When AI means artificial immortality: just ask Alexa

Hereafter is turning dead ends into conversational opportunities.

Understandably, we use Longevity in a mostly physical sense – extending lifespan and healthspan and combating aging and its effects on our bodies. What happens when your aging outpaces current medical and technological therapies and you haven’t achieved ‘escape velocity’ … what can be preserved of ourselves for posterity?

Longevity.Technology: A few months ago we spoke to James Vlahos, creator of the Dadbot, about how conversational AI can be used to allow people to interact with the memories of a loved one after they have died. On 1 October, Vlahos is speaking at the Ibercaja Foundation conference, discussing the ethical implications his business model entails, so we felt it timely to get up-to-date on Vlahos’s company Hereafter – especially as Ricky Gervais’ hit series “Afterlife” has thrown a spotlight on how preserved memories can benefit the living.

The AI start-up has a “life story platform” that is now ready for customers, which Vlahos sums up as “a structured way to record your life story or that of a family member.”  In order to preserve memories, the app uses a “seasoned” interviewer to ask questions about everything from childhood and family to career, relationships, and hobbies. Platform-users can record sayings, songs, and jokes, and share advice, wisdom and distinctive aspects of their personalities.

AI Hereafter is turning dead ends into conversational opportunities says James Vlahos, creator of the Dadbot.
James Vlahos, creator of the Dadbot

Clients receive the full audio recordings of their sessions, just as they would with a conventional oral history project, but Vlahos explains that Hereafter is innovative because it: “gives users an interactive way to access the content in short, engaging segments, anywhere and everywhere.”

This is done via smartphone app, or a smart home device like the Amazon Echo. Interacting with the AI via Siri or Alexa, family members can ask questions about the life of the departed relation and hear the answers in their actual recorded voice. Hereafter style this as: “A unique, accessible, and emotionally powerful way to preserve and share your life story, or to help remember someone you love.”

For some, Longevity via the Singularity – uploading consciousness to the cloud to achieve digital immortality – is the way to truly escape the constraints of corporeality. This is far off enough to be still in the realms of sci-fi, but as Hereafter demonstrates, the use of technology to address what happens after we die and to attempt to preserve part of the self is already very much a reality.

We have some exciting AI and Neurotech news coming up: stay tuned!

Image credit: Charlotte GovaertPixabay
Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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When AI means artificial immortality: just ask Alexa

Hereafter is turning dead ends into conversational opportunities. Understandably, we use Longevity in a mostly physical sense - extending lifespan and healthspan and combating aging...