Microsoft patent shows plans to revive dead loved ones as chatbots

The patent also mentions using 2D or 3D models of specific people

By Adam Smith

Microsoft has been granted a patent that would allow the company to make a chatbot using the personal information of deceased people.  

The patent describes creating a bot based on the “images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages”, and more personal information.

“The specific person [who the chat bot represents] may correspond to a past or present entity (or a version thereof), such as a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity etc”, it goes on to say.

“The specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chat bot,” Microsoft also describes – implying that living users could train a digital replacement in the event of their death.

Microsoft has even included the notion of 2D or 3D models of specific people being generated via images and depth information, or video data.

The idea that you would be able, in the future, to speak to a simulation of someone who has passed on is not new. It is famously the plot of the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back”, where a young woman uses a service to scrape data from her deceased partner to create a chatbot – and eventually a robot.

In October 2020, Kanye West bought Kim Kardashian West a hologram of her late father, Robert Kardashian, to celebrate her 40th birthday, further cementing the idea of digital representations of the dead that can more authentically communicate with the living.

The hologram spoke for around three minutes, directly addressing Kardashian and her decision to become a lawyer “and carry on my legacy”.

Apart from Microsoft, other tech companies have tried to use digital data to recreate loved ones who have passed on.

“Yes, it has all of Roman’s phrases, correspondences. But for now, it’s hard — how to say it — it’s hard to read a response from a program. Sometimes it answers incorrectly”, Mazurenko’s father said.

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French archaeologists find ancient grave of child, pet dog

French archeologists dig at an ancient child burial site recent at the Clermont-Ferrand Airport. France’s National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research said Thursday the site dates back 2,000 years.

French archaeologists said Thursday they discovered the grave of a small child with what appears to be a pet dog dating to the Roman rule of the region about 2,000 years ago.

The researchers said they found the burial site during a dig at the Clermont-Ferrand Airport in central France. They believe the child was about a year old and buried with animal offerings along with the remains of the pet dog inside a coffin.

The coffin was found in a 6-by-3-foot grave. It was surrounded by 20 objects, including terra cotta vases, glass pots, half a pig, three hams and other pork cuts along with two headless chickens.

“The graves of young Gallo-Roman children are often located outside the community funeral home and sometimes even buried near the family home,” a statement from France’s National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research said. “These toddlers rarely benefit from the same funeral practices as their elders, who at that time were generally cremated.

“The furniture that accompanies the deceased of Aulnat is quite exceptional, both in terms of its quantity and quality. Such a profusion of dishes and butchery items, as well as the personal belongings that followed the child to his grave, underline the privileged rank to which his family belonged,” the institute said.

The discovery is part of a dig that covers 7.4 acres where numerous objects from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages have been found. Researchers are conducting tests of glassware and containers to learn what they might have held.

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Near the end of life, my hospice patient had a ghostly visitor who altered his view of the world

By Scott Janssen

For months, as I’ve visited Evan as his hospice social worker, he has been praying to die. In his early 90s, he has been dealing with colorectal cancer for more than four years, and he is flat tired out. As he sees it, the long days of illness have turned his life into a tedious, meaningless dirge with nothing to look forward to other than its end. He’s done, finished. He often talks about killing himself.

On this visit, though, his depression seems to have lifted. He’s engaged and upbeat — and this sudden about-face arouses my suspicions: Has he decided to do it? Is he planning a way out?

“You seem to feel differently today than on other visits,” I say casually. “What’s going on?”

He looks at me cryptically.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” he asks.

It’s not the first time a patient has asked me this. People can have unusual experiences when they reach the end of life: near-death or out-of-body experiences, visitations from spiritual beings, messages delivered in dreams, synchronicities or strange behaviors by animals, birds, even insects.

“There are all kinds of ghosts,” I respond seriously. “What kind are you talking about?”

“You remember me telling you about the war?” he asks

How could I forget? He’d traced his long-standing depression to his time as a supply officer for a World War II combat hospital. The war, he’d said, had soured him on the idea that anything good could come from humans and left him feeling unsafe and alone.

“I remember.”

“There’s something I left out,” he says. “Something I can’t explain.” He goes on to describe one horrific, ice-cold autumn day: Casualties were coming in nonstop. He and others scrambled to transport blood-soaked men on stretchers from rail cars to triage, where those with a chance were separated from those who were goners.

