AI-Avatars as persona Snatchers? Philosophical implications of AI- endowed Post-Mortem Masks
FLUL e Videoconferência
03 / 04 / 2023

A mother in South Korea lost her daughter and had encounters with her daughter’s Avatar in virtual space. A museum in the United States has recreated an AI Avatar from Dali’s handpicked lines and images to eternalize him as an AI Avatar and as a museum influencer and celebrity to take selfies with museum visitors:AI Dali: “I do not believe in my death.” Digital Deepak tells in a TV show that his Avatar will survive him and in the future communicate with his grandchildren about the TV show he is in at that moment in a situation of the “enlarged presence” (Gumbrecht). Today we even can watch hologram concerts of dead singers (Roy Orbison; Whitney Houston) and their posthumous voice as “digital dust” (Kasket 2019) or illusion of immortality in digital time and “ghosting” of movie actors such as the posthumous appearance of the digital doubles of actors such as Peter Cushing in the movie Rogue One or Carrie Fisher with the use of computer generated imagery(CGI) used to de-age and bring back to life characters, made possible by DeepFake technology.
Still we will see these themes via Helmuth Plessner who does not only propose na unveiled human face with “authentic” personality but, on the contrary, sees the anthropological necessity of masking the face as part of the artificiality and natural eccentricity of human beings. According to Plessner: “It is by virtue of eccentricity that knowledge immediately understands something that is mediated: reality in appearance, the phenomenon of actuality. Appearance is not to be thought of as a sheet or a mask that hides the real behind it and is detachable from it, but is like a face that is hidden in the moment it is revealed.” (Plessner 2019: 305)
The philosophy of the person is concerned not only with what makes an individual a person and their identity , but also based on becoming other or otherness (Taussig; Waldenfels; Levinas) of the encounter of the other via masks (social and cultural, see Plessner’s concept of the mask, a relation of the diasonic and resonant prosopon of Greek theatre (Brauneck 2020; Waldenfels 2005) besides the puppet or the figura (Auerbach) that define how we act and how we transform ourselves culturally with masks: Are AI Avatars new cultural masks to transform us into a post- mortem AI double? One speaks of the death mask or post-mortem portraits of funeral photography coffin portrait painting and memory images of the dead, but in this context it might be more appropriate to rethink the mask as digital-eternal, less a “digital soul”(Stokes 2021) beyond momento mori, a lex eterna lux, which we will confront with methods of hacking the mask via glitches and exploits.
Secondly we will think with Abel Ferrara ́s (1992) movie “Body Snatchers”as a rehearsal model for post-life Artificial Intelligence avatars. In that horror movie body snatchers are strange beings who take over human bodies and reproduce them, creating identical copies of the original person. These copies are able to think and act like the original person, but they lack their memories, experiences, and emotional connections. As a result, they are not truly the person as the original, but rather an imitation or avatar of that person via digital mimesis. Other questions will be initiated to think: Do we own our image of our post-mortem mask, and if not, who will? In this way, could the use of AI avatars be seen not only as “body theft,” but also as “emotion theft” and “experience theft”?

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