AI Reviving the Dead  

With the presence of AI, people are seeking to communicate with the deceased through various applications such as ‘Snapchat My AI’ feature. 

With the presence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), people are seeking to communicate with the deceased through various applications such as ‘Snapchat My AI’ feature 

The story isn’t a new one, but it has become a recurrent one. Where will this take our society to, let’s examine together.  

Humans Reliance on Technology Prevents Us from Letting Go 

The Snapchat My AI feature, powered by the widely used AI chatbot tool ChatGPT, usually provides suggestions, responds to inquiries, and engages in conversations with users. However, individuals like Schultz are utilizing this and similar tools to replicate the appearance of, and interact with, deceased individuals. 

While the idea isn’t entirely novel, with people seeking to reconnect with departed loved ones throughout history, AI now enables these individuals to mimic the actions and words of the deceased, prompting ethical dilemmas and debates about its impact on the natural grieving process. 

“It’s a novelty that piggybacks on the AI hype, and people feel like there’s money to be made,” said Mark Sample, a professor of digital studies at Davidson College who routinely teaches a course called “Death in the Digital Age.” “Although companies offer related products, ChatGPT is making it easier for hobbyists to play around with the concept too, for better or worse.” 

Over the years, several platforms have ventured into this unique world. For example, HereAfter AI, which launched in 2019, allows users to create avatars of departed loved ones. These avatars respond based on interviews conducted during the individual’s lifetime. Similarly, StoryFile crafts AI-powered interactive videos. 

Then there’s Replika, which was introduced in 2017, where users can engage with personalized AI avatars via text or calls. Through regular interaction, these avatars develop unique personalities and memories, evolving into what the company describes as “beautiful machines.” 

Tech giants, such as Amazon, have also explored similar technology. In June 2022, Amazon announced plans to update Alexa, enabling it to mimic any voice, including those of deceased family members. This innovation was showcased at the re: MARS conference, where Alexa read a story in a grandmother’s voice. 

Rohit Prasad, Amazon senior vice president, explained that the updated system could personalize voices with minimal audio data, marking a departure from lengthy studio recordings. While AI cannot alleviate grief, Prasad believes it can help preserve cherished memories. 

Amazon did not comment on where they have reached with the product. 

Society with the Presence of AI 

As a society, we have become more isolated than ever. There are numerous distractions that prevent us from seeking human support, more accurately, expert human support. The fear of letting go is deeply rooted in us, even if something isn’t working. Experiencing a loved one’s loss is much harder than simply moving forward and adding on and this sentiment extends to both people and technology. Instead of setting limits on how much technology can infiltrate our lives, we often resort to temporary protective measures. While we cannot eliminate technology, we must coexist with it in a manner that doesn’t harm our mental health.  

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