with someone on the other side. A good medium can do it or anyone can easily learn how to do it directly. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that we do not disappear when we die or, more correctly, pass over to the other side.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      I’d love to see the peer reviews of the scientific evidence you state there is Jack. I look forward to seeing the evidence. Until then, I will assume that what we do know for a certainty is that we will all die. As to whether there is any evidence of anything after this life is now subject to you providing crystal clear evidence. The world awaits!

      🦁❤️

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        We don't even know if we're alive, Lionheart. All we know for sure is that we have perceptions. We don't even know for a fact that we are more than one entity. We all might be the same vast consciousness that might be best called The All. But instead of tryi g to figure it all out, which is impossible for the finite to understand the infinite, why not just accept that we perceive things in different ways, not all of which we can explain, or know a reason for. So far, whenever I engage in something called a seance I receive impressions from non-physical sources which claim to be the discarnate entities who I was attempting to communicate with, which seems like the easiest way to communicate with those entities who are no longer in physical form. Nothing is for sure, or can be proven. It just seems easiest to accept that I am really having such perceptions. So why nock it. Simply accept.

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          Carl....are you there? Knock three times if you are.

          Darn it, I'm not hearing anything. I think you are just a figment of my imagination.


          I currently don't have that solipsist approach to life, but you could be right. I actually like the idea of fairies being in existence, and definitely don't want to rock the boat that they don't, so I'll just accept they do.

          🦁♥️

      2. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

        Netflix 6 episode series Surviving Death is worth watching.

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          There’s still no scientific proof, just speculation. The brain goes through some very interesting times during death thats for sure.

          🦁❤️

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    In my opinion, this is just another hoaky gimmick to commercialize grief. If you want to remember your loved one's online presence, then just look at the posts on Microsoft portals or online postings to other media. You don't need Microsoft to make-up their imagined version of your loved one.

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    What ever floats your boat. If it helps someone deal with the pain of losing someone then why not.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Does anyone remember the days when you could post a comment and it would show up straight away on this blog? Technology seems to have gone backwards here. They were good days!

     🦁♥️

    1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

      YEAH LIONHEART, ITs FEAR THAT KILLED the SAVAGE TONGUE, NOT BEAUTY !

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Knock, knock, knock. "Fairies wear boots, you've got to believe me. I saw it, I saw it, with my own two eyes. Alright, now!"

    1. Thomas Krapf's Avatar Thomas Krapf

      Respect for the Sabbath quote.

  1. Linda weeks's Avatar Linda weeks

    There is a telephone attached to a tree in a park in Washington state. People use it converse passed with their loved ones. Why not?

  1. Linda weeks's Avatar Linda weeks

    There is a telephone attached to a tree in a park in Washington state. People use it converse passed with their loved ones. Why not?

  1. Tom's Avatar Tom

    There's a great Black Mirror episode dealing with bringing back a loved one via AI and as any fans of the show would expect, it doesn't exactly go too well... Not a big fan of this to be honest.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    WHY is THERE NOT a TELEPHONE to HEAVEN NO CHARGE RESERVATIONS TAKEN in ADVANCE ???

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    WHY is THERE NOT a TELEPHONE to HEAVEN so WE CAN RSVP St. PETE ?????

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Technology replacing prayers, sounds good.

  1. Walter Eugene Curtis's Avatar Walter Eugene Curtis

    Seems like a move made by those who believe that progress ends at death. I don't want people interacting with a version of me that excludes my continuing growth and development. -- Perhaps as an historical view of people, places and things, but not anything currently relevant.

  1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

    Since Micro$loth does not know everything that I do know, nor every experience, which has shaped my life, t'would not be accurate.

  1. Jasie Parsons's Avatar Jasie Parsons

    This is literally a Black Mirror episode. Season 2, Episode 1: Be Right Back.

  1. Gary Bearman's Avatar Gary Bearman

    It all makes sense, we're what 2 or 3 generations of having our consciousness downloaded into a digital form?

  1. James Leonard Shea's Avatar James Leonard Shea

    The first time i read something about this topic was in Frederik Pohl's Gateway book from his Heechee Chronicles series. Since then several other sci-fi books, movies and series have dealt with something like this. I think it will become a reality some day but I believe the price tag will be enormous.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    IF YA REALLY WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE, WELL THEN DROPDEAD, BECAUSE NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT DEATH EXCEPT IF YOUR DEAD, SO HANG UP THE TELEPHONE CHILDREN !

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    I AM RIGHT NOW ON THE PHONE TRYING TO ASK GOD TO CHANGE the TOPIC, I GET NO ANSWER BUT I WILL KEEP CALLING, HEY ITS LIKE CALLING ANY FED, STATE, CITY, GOV. OFFICE FOR YOUR BENEFITs, O M G !

  1. Angel's Avatar Angel

    It's not you without your soul, so if they wantt to recreate you as a animation...have fun!!

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    YES TECH is GREAT BUT AS NOTED it ONLY HELPS the RICH GET RICHER, NOTHING is DONE for ANYONE or ANYTHING EXCEPT the RICH, WHO LIVE OFF THE WORKERS BLOOD THE LIVE HERE and REAP the REWARDs BUTT PAY NO TAXES, VERY BADD PEOPLE ALL !

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