By trawling traces of their online activity, Eterni.me wants to reconstruct people's personalities with an artificially intelligent version that friends and family can 'chat' to after they're gone.
The death of a loved one is an irreparable loss, but tokens of the departed can help grievers to remember what it was like when they were alive and appreciate their existence. While projects such as DNA Memorial enable future generations to learn more about their passed relatives’ genetic makeup, a new startup called Eterni.me is going much further. By trawling traces of their online activity, the company wants to reconstruct people’s personalities with an artificially intelligent version that friends and family can ‘chat’ to after they’re gone.
The uncanny idea — which bears a striking resemblance to an episode of the UK’s Black Mirror science fiction series, which explores the dark implications of digital technology — collects together chat logs, text messages, emails and social media posts from the deceased and uses algorithms and artificial intelligence to present what is essentially a chatbot that resembles that person’s online persona. Although the project — which has come out of the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program — is still in its early stages, users will be able to speak or type questions and prompts to an avatar of their dead relative, who will respond with information gleaned from their online past. According to its creators, the concept is less about ressurrecting the dead and more about unlocking the memories hidden in the trails of their internet usage. If that sounds creepy, Eterni.me CEO Marius Ursache recently assured Fast Company: “We’re very aware we’re not creating a digital clone or anything creepy.”
Eterni.me’s essential aim is to lessen the impact of death and ensure that people are remembered after they die — something everyone hopes for. It also taps into a wider trend for dealing with the masses of social media data that’s left after we’re gone. Are there other ways to create tributes to friends and family members using the memories they leave behind?