Researchers say future humans could be haunted by ‘griefbots’ that emulate deceased loved ones

Researchers at the University of Cambridge said artificial intelligence that allows users to have text and voice conversations with dead loved ones presents serious risks of psychological harm. They added that the conversations could cause those left behind to be digitally haunted, according to the Debrief.

The name for AI chatbots that simulate the language cadence and personality traits of the dead are referred to as “deadbots” and “griefbots.” They reportedly operate by taking advantage of the digital footprints left behind by those who have passed away. Some companies are offering this kind of service, providing what has come to be known as a “postmortem presence.”

The recent research was published in the journal “Philosophy and Technology,” and it draws attention to the potential for companies to use these so-called “deadbots” to advertise products in the manner of a departed loved one, or even cause children distress by insisting a deceased parent is still with them.

“Rapid advancements in generative AI mean that nearly anyone with Internet access and some basic know-how can revive a deceased loved one,” Dr Katarzyna Nowaczyk-Basińska said.

The University of Cambridge reported that after the living sign up to be virtually re-created after they pass away, the aforementioned chatbots could spam surviving family and friends. Researchers speculated that this could result in effectively being digitally “stalked by the dead.”

“Rapid advancements in generative AI mean that nearly anyone with Internet access and some basic know-how can revive a deceased loved one,” Dr. Katarzyna Nowaczyk-Basińska, who is a co-author of the study and researcher at Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, said.

“This area of AI is an ethical minefield. It’s important to prioritise the dignity of the deceased, and ensure that this isn’t encroached on by financial motives of digital afterlife services, for example.”

“At the same time, a person may leave an AI simulation as a farewell gift for loved ones who are not prepared to process their grief in this manner. The rights of both data donors and those who interact with AI afterlife services should be equally safeguarded.”

There are reportedly platforms that offer to recreate the dead with AI for a small price. One such platform is “Project December,” which started by harnessing GPT models before developing its own system, according to reports.

Similar services have also started to crop up throughout China.

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