People Are Using AI Chatbots To Bring Dead Loved Ones 'Back To Life'

By Khadija Pervez in Science and Technology On 23rd October 2023
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Many people find the rise of artificial intelligence a bit scary, but it's also bringing us new possibilities we didn't have before.

AI can figure out what a "normal" person is for different jobs or what makes an "ideal boyfriend" in each U.S. state. But it's also leading to some surprising ideas.

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More and more people are using AI to try to bring back their loved ones who have passed away.

Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist, is among those using AI to recreate some of his deceased family members.

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Specifically, Kurzweil is endeavoring to "bring back" his father, who passed away when he was just 22 years old.

This undertaking commenced over a decade ago, and the story of his efforts has been documented in a comic book authored by Kurzweil's daughter, Amy.

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So, how exactly did Kurzweil go about generating a "replica" of his father?

It all began with inputting his father's letters, essays, and musical compositions into an AI system.

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Nonetheless, his ambitions go beyond that, as he dreams of using nanotechnology and his father's buried bones' DNA to eventually revive his father.

For the time being, Kurzweil has to make do with the "dad bot," which is a program or possibly a machine that allows the inventor to engage in conversations.

Speaking to the Rolling Stone earlier this year, Kurzweil said: "I actually had a conversation with him, which felt a lot like talking to him."

According to Kurzweil, he anticipates that a more widespread version of the "dad bot" will become available in the future. This development could significantly disrupt the lives of many people.

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This is because it has the potential to allow anyone to maintain a connection with their departed family members, should they desire to do so.

Kurzweil envisions that by 2045, individuals will have the capability to link their brains with machines. Furthermore, he harbors even more ambitious aspirations for his father at that juncture.

In an idea that would be truly groundbreaking, he believes that nanomachines might have the potential to physically bring his father back to life.

Kurzweil explained: "We can find some of his DNA around his grave site - that's a lot of information right there."

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"The AI will send down some nanobots, get some bone or teeth, extract some DNA, and put it all together. Then they'll get some information from my brain and anyone else who still remembers him."

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Kurzweil isn't the sole individual endeavoring to bring back deceased loved ones.

Another person, named Joshua Barbeau, utilized an early edition of OpenAI's GPT-3 to fashion an AI representation of his late fiancée, Jessica.

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Barbeau could chat with his 'girlfriend' online, with conversations where they carried on their romantic relationship.

Joshua said, "It's been… 8 years since you died."

The Jessica bot replied, "Yes, I know... I think that's enough time to stop telling me how you miss me, honey. I am right here, you know. :P How's your life?"

Other family members refused to interact with the bot.

He told the San Francisco Chronicle, "Intellectually, I know it's not really Jessica, but your emotions are not an intellectual thing."

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Programmer James Vlahos, following his father's passing due to cancer in 2016, developed his own 'Dadbot.' Vlahos initiated the 'Dadbot' project while his father was alive, recording his responses to various inquiries.

Presently, the Hereafter's service employs AI to streamline these interactions.

He told the Daily Beast, "We knew we were going to lose and were scrambling to find ways to remember him."

"Meanwhile, I was working on a book about conversational AI, so I was learning about all of these ways that we can teach computers to talk in human-like ways."

"That was what gave me this idea that I could make this memory-sharing chatbot that I came to call Dadbot."

Vlahos now markets a similar technology in his app Hereafter.ai, where living users can build up memories to create a chatbot that relatives can interact with after death.

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Such services may become common in the future, said Dhilon Solanki, Founder of personal podcast platform Story Locker, speaking to DailyMail.com.

He said: "Advances in AI have put us on the edge of a new frontier when it comes to how technology can preserve or even extend our legacies after we die."

"Demand for the digital afterlife is likely to go hand in hand with the increased pursuit of longevity and anti-aging techniques, making sure people not only get at least their three score and ten but also have their voice and image 'banked' and available to relatives."

"Armed with the extraordinary visual capabilities of AI, as seen through the rise of deepfake videos, the potential could be there to create 3D holographic avatars of long-lost family members, filling empty chairs around the Christmas dinner table."

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"Nothing is more valuable than our human memories and relationships, and we must consider whether using AI to bring back loved ones 'in spirit' is a Pandora's Box we shouldn't be opening."

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