When Artificial Intelligence Can Revive the Dead

Power, ethics, and the limits of what’s possible.

Alberto Romero
OneZero
Published in
11 min readOct 22, 2021

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Photo by Pinkeyes on Shutterstock

Not even our imagination will manage to keep up with technology’s pace.

Martha called his name again, “Ash!” But he wasn’t listening, as always. His eyes fixed on the screen while he uploaded a smiley picture of a younger self. Martha joined him in the living room and pointed to his phone. “You keep vanishing. Down there.” Although annoying, Ash’s addiction didn’t prevent the young loving couple to live an otherwise happy life.

The sun was already out, hidden behind the soft morning clouds when Ash came down the stairs the next day. “Hey, get dressed! Van’s got to be back by two.” They had an appointment but Martha’s new job couldn’t wait. After a playfully reluctant goodbye, he left and she began to draw on her virtual easel.

The morning went by. She stretched herself and took a peek at the clock. “2:30 pm.” The birds were chattering in the distance. Shy mid-afternoon sunlight radiated the room Martha had been working in all day long. She tried to concentrate but the uneasiness was starting to creep up; Ash hadn’t texted her. She dismissed the thought and went back to her drawings.

But it kept coming back.

The sun was already low and the clouds gone when she looked out the window wishing to see him approaching through the fields of willow trees, but he wasn’t there. She tried to call him to no avail. Minutes felt like hours, but she could only wait.

Suddenly, she heard a noise at the front door and saw a red-blue flashing light. The mere presence of the police confirmed her fear: Ash was gone.

“Be right back” was the first chapter of Black Mirror’s season two. A sad story that quickly turns into a smooth mix of emotional science-fiction and a dystopic, yet plausible, future. Martha, still mourning her loss, decides to try out a new technology that promises to bring back Ash. His ubiquitous online presence would be the catalyst to clone him into a virtual copy, so she could talk to him once more.

Ash: “Hi Martha.”

Martha: “Is that you?”

Ash: “No, it’s the late Abraham Lincoln. Of course it’s me.”

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