Digital Immortality Phase One – Resurrecting the Dead With Chat Bots?

A Swedish funeral agency called Fenix intends to experiment with creating “digital copies” of the deceased, and they’re looking for volunteers.

Don’t get too excited. Yet. The agency’s first order of business is to focus strictly on text, which would mimic the personality of the deceased and answer simple questions, maybe talk about the weather, not unlike common chat bots.

They do hope to eventually move on to replicating speech, though, as well as images. At the moment, they’re looking for ten currently living individuals to “donate” their likenesses, in the form of audio and video recordings, which they’ll use to create the replica chat bots.

After the volunteers are deceased, these bots will presumably be available to family members to assist in the mourning process. A bit macabre, perhaps, and there are sure to be many discussions on the ethics of creating such things. But replicating voices isn’t so different from recording video tapes, if you think about it.

There’s also been talk of this leading to the creation of full-on robot replicas, but that’s a whole other ballgame compared to simple chat bots. The Daily Mail (referencing Sputnik News) shares a variation of the story claiming that “Swedish scientists” are hard at work perfecting their “fully conscious” artificially intelligent robot clones.

If only, right?

Just as an addendum: That Daily Mail article (among others) references Netflix’s Black Mirror on this, but the first thing that comes to my mind is Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space, and its creepy Alpha- and Beta- Simulations. Those were practically identical AI that perfectly mimicked the thought patterns of those who went through with mind scans, with Alpha Simulations being actually self aware. Only downside? If I remember right, people didn’t survive the scanning process.

Ultimately, whether or not that bit about the AI robot zombies is true, it doesn’t really matter. I think, sooner or later, using AI to perfectly mimic living (or dead) people is something that’s going to happen, once we have the means to do it. The question is whether or not we decide it’s a good idea.

Heck, consider Tipler’s Omega Point and what that might entail: Perhaps we already are the resurrected dead!


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.