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Loss, Grief and Mourning in the Age of A.I. Imitations

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a projected text conversation on top of a man using a smartphone (words of text conversation are not legible)
 (iStock)

Last fall, in search of a way to cope with his grief over the death of his fiancée eight years prior, Joshua Barbeau used artificial intelligence software to program a chatbot to simulate his fiancée, based on old texts she’d sent him. Barbeau told the San Francisco Chronicle that his conversations with the A.I. bot allowed him to feel a sense of closure and to better handle his grief. Barbeau isn’t the first to chat with digital imitations of lost loved ones, and as A.I software improves, he’s not likely to be the last. It’s all spawning ethics concerns and broader conversations around grief itself. We’ll talk about postmortem A.I. ethics and how A.I. might impact our mourning processes in the years to come.

Guests:

Jason Fagone, narrative writer, San Francisco Chronicle; author, "The Jessica Simulation: Love and loss in the age of A.I."

Robin Sloan, author, "Sourdough" and "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore"; creative AI enthusiast

Alexis Elder, associate professor of philosophy, University of Minnesota Duluth

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