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From Indian politics to Taiwanese pets, using generative AI to reanimate the departed

A particularly controversial use of generative AI has emerged among Asian consumers — ‘bringing back’ the dead for purposes that range from personal to political. During election season in India, former movie star-turned-political hopeful Vijay Vasanth released an AI-manipulated video of his late father, H. Vasanth Kumar, endorsing his candidacy. H. Vasanth Kumar, who died in 2020 from COVID-19, was a well-known local businessman and former parliamentary representative, making his posthumous appearance particularly impactful.

In China and Taiwan, start-ups are developing consumer-facing apps that use large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT to recreate the personas of deceased individuals and pets. These AI chatbots allow users to engage with their lost loved ones for comfort and closure. It particularly resonates with consumers in markets where governments keep tight controls over religion and spirituality, therefore limiting traditional avenues for people to deal with bereavement and ‘the afterlife.’

The application of AI to ‘recreate’ deceased individuals highlights some of the most fundamental questions surrounding the use of AI. From an ethical perspective, how will the blurred lines between real and artificial impact human psyches and interactions? At the regulatory level, how can governments prevent misuse without stifling innovation?

Spotted by: Acacia Leroy