Artificial intelligence won’t be able to bring the dead back to life, but it may be able to simulate talking to a lost loved one to help humans through the grieving process.
The high-tech makeover of traditional seances comes amid the insane growth of large language models, a form of artificial intelligence trained on vast amounts of text. The year of ChatGPT’s release sparked discussions about how far the technology could go, as chatbots mimic human conversations and answer human prompts.
Jarren Rocks, a product designer and manager at Los Angeles-based software development firm AE Studio, is working on a program called Seance AI that will allow people to converse with chatbots that mimic deceased loved ones.
“It’s essentially a short interaction that provides a sense of closure. That’s really the point,” Lockes told outlet Futurism. “It’s not meant to be a super long-term thing. In its current state, it’s meant to provide a closure and emotional processing of the conversation.”
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Humans have long been fascinated with trying to communicate with the dead, culminating in the late 19th century when people flocked to séances and at least 4 million Americans were identified as “spiritualists.” According to The New Yorker, even cultural figures on the world stage, such as Mark Twain and Queen Victoria, dabbled in the occult by attending seances.
However, many other Americans and Christians shunned such activities, and the Catholic Church issued an edict in 1898 condemning spiritualism and another in 1917 banning seances.
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In the planned AI seance, only chatbots will be able to communicate with living people, but Rocks said he’s leaning more toward the “magical” aspects of the technology.
“We’re trying to make it sound as magical and mysterious as possible,” he told Futurism about Seance AI’s name.
Rocks told Fox News Digital that the project’s name is “intentionally catchy because we believe we can provide real comfort to some people.” Hoped to “draw attention to the potential impact of the technology” – but said that while they supported “healthy regulation”, they didn’t want to stop advances in AI. “
The program uses technology from OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab behind ChatGPT, and prompts users to tell the program the name, age, personality traits, and cause of death of the person they want to talk to, according to the outlet. Users will also upload texts from deceased loved ones to serve as templates for how the deceased communicated while they were alive.
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Once the information is uploaded, users will be taken to a webpage displaying the flames, and can then message their simulated loved one. According to Futurism, the chatbot responds based on the messages it receives, simulating a deceased loved one.
Rocks told Fox News Digital that he has been thinking about building such a technology since the advent of large language models, noting that he and his colleagues at AE Studio have all experienced the loss of a loved one.
“Personally, I’m not as curious about the other side as I am dealing with the grief that we’re dealing with on this side,” he said. “As people, we’ve been fascinated for a long time with understanding what happens after death, and while there are many technical solutions to grief for counseling or therapy, few have addressed personal loss so boldly.”
Rocks said the show, which has a similar tone to the “Black Mirror” episodes, detailing a surreal composite re-enactment of a dead character, was not intended to be used on a regular basis.
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“For short dialogue, I think it feels very human. I think it kind of breaks down [when you] It starts to pick up on repetitions,” Lockes said. “It follows a pattern where it doesn’t really know what’s going on.
Rocks likens the program to a high-tech Ouija board that can be used for closing purposes.
“Traditional seances don’t last forever. Personally, I think the shorter time span helps encourage endings, and it’s a tool to help you deal with some unresolved emotions. That said, there are Some potential long-term applications are possible, and we may introduce other features later,” he told Fox News Digital, noting that a feature might be built, such as an “AI ghost of someone in a graveyard.”
“My priority for Seance AI is to give people the tools to help them deal with loss,” he added.
Artificial intelligence has gained attention in the grief of bereaved loved ones, including by recreating the voices of the dead.
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South Korea-based tech company DeepBrain AI makes a program called “Re;memory,” which allows users to upload video, audio and photos of the deceased, which are then used to create virtual versions of people that can communicate with humans. In China, tech developers are building what they’re calling “sorrow bots” so people can communicate with deceased loved ones, according to Insider.
SeanceAI will launch Tuesday, including testing a free tier of the program as well as a paid tier for long-term users, Rocks said.