When grief and AI collide: These people are communicating with the dead


Ana Schultz, a 25-year-old from Rock Falls, Illinois, finds solace in seeking cooking advice from her late husband Kyle, who passed away in February 2023.

Using Snapchat’s My AI feature, Schultz engages with an artificial intelligence chatbot powered by ChatGPT, tailored to resemble Kyle. She inputs the ingredients available in her fridge and receives culinary suggestions, a practice she describes as a means to feel Kyle’s presence in the kitchen.

While Snapchat My AI typically offers recommendations and engages in conversations with users, Schultz is among those utilizing this technology to recreate the likeness of and communicate with deceased loved ones.

This phenomenon isn’t entirely new, as people have long sought ways to reconnect with departed family members through mediums, spiritualists, or memory preservation services. However, the advent of AI introduces the possibility of simulating conversations and actions beyond what was possible before, prompting ethical considerations and discussions on its impact on the grieving process.

Mark Sample, a professor of digital studies at Davidson College, notes the novelty of using AI for such purposes, with ChatGPT making it more accessible for individuals to experiment with this concept.

Generative AI tools, employing algorithms to generate text, video, audio, or code, can attempt to replicate responses akin to those of deceased individuals. However, the accuracy of these interactions depends on the input data provided to the AI.

One user, a 49-year-old IT professional from Alabama, anonymously shares his experience of using generative AI to clone his late father’s voice, allowing him to convert text to speech. Despite initial moral reservations, he views this as a unique way to preserve his father’s memory.

Less technically complex methods also exist, such as customizing AI responses based on details provided by users. However, while AI models can mimic certain aspects of human conversation, they lack the nuanced authenticity of genuine interactions.

OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, continues to enhance its technology to offer more realistic and personalized interactions. Danielle Jacobson, a 38-year-old radio personality from Johannesburg, South Africa, uses ChatGPT’s voice feature to engage in conversations with a customized AI avatar named Cole, providing companionship following the loss of her husband.

Startups and tech giants alike have explored similar applications of AI technology. However, concerns regarding privacy, authenticity, and the impact on the grieving process remain prevalent.

While some individuals find comfort in digital interactions with deceased loved ones, others, like Bill Abney from San Francisco, prefer alternative methods of remembrance, avoiding AI-based recreations out of respect for the authenticity of their relationships.

Ultimately, the use of AI for communicating with the deceased presents a complex intersection of technology and grief, with individuals adopting various approaches based on their personal preferences and ethical considerations.

Source: edition.cnn.com