A group of people were able to talk to dead loved ones thanks to artificial intelligence that replicates the voice and converses in real time. The curious and no less controversial experiment was part of a Spanish television program, in which volunteers were asked to send audios of dead relatives and then interact with them.
The video with the reactions was uploaded to social networks and not only shows the emotion of people when hearing their loved ones again, but also sparked a new controversy: there are many who warn that this type of experiences can interfere with the natural adaptation to grief and contribute to the denial of the loss.
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To carry out the segment, the production of El Hormiguero, a talk show with humor, interviews and scientific dissemination experiments, presented by Pablo Motos, requested audios of deceased people from volunteers who wanted to participate.
All participants in the experiment were moved by hearing the voices of their dead loved ones. (Capture: Twitter/El_Hormiguero)
The experiment took advantage of technologies based on artificial intelligence to recreate, from real audio, the voices of deceased people. But they went one step further: they not only reproduced those voices, something very easy to do (there are plenty of examples), but they created bots with identities that posed as the family member who is no longer here.
Thus, they made it possible for the dead to talk to the living and ask them questions such as, for example, if they had any pending issues to talk about, if they wanted to tell them something, or how they had been since their own death.
The results and interactions were surprising. Even knowing that on the other side there was a computer posing as the deceased loved one, the experiment participants became emotional and cried after hearing the voice of their relative. Even everyone responded to them as if they had been talking to the real, live person.
However, on social media, the experiment was not very well received. “It is a terrible idea, it generates expectations about the process of listening to and talking to a dead person again. We don't have to go too far, Black Mirror already proposed it and it went wrong,” reflected a user on Twitter/X in reference to an episode of the futuristic Netflix series in which the protagonist could talk and interact with her dead partner in a traffic accident, thanks to artificial intelligence.
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“This is bad. Those people are dead. Let's not try to replace them with robots that are not them, it seems to me to be playing with topics that should not be entered into. It's all illusion and it can cost us dearly,” said another person.
In general, the responses to the video published by the official El Hormiguero account in X agreed that it was a low blow and a cruel, unethical experience. Many assured that this type of situation would end up leaving trauma and psychological problems for those who experience it.
What can happen if we use artificial intelligence to talk to the dead?
“A trauma is a sudden and unexpected situation, impossible to handle by a person who does not have the tools to deal with it and that disturbs their well-being,” Violeta Laurenti, clinical psychologist MN 50366, explained to TN Tecno. “In this case, the participants, at knowing that they are going to hear the voice of their family member who is no longer there, they are a little protected: there are expectations and they know what is going to happen. But that does not mean that later emotions are awakened that are difficult to deal with,” she added. “Thus, emotions that have to do with loss, anguish, sadness, etc. can be reactivated.”
Regarding grief and the shock that can occur when hearing the voice of a recently deceased loved one, Laurenti expressed: “Grieving processes involve working through the loss and transforming ties. By creating a communication that does not exist, you interfere with that process.” And he added: “Talking to a dead person, that is, having a conversation that would not exist in reality, inevitably supposes a disruption in the temporal and psychic logic that a mourning requires and in the differentiation between what the link with that person was before. and after death.”
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The specialist explained that this disruption in the process of transforming that bond in presence, to a bond in absence, could produce dissociative effects, especially for fragile or vulnerable people for whom the grieving process has been difficult or is in progress. However, she clarified: “You cannot be conclusive about irreparable damage for something that in practice has not been formally studied yet, or at least not with sufficient evidence. But it is possible to conjecture that any unreal instance about which the truth is believed has a psychological impact that could have deregulatory effects and consequences for overall health.”
Regarding these new technologies, the psychologist was decisive: “Artificial intelligences have a creative quota. Once the flow of basic information has been exhausted, it would construct an illusory experience of vital continuity of the one who is no longer there.” And she concluded: “Every day, there are people who talk to bots, such as customer service bots, who believe that they are real people who answer on the other side, and that gives them a feeling of satisfaction. But the difference between that interaction and an interaction with someone deceased and significant to the person is that the idea of constructing an existential continuity that does not correspond to reality becomes risky for mental health.”