How AI is keeping the dead ‘alive’

Banfield

(NewsNation) — Thanks to artificial intelligence, people are now having conversations with loved ones who have passed away.

In 2016, California journalist James Vlahos’ created a chatbot called “Dadbot,” after recording conversations with his father who was dying of cancer.

Vlahos went on to co-found “HereAfter” which uses artificial intelligence to preserve family history and allows others to “chat” with their late loved ones.

“I think all of us have that craving to hear the voice of somebody we’ve lost, to hear that voice again,” Vlahos said during a Thursday appearance on NewsNation’s “Banfield.”

Similarly, artificial intelligence software creator Eugenia Kuyda created an app called Replika to honor her late friend Roman, who died in a car accident.

Replika learns people’s texting styles and mimics them in an avatar people can customize.

Millions of people have downloaded the app, and reviews are generally positive.

“So it might say something stupid, or make a mistake. But it always feels like him no matter what, because it’s something he’s said in his past,” Kuyda said during an appearance on “Banfield”

Just 30 years ago, this technology might have seemed far off. And it might have you wondering how ethical it is.

“Is it bringing them back to life? Absolutely not. But is it giving us a much better way to remember them. A much more vivid way to remember them? Yes,” Vlahos said.

For Kuyda, “Replika” started out as a personal project. She says it’s about love, not about death or bringing the past back.

“It’s more about creating a tribute, creating a memory, and continuing to meet someone that isn’t with us,” Kuyda said.

Security concerns are also valid. But it’s no different than uploading pictures to the cloud, according to Vlahos.

“Contrary to what you may hear in science fiction, “Black Mirror,” the idea that you could just magically create a bot of a real person based on information that’s just sort of out there already? I don’t believe that’s real,” Vlahos said.

“Hereafter” uses a virtual interviewer to gather stories and meaningful memories about someone’s life.

“The important thing is to get people to share these stories about their childhood, their family background, their interests, their loves, all of that. So whatever awaits us technologically, in the future, we have that information as a base to build from,” Vlahos added.

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