Can you live forever on a computer?

People are building AI and VR versions of loved ones to live on digitally, even after they’ve died.

Sci-fi loves a good brain upload plot.

  • A 1998 episode of “The X-Files” features a computer genius who uploads herself to cyberspace.
  • San Junipero,” a 2016 episode of “Black Mirror,” follows 2 women falling in love in a digital afterlife.

But is it possible IRL?

Artur Sychov, founder of metaverse company Somnium Space, has created a feature called “Live Forever” mode.

It essentially collects data while you’re in VR — how you move and speak — and builds an AI avatar of you. Your avatar can interact with others, even after you’ve died.

Sychov told Vice he was inspired by his ailing father and the realization that his children would never get to know their grandfather.

And he’s not the only one to try to replicate a loved one via AI:

  • You, Only Virtual (YOV) founder Justin Harrison modeled a chatbot after his mother, based on data including 2.8k pages of text messages. To build your own, it’s $499 upfront, then ~$40/mo.
  • Artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s 2015 Hereafter Institute exhibit in LA contemplated digital afterlives and included a VR simulation of his late grandfather.
  • A clip of a South Korean woman reuniting with her daughter in VR went viral — and provoked intense debate.

These avatars are mostly made for the living, serving as a way to hold on to those we’ve lost. But could we ever really live in computers?

For The Atlantic, neuroscientist Michael Graziano wrote that it may be possible to achieve that kind of brain scan, but the tech would take decades to develop.

And the same question would remain: Is that you, or a copy?

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