death in the future may not be the final goodbye

If you could bring a loved one back from the dead would you choose to do so?
Virtual communications that allow you to pretend to connect with a loved one who has died are only likely to prolong the agony of lossVirtual communications that allow you to pretend to connect with a loved one who has died are only likely to prolong the agony of loss
Virtual communications that allow you to pretend to connect with a loved one who has died are only likely to prolong the agony of loss

It is (currently!) impossible to resurrect someone who has passed away, but researchers are toying with the idea of creating simulations of dead loved ones whom we could talk to using virtual reality technology. The simulation would be made as near-perfect to the deceased as possible, replicating their voice, mannerisms, laughter and gait.

This would be done after accessing digital data available to the creators, including the person’s social media activity, videos and any other existing personal information.

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According to research scientist, Muhammad A. Ahmad, this is just the ‘next step in the evolution of bereavement,’ and he has launched a project to bring this idea to reality.

Ahmad came up with the idea after the death of his father and thinks this would be a way of maintaining a link with the dead person, thus helping people cope with bereavement and grief.

A memorial chatbot is another technical channel for keeping a dead loved one alive and is already a reality thanks to Eugenia Kuyda, who lost a friend in an accident.

She created a memorial bot using hundreds of his old texts, creating the illusion she is still communicating with him.

Analysts say the ‘digital death market’ is set to take off.

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Personally, I hate the idea of trying to keep a dead loved one alive! When my father died, for the first few days of his passing, I kept putting on his favourite cardigan.

I cleared out all his belongings on the evening of his death and donated them to charity the next day, but I couldn’t bear to part with this one garment. I could still smell his familiar scent from it, there were even a few of his silvery hairs caught in the wool. Eventually, as the days passed, I found the garment wasn’t bringing me comfort, but instead reinforcing my terrible feelings of loss. I got rid of the cardigan, it felt unhealthy to keep bringing it out, I realised it was merely a garment, the essence of my father was not retained in it. Everything that I needed to remind me of him was stored in the memories in my mind, as nature intended. I knew that my father would have been disturbed at the thought of me embracing his cardy as though he were in it! The thought of being able to put on a headset and see an exact likeness of my late dad or mum, and be able to communicate with them is overwhelming. How on earth would you ever be able to move on after someone’s death, if you can resurrect a simulation of them when you felt like it? How would that impact on one’s real-life relationships? To be able to recreate a lost partner suspended in time, who never ages and has no flaws, would surely put some off becoming involved with a real, aging, flawed human to share life with again, whom in time will also pass on. To think of my husband or son clinging to, or trying to communicate with, a virtual version of myself after I’m gone, is upsetting and unnerving. I wouldn’t want that enduring grief for them. Although researchers believe this may help people cope with grief, I don’t agree. We must grieve effectively to release the love we invested in that person in order to reinvest that love and energy elsewhere. If we are unable to grieve properly, then we cannot move on, and a part of us stays tied to the past. I believe to be able to access and communicate with a near-perfect, interactive, likeness of a dead loved one, would only bind us even more tightly to them. We may never be able to fully acknowledge that they are physically gone. We must learn to accept the finality of our loss when bereaved, and for me one of the things that made this acceptance possible, was eradicating all traces of my parents. Having nothing around to remind me of them, not even a photograph displayed, helped drive the message home in my mind, that they were gone forever. A simulation of them would simply prolong my agony. In bereavement, the letters R.I.P stand for Rest in Peace, not Return if Possible, resurrecting a loved one via virtual reality is disturbingly blurring the lines between life and death.