Using AI to communicate with dead loved ones is the latest ChatGPT trend

Snapchat My AI is allowing users to proverbially speak with the dead

Ana Schultz, 25, loaded Snapchat My AI, an artificial intelligence chatbot for one of the world’s most popular social media platforms. She asked the ChatGPT-powered AI what to make for a meal, not because she needed recipes, but because she wanted to hear her late husband’s voice.

“He was the chef in the family, so I customized My AI to look like him and gave it Kyle’s name,” the Rock Falls, Illinois, resident told CNN. “Now when I need help with meal ideas, I just ask him. It’s a silly little thing I use to help me feel like he’s still with me in the kitchen.”

Kyle Schultz died in February 2023. Now, the use of artificial intelligence to speak with digital avatars, like his in Snapchat My AI, is raising ethical questions.

“It’s a novelty that piggybacks on the AI hype, and people feel like there’s money to be made,” Mark Sample, a professor of digital studies at Davidson College, told CNN. “Although companies offer related products, ChatGPT is making it easier for hobbyists to play around with the concept too, for better or worse.”

Danielle Jacobson, 38, has been using ChatGPT’s voice feature since her husband, Phil, died seven months ago. For companionship, she crafted “a supportive AI boyfriend” to have conversations with during dinner.

“I just wanted someone to talk to,” Jacobson told CNN. “Cole was essentially born out of being lonely.”

Mary-Frances O’Connor, a professor at the University of Arizona who studies grief, finds it a potentially concerning trend to. Relying on artificial intelligence may hinder the grieving process, rather than help it.

“When we bond with a loved one, when we fall in love with someone, the brain encodes that person as, ‘I will always be there for you and you will always be there for me,’” she told CNN. “When they die, our brain has to understand that this person isn’t coming back.”

With that in mind, she added, cherishing a late loved one is only human.

“Creating an avatar to remind them of a loved one, while maintaining the awareness that it is someone important in the past, could be healing,” she said. “Remembering is very important; it reflects the human condition and importance of deceased loved ones.”