Can we still rest in peace?

The advent of AI systems has changed our relationship with death. The rise of the deadbots which recreate snippets of a lost loved one’s life using troves of personal data raise critical questions about identity, dignity, and the meaning of life. This paper will pursue three lines of inquiries. Firstly, from residual identity perspective the rise of the deadbots requires deeper examination of posthumous consent. Secondly, these AI systems can give rise to novel contestations over legacy/memory. The examination of both these issues would require balancing the deceased’s dignity with the grieving interests of the survivors. These examinations can lead us towards multiple outcomes of prohibition over creation of deadbots, regulated production and mass manufacturing in context of popular public figures. The third line of inquiry pertains to the finality of death and its ability to render our life meaningful. Humans have been pushing this boundary with every significant milestone in healthcare. One way of examining the creation of deadbots is as a continuation of advances in healthcare- a form of posthumous digital resuscitation. However, unlike medical devices like pacemaker which prolong the life of an individual, deadbots revive the memory of the individual. If we are lucky, we may get to spend our lives with a person we love. However, we will never be so lucky, nor perhaps we should be, that we get to spend our lives with the chosen version of our loved one. This seems to be a strong moral objection against the creation of deadbots. Before permitting adoption of deadbots as a grief assistance service, it is important to deliberate the ethical concerns outlined in this paper as they have repercussions both for the ones hoping to rest in peace and the ones hoping to mourn in peace.


Anuj Puri

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Digital Humanities Tilburg