Accepted paper:

Interactive personality constructs: changing how we cope with loss


Adam Buben (Leiden University College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses questions about death and human nature related to imagined but not unlikely technological advancements in the near future. Specifically, how will highly detailed interactive simulations of deceased personalities affect the way we approach both the deaths of others and our own?

Paper long abstract:

Humans have a long history of trying to overcome death. We hold religious beliefs about the afterlife, plan families, build structures, create works of art and literature, record digital images and video, produce websites of incredible variety, and cryogenically preserve crumbling bodies in the hope of passing on pieces of ourselves to posterity. But I believe that something even more interesting is just around the corner: Interactive Personality Constructs (IPCs). Imagine: through advanced recording, motion-capture, and voice-recognition technology, your mother's appearance, mannerisms, voice, and thoughts on a wide array of topics are collected, and at the touch of an icon (like a smartphone app) you are able to access her moving, speaking image and engage it in conversation. I wonder what such a development would mean for how we relate to the deaths of others. Would it be as difficult and demoralizing to lose someone if there just wasn't as much of that person that we had to miss? Clearly, nothing has been done about replacing a good old-fashioned motherly hug, but you could in theory have a conversation with an IPC that possesses a great many of her traits while sitting at her funeral. I also wonder how it would impact the way we relate to our own deaths. Would it make one's own approaching demise even more isolating and painful if no one else had much reason to be distraught about it? This paper addresses these and other questions related to this imagined but not so far-fetched scenario.

panel LD14
Disjunctions of deathscapes: ways of suffering, dying, and death