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Now you can chat with dead people

By Eeshah Zaidi

It is quite common in movies and horror thrillers, where the characters are always trying to make contact with the dead through Ouija board, spells, and what not. But that is in the movies, let’s talk about reality. Can we talk to the deceased people? Thanks to technology, we can say that the answer is YES through eternime ai you can. If you think about how to bring a loved one back from the dead and you can’t talk to them again, then we have news for you. Now, you can chat with the dead. 

Experts have devised a way to bring a loved one back from the dead, via replika. The loss of someone dear is painful and it takes months and sometimes years to deal with that grief, move on in life and make peace with the situations. Usually, the grieving process involves remembering all the moments and memories of the person that passed away. Even in my personal experience, when I lost someone close to me in my life, all I could do was to look back at all the pictures that I had with that person, all the selfies, and the videos of fun that we did. And as I moved on in my life and accepted the reality.

How can you talk to your deceased loved one?

But as technology is progressing with Artificial Intelligence, imagination is just a word. Artificial intelligence has made life easier it has also allowed you the ability to speak to your deceased family member with Griefbots. This kind of technology is a simulation of a departed friend, spouse, or parent. It imitates the tone of voice, the gestures, idiosyncrasies, and laughter.

With the age of technology, the process of grievance has also changed. Previously, the grief would be overcome by pictures, memories, and dreams. But now, it is possible to live with the life-like memories of the deceased loved ones as if they are actually present and alive. Just like having a conversation with them.

A well-known philosopher and researcher, Davide Sisto at the University of Turin, shares an event, and narrates a story in an article, ‘Online Afterlives’. He narrates that a man named Roman Mazurenko, who was a tech entrepreneur was hit by a car in Moscow and died. This event took place in 2015 and Roman was quite young, in his late twenties. Roman’s friend, Eugenia was also into tech and worked as a software developer. Eugenia was working on a messenger app known as ‘Luka’, which was an AI-based software that imitates human speech and dialogues.

Suddenly struck and shocked by her friend’s death, she couldn’t cope with the grief. So, she decided to communicate with Roman through a thing in which she was an expert, AI, and software. She got inspired by an episode of Black Mirror in which they showed the character Martha who was devastated after the death of her boyfriend Ash, tried to communicate with him through an application. Eugenia also tried to recreate this concept to talk to the digital ghost of Roman. 

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Remembering Roman, Eugenia read all the text messages and conversations she had with Roman since 2008, and she also asked all Roman’s friends to send all their conversations. She ended up with thousands of messages of Roman and then with her computer scientists’ friends, she created a bot that could emulate and learn Roman’s messages and talk to them like Roman. 

They exchanged messages with this digital ghost of Roman through a chatbot.  That chat included messages like when asked ‘what’s new?’, chatbot Roman replied, ‘Laying on the sofa all day and staring at the ceiling.’ And when asked ‘how are you?’, the digital ghost of Roman said, ‘I am fine, I just need to be around people more. These all messages made the friends and family of Roman feel like they are just talking to Roman and he is actually talking to them. He felt alive. Moreover, the AI bot was able to recognize the patterns and views of Roman from his messages. When the friends asked, ‘do God and soul exist’, the bot after recognizing the atheism from his chat replied, ‘Only sadness’. 

Eugenia wanted to go further with her model and introduced another app known as Replika, which is like a diary and journal. The app asks the users a series of questions to get to know them and then mimic their style and personalities. The main goal of this app is to mimic us, create our digital avatar and then replace us when we are longer alive. Eugenia also wants to improve the emotional responsiveness of the bot so that it could become a virtual friend to people.

Now although it seems that wow, this is such a unique and amazing idea and I have never seen or heard about it before. But hold on. Luka and Replika are not the only apps designed to communicate with dead people. Another app known as the ‘Dadbot’ was created by an AI enthusiast James Vlahos who lost his father to lung cancer. So, before his father’s death, he talked to his father and kept a record of all of his conversations. It included his memories regarding his marriage, the high and low points of life and all his struggles.

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James gathered a lot of data from all these conversations. Then, James came across scientists who were developing a chatbot through movie dialogues, and he also remembered the Pullstring program that made conversation possible with a fictional character. So, he used Pullstring to recognize the Mp3 versions of his father’s recordings and he also created the software ‘Dadbot’ and since his father’s death, he talks and chats with him through these digital means.

The series Black Mirror showed us how one grieves over the loss of someone in this digital age. It can be extremely hard for some people to express and move on with their pain so apps like Luka, Replika and Dadbot allow the users to cope with the death of their loved ones. They not only become virtual friends but also remind the users about their own reality, about their own death.

These apps become a string that attaches us to our deceased ones, and at the same time reminding us that this is not real. It helps in the process of acceptance and realization. These apps help us in softening our pain because when we lose someone, that is the time when we need some sort of connection, we need comfort and some sort of answer from beyond. Even though this is not the actual beyond but the simulations help us to make peace with the situation.

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Martine Rothblatt is a technologist who in her book ‘Virtually Human’ pointed out that the amazing aspect of technology and artificial intelligence is that it allows us to continue relationships even if they are over, we can still spend time with those who are no longer with us. We can talk to them about our special moments and events. Eugenia also emphasized on a similar front saying that, when something happens in our life, we want to talk to someone about it, and that is one of the most important features of Luka and Replika, that you have someone with whom you can share anything you want, even the most secret and personal details that you could not share with your friends or family as you might get judged by them. But these chatbots don’t judge, they just listen and be a good virtual friend. 

Well, then we should be glad that we live in an age that gives us the digital experience of having contact with the ones we have lost. The digital ghosts give us a sense of relief from the pain of our loss and at the same time give us hope that maybe after us, we will still be an active part of our memories. This creates a whole another dimension. We are already uploading our pictures, selfies and information online and now with the help of these apps, we can preserve ourselves as well. How well one can get along with these apps is difficult to answer but it sure does give us an insight into what the future holds. 

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