After You Die, Microsoft Wants to Resurrect You as a Chatbot

No one knows where we go when we die. Microsoft might have some ideas. 

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Last month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to Microsoft that outlines a process to create a conversational chatbot of a specific person using their social data. In an eerie twist, the patent says the chatbot could potentially be inspired by friends or family members who are deceased, which is almost a direct plot of a popular episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror.

In that episode, “Be Right Back,” a woman named Martha is upset when her partner, Ash, dies in a car accident on the day they were supposed to move in with each other. It turns out one of Martha’s friends has signed her up for a service that will let her communicate with Ash through text messages. Of course, it isn’t really Ash, but a sort of AI-based version of him. Suffice to say, things get weird.

After You Die, Microsoft Wants to Resurrect You as a Chatbot
After You Die, Microsoft Wants to Resurrect You as a Chatbot

According to the new Microsoft patent, images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, and written letters can all be used to “create or modify a specific index in the theme of the specific person’s personality.” From there, engineers can use the index to train a chatbot to converse like that person—yes, even if they’re already dead.

Even creepier: The application could also don the likeness of your dead loved one in a “2D or 3D model,” and utilize their voice while talking to you.

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This sort of chatbot opens a whole can of worms when it comes to data rights and privacy. “Technically, we can recreate anyone online given enough data,” Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, told Reuters in April 2020. “That opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical implications.”

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