Cambridge experts warn about impact of AI ‘deadbots’

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It seems you can’t go a day without hearing about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Now, experts from the University of Cambridge are warning about the impact of so-called AI deadbots on the loved ones of the deceased individuals they are mimicking.

According to the Cambridge researchers, deadbots – which are designed to allow people to hold text and voice conversations with lost loved ones – run the risk of causing psychological harm and even digitally “haunting” those left behind without design safety standards.

While family members need to sign up to have their loved ones recreated using AI, the resulting chatbots could be taken advantage of by companies to “surreptitiously advertise products,” the researchers say. It’s something that’s akin to people being digitally “stalked by the dead”.

Furthermore, while people’s families may gain initial comfort from the AI creation, there is a risk they could become emotionally overwhelmed.

“Rapid advancements in generative AI mean that nearly anyone with Internet access and some basic know-how can revive a deceased loved one,” said Dr Katarzyna Nowaczyk-Basińska, study co-author and researcher at Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI).

“This area of AI is an ethical minefield. It’s important to prioritise the dignity of the deceased, and ensure that this isn’t encroached on by financial motives of digital afterlife services, for example.

“At the same time, a person may leave an AI simulation as a farewell gift for loved ones who are not prepared to process their grief in this manner. The rights of both data donors and those who interact with AI afterlife services should be equally safeguarded,” she added.

The research is published in the journal Philosophy and Technology.

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