Eternal You | AI Meets the Afterlife (2024)

June 18th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck | US Doc 87′

Artificial Intelligence via ChatGPT is making it possible to talk to the dead, according to a disturbing new US documentary that delves into the pros and cons of this alarming new technology.

When a loved ones dies being able to contact them is a comforting thought for the bereaved especially in this day and age when death is taboo and people feel increasingly isolated or lonely. Joshua, one of the film’s contributors, has been doing just that with his late fiancée. He filled in a questionnaire with a few facts and next thing he was having an exchange with Jessica via  ‘Project December’. It felt spookily real. 

The ‘Afterlife Contact’ industry is clearly worth millions but it also raises  moral and ethical concerns. Instead of the natural process of grieving, which we all have to go through, surely Joshua is just ‘holding on’ rather than ‘moving on’.

The market in the US is already awash with AI startups that aim to sell computer packages promising immortality. But government bodies and even some AI engineers are increasingly concerned about this industry of turning the dead into a business. There are real fears that it is out of control and messing with people’s lives. AI systems have developed ‘thanobots’ that work by taking a person’s digital footprint, analysing it and then replicating the personality, or even – more freakily – creating avatars that enable the living to interact with the dead using genuine exchanges that have previously occurred. “I wanted to have the last conversation I never had with him,” explains a grieving contributor. And this is understandable in cases where loved ones have not had a chance to say goodbye. One of the most sinister incidences is the case of a South Korean woman called Ji-Sung, who agreed to appear in a televised experiment to meet her dead daughter in virtual reality, right down to gloves that let her “touch” her. But where does this bogus interaction lead to?. Chatting to an avatar masquerading as a loved one is surely a hiding to nowhere.

For the younger generation, who are emotionally more detached from dead members of their family (such as grandparents) AI could provide a way of finding out about and even learning from their elders. But some people have managed to come to terms with death. One contributor preferred to remember her dead husband just as he was rather than knowing ‘whether he’s in Heaven or even in Hell’.

Eternal You certainly offers food for thought in a measured documentary that offers some visually striking images. The most moving encounters are those between the living. Perhaps we should learn to remember our loved ones as they really were, rather than messing with nature. @MeredithTaylor




Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia