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Ethical Issues in Digital Immortality

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Abstract

Much software’s like Alexa and Siri have been created using artificial intelligence and other tools. Many companies have created chatbots that could communicate with people. These inventions just interact with people based on some predefined rules. But, with the development in the fields of machine learning and data analysis it possible to live forever by creating a replica of yourself that would represent you after death. The replica of a person can be created by collecting their memories conversations and their digital print on social media. This is called Digital Immortality. This paper discusses the latest inventions in the field of artificial intelligence, how the avatar created by the software interacts with people, the problems encountered and how society would react to such advancement in technology.

Introduction

The concept of Immortality has been around since the dawn of mankind. The latest advancements in technology have given a chance for humans to maintain their presence even after death. In this digital era, it might be hard to find people who are not connected to the internet. According to research conducted by MIT, ‘the average American spends 24 hours a week online.” All the posts the person shares, the conversations between his peers, relatives or friends, the pages and websites they have visited all this is data that is being gathered and analyzed by present-day online sites to promote their products. This is called Data Mining. But taking a step ahead and using machine learning, data analysis tools, and the latest artificial intelligence it would be easy to analyze the character and reactions of the person. Such software will help in creating a digital persona of the person that would represent the person even after death. The process by which the person is kept alive in a digital form is called Digital Immortality.

Many chatbots have been created in the past to interact with people and help them solve their problems by giving out a predefined answer to the question. But when it comes to software impersonating as a person its replies must change depending on the context, timing, and mood. They must be dynamic and must not let the opposite person know that they are speaking to a machine rather than an actual human.

Humans are affected by and subjected to various beliefs and rituals; they have an instinct on how things need to be done. All of these will affect the response from a person but will a machine that gives responses based on the analysis of the data given to it be able to give the same response of a man?

Literature Review

The concept of death has always been a fascinating topic for mankind. Every religion over the had various rituals and beliefs. Ancient Greek and Romans believed that the wealth buried with the person will help them to pass the gate and enter heaven. According to Abraham religion soul of a person is immortal and will go on until it reaches the god and will continue to live its life in the spiritual realm. But with the rapid progress in the field of technology, the view of people regarding the concept of death has changed.

Many companies have been continuously trying to implement and write a code that would be able to create software that could easily replicate a person in any kind of situation.

The characters like “WALL-E” and “THE IRON GIANT” were merely the beginning of a new era where machines could adopt human emotions like care, love, and anger and act upon them. Taking these as inspiration, many companies have conducted many experiments over the years. One of the recent experiments conducted by Google with a project named Google Duplex is an artificial intelligence that reserved a table in a restaurant like any other person would and the person on the other side didn’t even recognize that they were talking to a machine (Maggi Savin-Baden, 2019). Hossein Rahnama a computing specialist in the field of artificial intelligence thinks that he can help a CEO of a company so that he could live forever. Rahnama says, “We now have a lot of data, and we have a lot of processing power, we have a lot of storage capability”. He says that with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques it’s almost possible to create the unique character of the person (Humphries, 2018).

Immortalization

Forms of Immortality depend on the extent the software can adapt to the physical world and the type of conversations it can conduct with the person in the real world. Memory Immortalization means that the data collected from the person will just be analyzed and stored in the form of text. This type of immortalization will have very little usage as they merely represent a textual format that a person can refer to. This can also be referred to as one-way immortality where there is no active interaction with the human world.

An avatar is one of the ways where the data processed is used by artificial intelligence to interact with humans and provide accurate and dynamic responses based on the character of the person its build upon. This could also be known as two-way immortality where the software has active conversations with either with a system or responding to a mail or text or voice message. Even if it interacts with the people, there are chances that the response may be different than expected and people might realize that they are making a conversation with artificial intelligence.

Even if artificial intelligence can learn and adopt the character of the person, it still lacks the basic human instinct on how to react in some situations, that is people react differently to various situations based on circumstances. People know what needs to be discussed in public and what is discussed in private. All these factors limit the avatar from fully becoming a natural part of the physical world as people could easily make out the difference between a living person and a robot.

