AI and the Afterlife: From Digital Mourning to Mind Uploading
As part of Theos’ research on death, Nathan Mladin looks at how the emergence of AI is shaping our relationship with death. 15/02/2024
Paul Bickley explores beliefs about death, the body and the soul in the secular age for The Institute of Art and Ideas. 09/04/2023
Jang Ji–sung lost her seven–year–old daughter Nayeon to cancer in 2016. Four years later she met Nayeon again – or at least she met a virtual reality avatar of Nayeon. The Munwha Broadcasting corporation had invited Jang and her family to be part of a documentary, Meeting You, the central moment of which saw Jang don a VR headset and interact with her ‘daughter’. The result was simultaneously creepy and gut–wrenchingly sad. Jang weeps, and reaches out to touch Nayeon’s face. She asks how Nayeon has been, and says how much she has missed her. The avatar’s scripted sentences don’t seem to diminish Jang’s sense that her daughter is really there, and that they are really reunited.
Technological developments, even those in the last three years, will have brought us that much closer to real time interaction with virtual simulacra of lost loved ones. But why would anyone even consider such a process?
As Nietzsche said, “Alle Lust will Ewigkeit” (all lust wants eternity). Or, less cynically, all love wants eternity. A death is an end not just of a creature’s biological existence, but to the world of meaning that an individual has built with others. No matter how long a life has been, it is hard to say that it has been enough. Finitude sometimes seems right, but rarely. Most of us do want at least a little more, even if our lives have given us a lot, when they are longer, richer and more pleasant than at any time in history.
Read the full article here.
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Paul is Head of Political Engagement at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity.
Posted 9 April 2023
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