Talking Dead: Using AI To Communicate With People Who Have Passed

Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots have become an essential part of our daily routines, taking up roles such as scheduling meetings, providing weather forecasts, and even offering relationship advice.

However, there has been a new technology using AI to “speak” with loved ones who have passed away.

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On today’s The Science Briefing, Dr Sophie Calabretto talks to Cosmos Magazine journalist Petra Stock about resurrecting deceased individuals through artificial intelligence and what these conversations might sound like.

The conversation starts with a journalist named Charlotte talking to a digital replica of her mother and father through an app called HereAfterAI.

Throughout the process, Charlotte’s parents were initially interviewed by an actual person and asked questions about their childhood, careers, and interests.

“This audio was recorded, and her parents’ voice data was then used to train a kind of parent’s smart speaker. And then bam, there was Charlotte’s AI parents, and she could have a conversation with them,” Stock said.

Stock stated that the AI parents had progressively become more convincing and natural, despite being limited to answering questions based solely on the information provided by Charlotte’s parents during the interview.

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“There were numerous times that she forgot it wasn’t really her parents on the other end and would only get reminded of this when the AI actually got something wrong,” she said.

Stock says HereAfterAI creates these mimics based on people who are alive at the beginning of the process and, most importantly, who consent to the process. 

However, the new service also comes with troubling consequences. Several companies have introduced products that enable individuals to generate virtual human replicas using someone else’s data.

“The subjects of the replicas get interviewed for around four hours, and this used to be done by person, which is what happened with Charlotte’s parents, but is now actually done by a bot.”

Introducing The Science Briefing: a podcast about the science of everything and your new go-to podcast for your snapshot of science news. Hosted by Dr Sophie Calabretto and featuring journalists from Cosmos Magazine. Hear it on the LiSTNR app now.