Funerals Employ AI Tech to Bring Deceased Loved Ones Back From the Dead

Funerals Employ AI Tech to Bring Deceased Loved Ones Back From the Dead - 'Ultimately, when and how this technology is used in America will be consumer driven'

Funerals Employ AI Tech to Bring Deceased Loved Ones Back From the Dead

Funerals Employ AI Tech to Bring Deceased Loved Ones Back From the Dead

In what seems eerily like a “Black Mirror” episode, undertakers in China have begun using Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to create realistic avatars of the deceased that can communicate with mourners—and industry experts claim it is only a matter of time before the technology arrives in America.

Shanghai Fushouyun, a company that offers digital funeral services, conducted its first funeral using AI technologies in January 2022, according to the Strait Times.

“We hope to let the living understand that death is not the end of life. People want to use AI to recover the deceased because they need to release their emotions,” Yu Hao, Fushouyun chief executive, told the publication.

The avatars are created through a blend of tools such as the ChatGPT chatbot and Midjourney, an image generating software, coupled with a compilation of photos and voice recordings that can be combined to form life-like replicas of the deceased. The goal of its creators is to help people cope with loss through the grieving process.

Mrs. Smith

In July 2022, a grandmother was able to answer questions at her own funeral with the help of AI enhanced “holographic” video technology, according to the Telegraph. Marina Smith, who had passed away at the age of 87, had previously recorded several hours worth of details about her life, many of which were unknown to mourners. At her funeral, the hologram version of Mrs. Smith was able to respond to questions about her life posed by those in attendance.

Her son, Dr. Stephen Smith, co-founder and CEO of StoryFile, creator of the technology that created the life-like image. Told the publication that the mourners at his mother’s funeral felt a sense of relief from the back and forth from beyond the grave.

“Mum answered questions from grieving relatives after they had watched her cremation,” Dr. Smith told The Telegraph. “The extraordinary thing was that she answered their questions with new details and honesty.”

“People feel emboldened when recording their data. Mourners might get a freer, truer version of their lost loved one.”

However, critics of the AI technology claim that bringing back realistic images of the dead to communicate with the living could do damage by circumventing the mourning process and sending confusing signals, especially to children, in confronting the stark realities of loss.

Coming to America?

Colin Haskett, the President of Haskett Funeral Homes, admits that while the concept of A.I. might be difficult to accept at first, people shouldn’t be closed off to the idea of embracing the benefits these new advancements can offer.

“We are still in the very early stages of seeing what A.I. is capable of doing and right now we see it as a tool we could implement to help tell people’s stories,” Mr. Haskett told the Epoch Times.

And now that the avatars are being used in China, it is all but inevitable that it will spread to the rest of the world, he added.

“What we have seen is that if there is tech taking place somewhere it will soon be going everywhere, so you can be assured that this technology will be spreading in the future. It really is a matter of when, not if,” added Mr. Haskett.

Mr. Haskett, who runs four funeral homes in Canada, says that he has already seen the benefits of AI technology first hand and has begun utilizing it to assist in writing personalized funeral services.

“We have definitely been playing around with AI and have so far received great reactions,” said Mr. Haskett. “It is allowing us to build more creative material and in using it there is less time involved on our end.”

However, whether life-like avatars of the deceased will be appearing any time soon at funeral services in America to answer questions from loved ones remains an open question that will be decided by the public, according to Mr. Haskett.

“As for the future, I would definitely not rule anything out,” said Mr. Haskett. “Ultimately, when and how  this technology is used in America will be consumer driven—but people would be crazy not to at least be open to the idea.”