I was struck by an article I read in the Daily Telegraph (27/10/15) on the ambition of an animator and tech developer, Simon Keown.
He was speaking at an exhibition in Prague on the ability to create a 3D avatar of a passed loved one, through rendering pictures and videos.
This loved one would be interactive and able to ‘know’ what you have been up to by connecting to your social media feeds and apps.
The quote by Benjamin Franklin comes to mind “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”.
Soon, for the living at least, that view might be outdated.
In my opinion, the psychological impact of this could be disastrous. For example, see a family at christmas, opening presents under the christmas tree as the mother comes in and says nonchalantly, ‘Let’s switch on Grandma for the day!’.
The ability to choose to interact with a virtual image of someone who is no longer with us stunts our growth as individuals. We would be perpetually stuck in the grieving process; not able to transition to a new way of living without the knowledge we can fire up the deceased at the click of a button.
However, we don’t have to buy the product, we can choose to go through the grieving process naturally without the virtual world impacting us. I would argue that the societal pressure, guilt and more over choice of being able to resurrect a loved one at the click of the button would be too much for us to live with. The thought of being able to see and ‘interact’ with someone we miss so dearly, even if it is artificial and limited would be overwhelming.
Again, the little voice in my head says, well many of us have videos and pictures of passed loved ones, what’s the big deal?
There was a documentary on Channel 4 recently on a similar subject. Instead of grieving however the subject of the documentary was based on love, or rather, the growth of love in the virtual world and the lack of physical love within Japanese culture. Many men have actually fallen in love with characters from computer games, designed to mimic being in a relationship. The interactive element is how we establish and sustain our emotion. The avatar of our loved one would know what you have been up to on a daily basis. You would get a sense of interaction with the image which is not present in the passive media of video and images.
As much as society teaches us to stay smiling and dismiss negative emotions and pain, it is inevitable. Technology, and the virtual world, is attempting to keep us in a perpetual state of positivity when the physical world is a lot less predictable and a lot more volatile, which is possibly why many of us are connecting more with our virtual selves than our physical ones.
On a more human/poignant issue; Does the ability to resurrect a loved one in the form on an avatar devalue the relationship you had with them? The experience we had with them is heartfelt and emotional which cannot be replicated. The ability to create a computer generated version leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The engineered nature of the avatar’s personality and the experience we have with them, is almost as if we are being tricked or duped into restoring that connection with them, when in reality it does not.
Unfortunately everyone must go through the passing away of a loved one. Psychotherapy can give you space to understand your own mental space while helping you through the grieving process.