MIT Startup Allows People to Create Online Avatars Simulating Dead Relatives

A little disturbing for sure, but also fascinating at the same time, a new startup from the minds of MIT wants to make money by creating online avatars available for chat that are fabricated to mimic the personality of dead people.

Say what?  Yeah, that’s what we thought too.

Why bring flowers when we have Skype?
Why bring flowers when we have Skype?

The concept is that the company called eterni.me (also the website) has developed an extremely complex algorithm that when given enough data can actually do a good job of digitally bringing dead people back to life.  For a fee, of course, eterni.me would take information such as chat logs, instant messages, emails, and pretty much anything it can get its hands on that might give some insight into a person’s psyche.  Then, the person is recreated and available for chat 24/7.  Naturally, the more data available, the closer you’re gonna get to the real thing.

This is one of those incredible situations that is going to make some people’s day and piss a lot of people off.  On the one hand, they are certainly trying to profit from other people’s misfortunes.  Many psychologists would argue that this is not a successful way to manage grief as it is not promoting moving on as much as it is holding onto the past.  Others might argue that its harmless and gives people that have lost loved ones an opportunity to deal with it in their own way.  Still more people will probably try it out not so much as a desperate attempt to interact with loved ones beyond the grave, but more as a technological curiosity, wanting to see just how close this machine can get to impersonating a beloved spouse, child, or other relative.

So what do you think?  Eerie or cool?  Unethical or heartwarming?  The next big thing or another Internet fad?

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