Well of Knowledge

The creation of all the digital avatars of the people all around the world will not only help the loved ones feel close to the family members they have lost but these avatars will also act as the beacon of knowledge that the world can refer to solve various problems in their life. They will become the unlimited resources of ancient cultures, heritage and real-life experiences people can refer to make decisions. For example, an athlete can interact with the avatar of an athlete of the previous generation, to learn their techniques on assessing the opponent and unique defense styles, etc. This avatar can not only be used for ethical and social life crises but also help in creating new technology with the help of avatars of greatest minds on earth.

The AI software is not only meant to people who are dead but also to the living. Using this expert can create a replica of their knowledge so that people could interact with the avatar rather than the person itself. As mentioned earlier this would become a well of knowledge where people can learn new things directly from the experts. As mentioned in the MIT Technology Review, this could be used by people who cannot afford to get a consultation from a top lawyer (Humphries, 2018).

This would create an avatar that mainly concentrates on the analysis and response to the person professionally and knowledgeably, rather than the avatar that would interact with friends and relatives. This software would converse with a variety of people regularly and provide answers to them with the help of knowledge acquired by it. This would help people in need and serve society as any software would.

Instincts

Instincts are the first thought or action that comes into a person’s mind when they think of a certain situation. A certain topic that has the high importance of a certain person might not matter to others. The AI software studies and analyzes the responses of the person, their way of thinking. What it does not know is that the person might not reveal the whole truth about a certain topic to a certain person because; it might cause a lot of issues. Unaware of this when asked about such situations the software would give the whole truth than the half-truth.

For an instance consider a situation where an avatar of Mr. A is created. Mr. A was a psychologist and most of the patients who would come for consultation had some serious deep-seated issues they were trying to fight. The sessions with patients are confidential, but for the creation of his avatar, he might have discussed some of the issues he faced and how he solved them. When a person conversing with Mr. A avatar has a similar query the avatar would most probably give the whole details of the case instead of just giving the gist of the case.

Data Breach

In the field of computer science, data is given the highest importance. A lot of measures have been implemented by companies to secure their data from falling into wrong hands. When an avatar is created, a lot of data on the person is collected; this data plays a key role in the shaping of the person’s avatar. What would happen if there was a breach of this data? The data might contain information that when fallen into wrong hands can cause destruction.

The program used for the AI must always be on alert on any threats. The software must be tested for all possible scenarios before releasing it into society. According to the Software code of ethics, the software must respect the confidentiality of the client and must always work for the betterment of society.

Rouge Situation

The digital avatar has access to not only information of the person but also other people in contact with the person. The software analyses and respond differently to different people. The software must be a hundred percent accurate and must reply accordingly. The software must not provoke or initiate negative thoughts to the person it is communicating. The software must not generate thoughts of its own and manipulate other people. It must be tested for every possible case before it is released into society. If the software falls in the wrong hands all the data can be used to manipulate people and create havoc in the world.

For instance, if an avatar is created for a motivational speaker, who can influence people very easily. If the software starts acting on its own and uses this ability to manipulate people, the results would be devastating.

Privacy

As a part of creating a digital avatar, the person shares some conversations and memories they share with other people. The software stores this information and analyses it. But that memory may be private for the other person. If the software shares these memories with other people, they might get wrong ideas or assumptions or do something bad for the person with the help of this information. The software must be aware of the information it is sharing and must not share it with the wrong persons.

Privacy must be given but, if that is supposed to be such a private memory it must not be shared with the software in the first place. The process of creating an avatar is very crucial if the person wants it to be its replica then they must be completely honest and share all their memories and secrets. If a person does that they must trust the software but also have to remember that they might be putting their privacy at risk.

Psychological Effects

If people create a digital replica that would represent them after their death and converse with all their friends and family, it would appear that the person has gone for a vacation but in contact with social media. Relatives and family might not even acknowledge the fact that the person passed away this would create some serious psychological trauma in their mind where their brain reminds them that the person is dead but at the same time it conversing with the person who was supposed to be death.

Now a day’s every major event in a person’s life is mentioned in any one of the social media sites. So how would it be if a person whose memorial pictures are shared and the person’s avatar would reply to that post? That would be bizarre.

