Tasleem Gierdien28 March 2024 | 6:29

Comforting or creepy? AI tech 'resurrects' loved ones after they've died

'It's like an episode of Black Mirror coming to life.'

Comforting or creepy? AI tech 'resurrects' loved ones after they've died

Artificial intelligence, Picture: @Pexels

Africa Melane speaks to Kirsty Bisset, Managing Director at HaveYouHeard about a rising artificial intelligence trend: grief technology.

Bisset says grief tech is helping people deal with the loss of a loved one and is an emerging trend.

In 2016, a man developed an artificial technology app called heareafter.ai after his father died of cancer. The app was born from a question: what do I still want to know about my father before he dies?

The advent of this app gives people the option to mourn the loss of a loved one beyond Facebook albums or 'a dusty photo album,' says Bisset.

"The digital age has made coping with loss complex as digital ghosts remain on internet after someone passes."
Kirsty Bisset, Managing Director - HaveYouHeard

How do these apps work? 

These artificial intelligence apps develop chatbot avatars of people's deceased relatives, preserving their memories, allowing the living to communicate with "a digital ghost" of someone who has long passed to help them heal. 

While someone is still alive, these apps will allow you to "archive" your loved ones through conversations, interviews and questions, teaching the app's algorithm about the person so when they pass the app is able to answer further questions in their voice and in their likeness so you can have a two-way conversation, digitally.

Bisset highlights that there are ethical questions around these apps...

"It speaks to how we would want to mourn and there are definitely moral and ethical concerns that surround this technology. There are also implications of creating avatars of deceased people without their permission which is also an ethical question."
Kirsty Bisset, Managing Director - HaveYouHeard

Bisset also notes that an app like this might hinder one's grieving process. 

"The implications of apps like this is under scrutiny. Is this the right thing to do? It indicates that excessive reliance on an avatar might hinder the ability to adapt to loss and might prolong grieving."
Kirsty Bisset, Managing Director - HaveYouHeard

Humans and technology must work together to avoid a trap where you realise it's technology you're talking to and not the actual person, she suggets.

"It's like a black mirror episode coming to life."
Kirsty Bisset, Managing Director - HaveYouHeard

Bisset notes that this also has implications for your will and testament. 

"You would have to state that your identity like your name, voice and face will not exist beyond the physical world in your will. It's called a Digital Do Not Reanimate Clause (DDNR) and might be something to consider in future where things like this is imminent."
Kirsty Bisset, Managing Director - HaveYouHeard

Scroll up to the audio player to listen to the full conversation.