Grieving is dead

  • The Scenario

    Technologies that mimic people are becoming common place. With an ageing population, European governments are finding it increasingly challenging to provide social services and assisted living facilities to all those in need. The situation is becoming harder for those whose partner dies.

    Alfred was one of the first to be supported this way. His wife of 45 years died in 2024. He missed her greatly and doctors were worried about his mental health until a government agency told him that he could have a hologram of his dear Lucy who could interact with him just like his recently deceased wife. The hologram knows all about their lives together. AI has synthesised all of Lucy’s data from her social media and is able to reproduce her voice, her appearance, her mannerisms, even the way she used to argue with him. Data from their home assistants, Siri and Alexa, were really useful too. The new Lucy reminded him to take his daily meds and to go for a walk because he needed the exercise.Although the research is still preliminary, sociologists and physicians are in general agreement that senior citizens who engage with their holograms or personalised avatars are likely to live longer. A public consultation in 2024 showed that a majority of respondents favoured the deployment of holographic support services.

    Their deployment remains, however, controversial. Some governments insist on taking partial control of Lucy and her peers. This is for Alfred’s own safety and well-being to make sure Lucy functions properly and caters for him, for example, prompts Alfred to take his medicines and encourage him to do some physical exercise or to converse with her instead of watching TV all day long. But activists are suspicious of some lines of questioning. For example, why it quizzes Alfred about whether he is working part-time or has any other sources of income, suggesting that governments have an ulterior motivation to reduce his benefits. Privacy advocates have repeatedly expressed concerns that the holograms, avatars or care robots are actually sophisticated surveillance agents as they pass on the information they collect about their owners to the big tech companies and government agencies. There have also been concerns about whether holograms, like Lucy, can make medical diagnoses. Studies have shown that holographic people are more often right in their diagnoses than real doctors. The public opinion is torn.

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