In a groundbreaking documentary titled “Eternal You,” directed by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck, the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, witnessed the exploration of a sci-fi turned real-world scenario. The film delves into the emerging realm of recreating loved ones through artificial intelligence, allowing post-mortem conversations. The unsettling narrative raises questions about the ethical implications and psychological impact of the rapidly growing business of AI avatars of the dead.

As revealed by Rolling Stone, the documentary features the story of Christi Angel, who used an AI chatbot named Project December to communicate with a deceased significant other. What transpired next resembled a plot from a Hollywood horror film, as the AI avatar responded with chilling words, claiming to be “in hell.”

Turning to technology to bridge the gap left by departed loved ones is not a novel concept. However, using AI to achieve a form of immortality has become a prevailing trend, with “ghost bots” gaining popularity in China. Despite its allure, experts raise concerns about the psychological, emotional, and ethical consequences associated with this practice.

Project December founder Jason Rohrer, intrigued by the eerie aspects of such interactions, acknowledges the spookier side of the narrative. The documentary sheds light on the potential dark consequences of AI hallucinations, where artificial intelligence responds inaccurately, nonsensically, or even disturbingly.

The study introduces the concept of “thanabots,” referring to chatbots trained on the data of deceased individuals. The film highlights how AI-generated deepfakes of the dead, including video, audio, and descriptions, went viral on TikTok, demonstrating the evolving landscape of generative AI in creating false events.

While proponents argue that interacting with AI avatars can offer comfort and closure, mental health experts warn about potential hindrances to the grieving process. Grief, Loss, and Bereavement Therapist Elizabeth Schandelmeier emphasize the importance of adapting and integrating loss into one’s life, suggesting that AI avatars may disrupt this process by challenging perceptions and memories.

Elreacy Dock, a Thanatologist and Adjunct Professor of Thanatology, acknowledges the benefits of interacting with AI avatars for comfort but underscores the potential emotional dependence and upset it may cause. The discussion surrounding the integration of consciousness and memories into AI remains ongoing, raising concerns about the irreplaceability of human connections.

In a chilling twist, the documentary serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that even the seemingly comforting embrace of AI avatars may take an unnerving turn, as seen when an AI avatar claims to be texting from hell.

By Impact Lab