Talking to the Deceased: The Ethical Implications of AI Technology
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to communicate with a loved one who has passed away? To have the chance to say goodbye or make amends for unfinished conversations? With the advancements in AI technology, this seemingly impossible desire is becoming a reality. Chinese companies, for example, are using AI to recreate the speech and behavior of deceased individuals by training chat programs with vast amounts of data, photos, recordings, and messages. While this technology offers emotional benefits, it also raises concerns and ethical questions about its consequences.
Privacy and consent are among the primary issues raised by these AI-driven products. The deceased cannot provide consent for the use of their personal information or aspects of their personality. As AI models like GPT-4 exhibit traits suggesting self-awareness and subjectivity, the ethical implications of using these models evolve. This intersection between AI and ethics is explored by Ljubisa Bojic, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory at the University of Belgrade.
According to Bojic, it is essential to recognize human vulnerability to addiction and manipulation. The use of AI apps that use personal information to bring back dead relatives raises concerns about mental health degradation. Bojic suggests that forbidding these apps is one way to prevent potential harm.
On the other side of the equation are the developers creating these technologies. Predrag Tadic, an assistant professor at the University of Belgrade, explains that engineers often neglect discussions about ethics in their work. However, as AI technology advances, it is crucial for developers to consider the broader societal impacts and moral implications of their creations. Tadic emphasizes the importance of thinking about how their time is spent and encourages students to work on problems that help others.
While the excitement of creating innovative technologies is understandable, the ethical framework and regulations put in place will shape how the industry responds to these developments. Bojic describes the current state of the industry as a “Wild West phase” in terms of AI ethics. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that ethical considerations cannot be ignored. Bojic believes that large-scale cooperation and regulation are necessary to ensure AI is treated as a public utility subject to control.
The integration of ethics into AI development requires collaboration between regulators and engineers. Branka Andjelkovic, co-founder and program director of the Public Policy Research Center, suggests that ethical principles should be incorporated into the products themselves, not just proposed regulations. It is essential for engineers to understand and consider the ethical implications of their creations, especially in the case of products like AI-driven communication with deceased individuals.
As AI technology continues to advance, it is crucial to steer it in a direction that respects human rights and democratic values. Bojic argues that by taking precautions and collectively focusing on ethical challenges, the industry can create an AI-empowered future that aligns with our best interests.
It is fascinating to see how AI technology is evolving and providing opportunities that were once unimaginable. However, as this article highlights, it is crucial to consider the ethical implications and potential risks associated with these advancements. Privacy, consent, and mental health are just a few of the concerns that arise when using AI to communicate with deceased individuals. To ensure responsible development and use of AI, it is necessary for regulators, engineers, and society as a whole to work together and prioritize ethics. By doing so, we can shape an AI-powered future that benefits everyone.