WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Technology is impacting all of society in new ways, and it’s even starting to get us to question the concept of death and dying.
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Death used to be a permanent thing, but advances in technology now mean we can see a way to bring ancient relatives back from the dead, and even re-incarnate people, including former CEO’s of companies, in digital form as avatars and bots that you can converse with almost as you would as if they were still alive – kind of. And to go one step further, in time there’s no reason why technology, such as AI, wouldn’t allow people to live virtually with their dead relatives or friends in perpetuity and even have those avatars age and “grow old.” There’s food for thought …
That said though remember that the tech will improve quickly and that by the end of the decade there’s a high chance you won’t be able to tell the digital “clone” from your beloved … Now though one woman in South Korea has taken the concept of “resurrection” to a whole new level.
See the “Reunion” for yourself
Wearing Virtual Reality (VR) goggles, Jang Ji-sung burst into tears as her seven-year-old daughter, Na-yeon, emerged from behind piles of wood in a neighbourhood park, her playground until she died from blood-related diseases three years ago.
“Mom, where have you been? Have you been thinking of me?” Na-yeon said, prompting a choked-up Jang to reply: “Always.”
Jang tried to reach closer, only to see her hands penetrate the virtual figure wearing her daughter’s favourite violet dress and carrying a pink purse featuring Elsa and Anna, sisters from Disney’s animated musical “Frozen”.
“I really want to touch you just once,” Jang said, her voice and hands quivering. “I really missed you.”
The tearful reunion, aired last week in a documentary by South Korean broadcaster MBC, was made possible by VR technology which embodied Na-yeon in a digital avatar modelled upon a child actor using photos and memories from her mother.
The documentary, entitled “Meeting You”, struck a chord with many South Koreans while highlighting the growing scope of the new technology beyond gaming.
“People would often think that technology is something that’s cold. We decided to participate to see if technology can comfort and warm your heart when it is used for people,” said Lee Hyun-suk, director of the Seoul-based VIVE Studios, who led the project.
Kim Jong-woo, who produced the documentary, said he focused on “remembering” Na-yeon instead of recreating her, so Jang and her family would feel as if her daughter had lived on.
For Jang, her last wish was to tell Na-yeon she loved her and has never forgotten her.
“It’s heart breaking that her time has stopped at the age of 7,” Jang said, with a faint smile. “But I was so happy to see her that way.”