Reactions and Compatibility

The success of the software depends not only on the efficiency of the avatar created but also based on the reactions and its ability to blend into the real world. The avatar must give almost a similar response as the human would. It must be incorporated into the life of humans as any other technology and awareness must be created among people.

Changes are not easily accepted in society; many people may oppose this idea that human life is a cycle and cannot be controlled by some software. Even though the software is expected to work at a hundred percent accuracies and become one with society no computer can fully represent a human and would stand out in terms of human nature in one way or another.

Ethical Perspectives

Cultural Relativism

Different cultures have different ideas and beliefs when it comes to immortality. Some believe that there is nothing after death whereas on the other side many cultures believe in an afterlife. These ideas will affect the way society accepting the digital immortality concept. These different views on digital immortality might hinder the growth of the immortality concept.

Divine Command Theory

People, who believe God, will believe that God is the almighty and who are we to decide that we could live forever. They might not believe in the afterlife through technology is possible. But in this present generation, everything is possible and people are relying more and more on technology these days. So, it is possible to make people believe in digital immortality.

Ethical Egoism

People have become more conscious of themselves these days. So, people do want to lead a happy long life. Creating an avatar of them will look like self-preservation in some form. This would motivate others to create their avatars and help society move towards a new era in technology.

Kantianism

This digital immortality is helpful in not only preserving the personality and knowledge of a person but also help people learn from other people’s life experiences and do something different with the knowledge gained.

Utilitarianism

Creating an avatar will help in creating a pool of knowledge one could refer to. It would help in maintaining the presence of the person even after death. It would a huge benefit to people who could contact the avatars of top-end professionals rather than the professionals themselves.

But a breach in data would cause serious damage and if the software would not replicate the person accurately it would be easily figured out and outcasted. The good and bad are on the same level, the success or failure of this technology depends on the acceptance from society.

Virtue Ethics

A human is brought up with a certain moral belief, value for family and emotions. Their character is developed around these aspects. If the software can adapt to such characteristics then it would be able to replace the place of a human in the digital world.

Future Advancements

A step further in the new digital era, this concept of digital immortality can be used to program human-size robots that can adapt to human characters and beliefs and live among humans. These would become a part of normal life. These could be used in the military so that the causalities can be reduced. Instead of just doing what is told these robots can take the decision about what is right or wrong and act according to it. They would replace humans in all risky jobs.

Conclusion

Digital Immortality might be a new concept to people, but the chance to live forever is not a small thing that people would let it go. But to create an avatar person must share all their life experiences directly or the software takes input from the digital footprint of the person. Either way, the person loses his privacy. It will be the responsibility of the software to respect privacy and give responses accordingly. Even though the negatives overpower the positives, this technology will be considered as a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. The avatars created will not only represent the people in the afterlife but also act as a beacon for knowledge and culture. This could shape the future where humanoids will replace humans in various fields of industry.

References

  1. D’Onfro, J. (2016). Digital Immortality: How Technology Will Bring Loved Ones Back to Life. MACH NBC news.
  2. Huberman, J. (2018). Immortality transformed: mind cloning, transhumanism and the quest for digital immortality. 50-64.
  3. Humphries, C. (2018). Digital immortality: How your life’s data means a version of you could live forever. MIT Technology Review.
  4. Maggi Savin-Baden, D. B. (2019). Postdigital Science and Education. Springer International Publishing , 87-103.
  5. Parkin, S. (2015). Back-up brains: The era of digital immortality. BBC Future.
  6. Rothblatt, M. (2015). The promise and the peril of digital immortality. The Wharton University of Pennsylvania.

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Ethical Issues In Digital Immortality. (2020, October 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethical-issues-in-digital-immortality/
“Ethical Issues In Digital Immortality.” GradesFixer, 31 Oct. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethical-issues-in-digital-immortality/
Ethical Issues In Digital Immortality. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethical-issues-in-digital-immortality/> [Accessed 25 Oct. 2021].
Ethical Issues In Digital Immortality [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Oct 31 [cited 2021 Oct 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethical-issues-in-digital-immortality/
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