20 July 2024
A man sitting around camera's in Eternal You

Film Review – Eternal You (2024)

Equal parts fascinating and terrifying, Eternal You posits that death will no longer mean having to say goodbye. Dying now may actually mean the start of a new way of living. Directed by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck, documentary Eternal You takes a look into the digital afterlife and in particular the start-ups that are using AI to create avatars of people’s deceased loved ones.

One such start-up in the spotlight here is Project December. Designed by programmer Jason Rohrer, Project December uses one of the world’s most capable artificial intelligence systems (GPT-3) to simulate the dead allowing the bereaved to ‘chat’ to their long since passed away family members and friends. When Canadian writer Joshua Barbeau found himself struggling to move past the death of girlfriend Jessica, he came across Project December. After uploading some of Jessica’s texts to give an example of how she messaged, Joshua soon found himself conversing with ‘Jessica.’ They talked for hours with Joshua thrilled with the results. It was like a weight had been lifted.

As one would very much expect, there are multiple issues with this technology. Not so much in whether it can be done, as it has already been demonstrated that it very much can, but whether it should be done. Whilst Joshua felt that his experience was positive and helpful, not everyone has had the same experience. One woman, who initially thought that the AI creation was helping her through her grief, soon became extremely disturbed when her deceased boyfriend told her he was lost and “in hell.” In Korea, a television show featured a grieving mother reunite with her deceased seven year old. As she sobs and reaches out to try and hold the virtual creation, it is absolutely heart breaking. Yet later the mother admits that since the experience she no longer dreams of her child.

Eternal You not only raises questions about the morality of such inventions, it also offers an insight into grief itself. How we grieve and how society perceives grief may be the root cause of why such inventions exist in the first place.

Eternal You postulates a number of intriguing topics, but at times it does feel slightly unsatisfying in that it has few answers. Whilst the technology discussed does exist and is used, technologically it is still extremely new. With that in mind, the film feels like it would have been even more effective and informative in several years’ time. It would have also been interesting to have heard more from the public regarding these AIs. In particular whether anyone would want to ‘live on’ in such a way.


Documentary | USA, 2024 | Cinema | 28th June 2024 (UK) | Dogwoof | Dir. Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck

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