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There's an App for That: Resurrecting Loved Ones

If you've ever lost someone and wished you could talk to them again - there's an app for that! Today we talk about the pains of losing someone and how tech can be used to cope with grief. We watched the Black Mirror's Be Right Back and the awful film, A.M.I


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Kat's Facts - Grief Through Apps

So today we’re covering a heavy topic, with a fun name. We’re talking about apps that can be used to replicate a lost loved one. The “there’s an app for that” series kind of builds upon our previous series on the fears of the future, the issues technology presents in that future, and how our understanding of the meaning of life is shaped by those realities. Millenials are the first generation to see a world without any real digital footprint, and watch as it rapidly overtakes our planet and unfolds this entirely new plane of existence. So today on the Ghouls we’re sorta starting a debate of how ethically sound the idea of a digital afterlife is, and how it can help/hurt the grieving process.

I found a really helpful article as the ghouls have time and time again been lucky enough to do from called The possibility of digitally interacting with someone from beyond the grave is no longer the stuff of science fiction. The ability to create an app replacement for ourselves, or of one’s we loved and lost is no longer a sci fi future. According to the article I read it’s something we could see become mainstream within the next decade. Specifically millennials might be the lucky guinea pigs for this. Hossein Rahnama of Ryerson University and MIT Media lab stated “50 or 60 years from now, millennials will have reached a point in their lives where they each will collected zettabytes of data, which is just what is needed to create a digital version of yourself,” Donning it “Augmented eternity,” The AI they are creating mimics what we’ll talk about in our media section, which is an AI program that builds upon the digital presence that a person has left behind. Using emails, writings, texts, tweets and snapchats. Rahnama feeds this info into an artificial neural network, which are like model brains that understand language pattern and process information. Thanks to the neural network’s ability to “think” for itself, the person’s “digital being continues to evolve after the physical being has passed on.” In this way, an augmented-eternity bot would keep aware of current events, develop new opinions, and become an entity that is based on a real person rather than a facsimile of who they were at their time of death.

Another AI developer Eugenia Kuyda, who is co-founder of a Russian AI start, created to engage with Roman Mazurenko, Kuydo’s best friend who was killed in a car accident in 2015. They created in essence a chatbot that was programmed to mimic and memorialize Roman after death. This was successful overall, Roman’s mom actually giving the okay on the success of the project. Roman was interested in the idea of a digital afterlife, and technology's ability to disrupt death. Apparently fascinated by the idea of the information you leave on the internet “outliving you”. So that kind of opened the door for Kuydo to feel like he in a way gave his blessing to the idea. They go on to say how it helped them in getting to experience a version of talking to them again, however they go on to say “while chatbots are good at imitating their progenitors’ patterns of speech, they’re not satisfying substitutes for real people. “It’s more like a shadow of a person,” Kuyda says. “At this point, it’s similar to us talking to god, or imagining we’re talking to someone we’ve lost, or even talking to a therapist.”

I know in speaking for myself I have had many nights where I’m thankful for the albeit small digital footprint my grandpa left behind. Being able to see old emails we exchanged, or looking at his facebook that I helped him make. I’ve definitely written to him, kind of just saying all the things I wish I could say and maybe felt I never got the chance to, or in a lot of ways he was the person I always cared the most about knowing what was going on in my life, and it took me a really long time to kind of deal with that, like accepting that he wasn’t able to see how I was turning out. I actually didn’t walk at my graduation because I felt like since he wasn’t here to be there that like it wasn’t worth doing. I’ve also used google to “visit” his house, because there are images of the inside of the house on the internet from when it was put up for sale. There’s something comforting about it, googling his name and seeing it show up with an article that was written about his work in saving old buildings, or that the book about his AmeriCorps VISTA experience being sold at Harvard bookstore. That someone assigned to their class a book that has his name in it. It’s like really comforting in a way to know i’m not the only one that holds some version of his memory. I say all this to kinda just vouch for the fact that the internet has helped me some in grieving him, as well as other loved one’s that i’ve lost. That it gives you an outlet previous generations did not have.

There are aspects of it that are therapeutic, and like help with continuing to live your own life. Even as digital afterlife technology advances to offer increasingly accurate simulacrums of our dead, their most significant quality may not be simulating what someone we love might say, but rather their ability to give the illusion of them listening to us instead. “It’s not about what we hear; it’s about what we say,” Kuyda says. In this way, chatbots can provide the bereaved with a space to express thoughts and feelings about their loved ones both in private and within their communities. In time, this could help normalize conversations about death and the intensity of sorrow. Talking to someone from beyond the grave may sound creepy. But it may offer some measure of comfort to your loved ones. It’s like the high-tech equivalent of putting together a scrapbook, or writing letters for your kids to open when you pass. Plus it’s less frightening to think of death when you know you won’t vanish wholly into the void- but remain, in a sense, in the hearts and text conversations of the people you loved the most.



Gabe's Film Analysis -


Media from this week's episode:

A.M.I. (2019) Director: Rusty Nixon A seventeen year old girl forms a co-dependent relationship with an artificial intelligence on her phone and goes on a murderous rampage.

  • Wow a terrible film lol

Black Mirror: Be right back (Season 2, episode 1) Director:Owen Harris:

After learning about a new service that lets people stay in touch with the deceased, a lonely, grieving Martha reconnects with her late lover.


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