A remarkable, breathtaking, and for some also frightening innovation in the field of artificial intelligence is grief technology, or grief tech for short. (In German: Trauer-Technologie) It creates digital clones of loved ones who have already passed away and allows us to talk to them.
What is GriefTech / DeathTech? Meaning, explanation, definition
It allows AI to influence funeral rituals. This innovative technology has the potential to permanently upend the way we grieve. Being able to talk to the dead – many of us have imagined what it would be like to talk to our deceased parents, siblings or other loved ones and be able to integrate them into our current daily lives.
The desire to share with people who once meant a lot to us is especially pronounced when we want to share strong emotional experiences. Artificial intelligence (AI) has already shown us in a very short time what serious changes are possible with this innovative technology.
Currently, we are only at the beginning of a development whose end is not in sight. The ChatGPT bot has already shown us that algorithms can be controlled in such a way that they can also create complex texts on difficult topics. Meanwhile, AI tools are sprouting up like mushrooms and trying to outstrip each other. Grief tech, however, encroaches on an area of life that many of us hold sacred. This raises questions.
Is AI changing the grief process?
When grief technology is used, AI is trained on images, audio recordings and other recordings so that mourners can communicate with the deceased. AI significantly impacts the memory of the bereaved, bringing talking and acting avatars that deceptively resemble the deceased whether the screens of smartphones or tablets.
While it doesn’t allow for real interaction, grief tech companies are working hard on what is currently still a pipe dream. They want to make the impossible possible and dream of bringing the deceased and their living relatives together interactively. AI is being intensively trained for this purpose. It is possible that this technology will completely transform mourning work. But how far does this transformation go? Will the bereaved end up no longer feeling grief because they will always think of the deceased as being close to them? Grief-Tech is still too new to be able to give a satisfactory answer to this question.
Grief remains grief – or does it?
„Preserving meaningful memories in your life and sharing them with the people you love“ – grief tech startups such as Hereafter advertise with slogans like these and others like them. In tests with relatives who are still alive, remarkable results were achieved: The virtual clones gave true-to-life tips for everyday life and recounted long-ago events from their own childhood and that of living relatives.
Grief tech thus preserves memories in the form of images, voice and video recordings and completes the grieving process with a very exciting, interactive component. In all likelihood, it will not fundamentally change the emotional involvement of the mourners, i.e. the real mourning process that takes place in phases, as this is hard-wired into the human genes.
Grief tech breaks a taboo
The question arises: „When is a human being a human being?“ The possibility of creating extremely realistic avatars makes it clear once again that we cannot and must not always trust our eyes when dealing with technology.
The artificial videos and images that show themselves to us in real time are manipulated and make us believe in a reality that does not exist. The fact that many of the developers originally only wanted to create special effects for the film industry also shows, among other things, that the technology is developing so quickly that humans have problems keeping up with it. The next big question, which both small and large tech companies must ask themselves for ethical reasons, is whether they will be able to keep up with it at all.
Conclusion: GriefTech / DeathTech
Is it really desirable to be able to retrieve the newly brought-to-life image of someone or something who has died at any time? Grief tech may lead to a blurring of reality and fiction, and mourners may never be able to properly say goodbye. Further, it is worth considering whether the human mind is even capable of making this change.
That AI imitates our voices and ways of speaking has been possible for some time. But to resurrect a dead person, as it were – that means playing God, especially for spiritual and devout people. This step is unthinkable for them, but also for many other people. What effects grief tech has on the psyche has not yet been researched. In this area, too, the new AI is still in its infancy. Technological development must not lead to medical, ethical and theological aspects being completely disregarded.