In April 2019, the Dalí Lives exhibit opened along with an AI recreation of Salvador Dalí:
Dalí Lives is an advanced instance of a growing phenomenon with the potential to disrupt both the art world and technologically mediated inter personal relationships. Ghostbots (sometimes called Griefbots) are an impending challenge for post mortem privacy and the arts space, and have found exploration in some recent socially conscious science fiction. This technology is defined loosely as efforts to use digital versions of an individual to recreate them in a way that can survive after the death of the individual. The first of these to gain major traction, Eternime, is now defunct after a period of media hype:
Two successors in the space, HereAfter AI and Replika AI, were both founded by computer scientists as projects to recreate specific individuals that they were hoping to memorialize. The ultimate fates of each of these projects is telling as to the future of this space. Replika does not recreate individuals, but rather uses input from individuals to create a digital friend. HereAfter AI is essentially a digital diary. For something like Dalí Lives to become mainstream for artists and for people seeking a form of digital immortality, something in between HereAfter and Replika needs to become widely available. HereAfter seeks to recreate an individual, while Replika applies machine learning to create generative conversations that an individual will respond well to. There is no bridge between this at the moment that is available without the resources of an entire museum. This has wide implications for who has the right to a digital immortality that is similar to the gate kept nature of most advanced AI – at the moment it is limited to those rich enough to hire a team of computer scientists and pay for the computing power, or to people who are already famous enough that organizations are willing to put in the effort and time to recreate them.
The consequences of poorly executed generative AI are vast – as it could lead to an individual or artist producing nonsensical or harmful conversations during an artistic expression or during conversations with close relatives. In scenarios where the artist or individual is deceased, there is no recourse if an AI is not representative of who they are, and there is a possible future to this technology where the quality of your digital afterlife is mediated by wealth. This is already present, as HereAfter AI and Mind Bank AI (discussed later) are very expensive. HereAfter AI relies on a paid, tier subscription model to maintain a digital afterlife. Like a Medieval Indulgence.
There is one other mass market Ghostbot/Griefbot that I found, Mind Bank AI, which markets itself as a “Digital Twin”. Mind Bank AI is a pretty shady company. Like HereAfter, I am unconvinced that their privacy practices are ready to handle the implications of a technology explicitly designed to gather the most intimate stories of a person’s life.
Mind Bank AI plays a slight of hand. It does not yet seem to use generative conversations. Instead, it draws people in with vague promises of self help and an eventual digital twin once AI technology has reached the point where it is possible. However, Dalí Lives proves that it is already largely possible, it is just gate kept by wealth and access to enough data about a person.
Mind Bank AI and Eternime are/were designed to be used for extended periods, possibly years, to gather enough data to recreate an individual. This is a reason why this technology is particularly suited to disrupt the arts space, as artists are likely to have vast banks of carefully crafted and stored records of their work, public appearances, and thought processes. Ghostbots, Griefbots, and Digital Twins are in very nascent stages, and are something to be watched along with privacy laws and the increased access to AI to people without vast resources and technology knowledge.
A Grief Bot Could “Resurrect” My Dead Husband. No Thanks. | HuffPost Life. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/grief-bots-death-loved-ones_n_5ad5193fe4b016a07e9f9a2d
Ahmad, M. A. (2016). After death: Big data and the promise of resurrection by proxy. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 397–408.
A Son’s Race to Give His Dying Father Artificial Immortality | WIRED. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.wired.com/story/a-sons-race-to-give-his-dying-father-artificial-immortality/
Eternime. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://web.archive.org/web/20180317190713/http://eterni.me/
Eternime. (2018, March 17). https://web.archive.org/web/20180317190713/http://eterni.me/
Eternime Alpha Two on Vimeo. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://vimeo.com/142260863
Eterni.me—Become Virtually Immortal. (2014, January 30). https://web.archive.org/web/20140130073423/http://eterni.me/
Figueroa, M. (2022, January 18). Ghostbots, the Quest for Digital Immortality and the Law—JURIST – Commentary—Legal News & Commentary. https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2022/01/mauricio-figueroa-ghostbots-digital-immortality-law/
HereAfter AI — Save the Stories of Someone You Love. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.hereafter.ai/
‘Hey, Google! Let me talk to my departed father.’ (n.d.). Washington Post. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/29/hey-google-let-me-talk-my-departed-father/
LifeNaut. (n.d.). LifeNaut. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.lifenaut.com/
Replika. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://replika.ai/
Replika—Virtual AI Friend on the App Store. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://apps.apple.com/us/app/replika-your-ai-friend/id1158555867
Roman Mazurenko on the App Store. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://apps.apple.com/us/app/roman-mazurenko/id958946383
Selinger, E. (2018, March 13). Can Bots Help Us Deal with Grief? Medium. https://medium.com/s/when-robots-rule-the-world/can-bots-help-us-deal-with-grief-3de488cae96
Speak, Memory. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.theverge.com/a/luka-artificial-intelligence-memorial-roman-mazurenko-bot
Tech company lets you chat with your dead loved ones | Metro News. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://metro.co.uk/2021/12/16/ai-company-lets-you-chat-with-your-dead-loved-ones-15781759/
The Griefbot That Could Change How We Mourn. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-griefbot-that-could-change-how-we-mourn
The Journey to Digital Immortality | by Marius Ursache | Medium. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://medium.com/@mariusursache/the-journey-to-digital-immortality-33fcbd79949
Eterni.me links to this post from their now defunct url. It is 7 years old and seems to be the only remnant of the company left. I think it would be noteworthy to do a “where are they now” of the founders.
Watch Black Mirror | Netflix Official Site. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.netflix.com/title/70264888
When his father died, this technologist created a chatbot, so his kids could talk to their grandfather | CBC Radio. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/386-attention-residue-new-design-ethics-and-more-1.4548894/when-his-father-died-this-technologist-created-a-chatbot-so-his-kids-could-talk-to-their-grandfather-1.4548924