Is it possible to resurrect someone through artificial intelligence and virtual reality? Would you do it, given the chance? While VR technology can help people process and heal, many argue that it could be an impediment or possibly lead to an addiction. But this difficult topic needs to be discussed as we get nearer to the possibility of grief bots.
Last February 6, a TV show called Meeting You aired a controversial episode. A South Korean mother, Jang Ji-Sung, encounters a virtual version of her deceased 7-year-old daughter, Nayeon, who died in 2016. Through the use of a VR headset, a green screen, and touch-sensitive gloves, the mother was able to talk and interact with the girl. Off-screen, the father, older brother, and older sister tearfully watch the bittersweet reunion.
In the video, you can view them holding hands, lighting candles, singing Nayeon’s birthday song, and exchanging heartfelt wishes. Amazingly, the girl was fully rendered in 3D, thanks to the meticulous work of MBC, the company behind the show. It’s equal parts terrifying, beautiful, and depressing.
Have you watched the Black Mirror episode called, Be Right Back? It centered around a grieving widow who brings her husband back to life as a robot, using his social media information—eerily similar to the Meeting You episode. The caveat: humans are complex and always changing. So far, digital impressions fall short of the real thing, reacting in carefully calculated algorithms. These replicas serve as a 3D epitaph for their grieving loved ones—no new personality changes or surprising information to be gleaned.
One day, it may be possible for someone to implant a chip in our brains from the moment we’re born, upload our behavioral data to the cloud, then download our personality within seconds. The future is already here, but only time (and more research) will tell us what the lasting implications are.
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