AI chatbot helps Syria-based actress cope with grief and loss of mother – Times of India


NEW DELHI: Separation and the loss of a loved one are harsh realities that everyone has to face. People cope with grief in different ways, seeking solace and acceptance in the new reality. However, with the rise of technology, the natural process of grieving seems to be changing.
Sirine Malas, an actress based in Syria, found a unique way to deal with her grief after the unexpected loss of her mother.She turned to an AI-based bot system called Project December, which claims to simulate the deceased.
The results of the AI tool provided comfort to Malas but also frightened her as it felt ‘too real’ at times, as reported in SkyNews.
Malas, who had been separated from her mother Najah when she fled Syria to Germany in 2015, had always wanted her daughter Ischtar to meet her grandmother. However, before they had the chance, Najah passed away suddenly from kidney failure in 2018 at the age of 82.
The grief was overwhelming for Malas. ‘You just want any outlet,’ she said. ‘If you keep all those emotions inside, they start to consume you. I wanted that last opportunity to speak to her.’
After struggling with her mother’s loss for four years, Malas turned to Project December. She simply filled out an online form with details about her mother, including her age, relationship, and a quote from her.
Using the information provided, the AI chatbot powered by OpenAI‘s GPT2 version (an early version of ChatGPT) generated a profile of Najah. These models are trained on a vast amount of text from books, articles, and the internet to generate responses in a manner similar to word prediction tools.
For a nominal cost of $10, users can chat with the bot for approximately an hour.
Malas described her experience with the chatbot as ‘spooky’. She said, ‘There were moments that felt very real, but there were also moments where anyone could have responded that way.’
The chatbot impersonated her mother by using her pet name, asking about her well-being, and reassuring her that she was watching over her.
Project December currently has over 3,000 users, mostly individuals seeking to imitate conversations with deceased loved ones.
Jason Rohrer, the founder of the service, stated that the majority of users are people who have experienced the sudden loss of a loved one.
While Project December provided Malas with some closure, she cautioned others about using the tool recklessly. ‘I can see people easily becoming addicted to it, losing touch with reality, and allowing it to become detrimental,’ she warned.
It is important to remember that relying on AI bots is not a substitute for the natural process of grieving. In extreme cases, seeking medical support or therapy is advisable.
(With inputs from agency)


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