“I’d been hustling all day. By the time the last train arrived, my back felt broken, and my hands were numb from the cold.”

He grimaces and swallows hard.

“What happened when the last train got there?” I ask softly.

“We were hauling one guy, and my grip on the stretcher slipped.” Tears roll down his face. “When he hit the ground, his intestines oozed out. Steam rose up from them as he died.”

Evan rubs his hands as though they were still cold.

“Later that night I was on my cot crying. Couldn’t stop crying about that poor guy, and all the others I’d seen die. My cot was creaking, I was shaking so hard. I even started getting scared that I was going insane with the pain.”

I nod, waiting for him to continue.

“Then I looked up,” he says. “Saw a guy sitting on the end of my cot. He was wearing a World War I uniform, with one of those funny helmets. He was covered in light, like he was glowing in the dark.”

“What was he doing?” I ask.

Evan starts crying and laughing at the same time. “He was looking at me with love. I could feel it. I’d never felt that kind of love before.”

“What was it like to feel that kind of love?”

“I can’t put it in words.” He pauses. “I guess I just felt like I was worth something, like all the pain and cruelty wasn’t what was real.”

“What was real?”

“Knowing that no matter how screwed-up and cruel the world looks, on some level, somehow, we are all loved. We are all connected.”

This turned out to be the first of several paranormal visits. Each time the specter arrived, he’d wordlessly express love and leave Evan with a sense of peace and calm.

“After the war, the visits stopped,” he says. “Years later, I was cleaning out Mom’s stuff after she died, and I found an old photograph. It was the same guy. I looked on the back, and Mom had written the words ‘Uncle Calvin, killed during World War I, 1918.’ ”

We talk some more, then I ask, “What does this have to do with your being in a better mood?”

“He’s back,” he whispers, staring out the window. “Saw him last night on the foot of my bed. He spoke this time.”

“What’d he say?”

“He told me he was here with me. He’s going to help me over the hill when it’s time to go.”

As I’m formulating more questions, Evan surprises me by asking one of his own.

“You ever have something strange happen? Something that tells you that no matter how bad it looks, you’re connected with something bigger, and it’s going to be okay?”

A memory flashes into my mind. It was 35 years ago. It was after midnight, and I was asleep in a graduate-student apartment at Syracuse University. A siren’s blare woke me, so loud it sounded like it was inside the room. Adrenaline pumping, heart pounding like a hammer, I sat up and wondered what had happened. Was it a dream?

From outside, I distinctly heard what sounded like a two-man stretcher crew talking.

“Bring it here quick,” one guy told the other. I heard a gurney being rolled across asphalt.

I went to the window and pulled back the curtain, certain there was trouble outside.

The night was silent. Nothing was stirring in the parking lot. No one was there.

Just before daybreak, Dad called to tell me that just a few hours earlier, my uncle Eddie had been killed in an automobile collision.

That was a tough day. As night fell once more, questions filled my head: Why did this happen? What was he experiencing when it ended? Was he scared?

On the kitchen table sat a beat-up radio; some kind of malfunction occasionally caused it to turn off or on for no apparent reason. As my questions swirled, the radio turned on, and I heard the opening chords of the Beatles’ song “Let It Be.”

Not being a fan, I’d never listened closely to the song before — but this time, I did. The music and words filled me with an almost otherworldly sense of peace and comfort. The song ended. Shortly after, the radio cut off.

For years, I tried to explain away those events. It must have been a dream, I told myself. Or some kind of fabricated “memory” to fool myself into thinking that uncle Eddie and I were connected in that moment. As for the radio, it was nothing but a random coincidence. Any other conclusion is just wishful thinking.

Inside, though, a part of me knew it was real.

After nearly 30 years as a hospice social worker, I’m certain of it. And I have patients like Evan to thank: dying patients who have convinced me that the world we inhabit is lovingly mysterious and eager to support us, especially during times of disorientation and crisis. It even sends messages of love and reassurance now and then when we’re in pain.

I return to the present. Evan is looking at me, waiting for an answer. I feel grateful that he’s pulled up these memories. Outside, a flock of crows takes off in unison from the branches of an ancient oak.

“Yeah,” I say with a nod. “I guess I have.”

Complete Article HERE!

How To Analyze 4 Common Dreams About Death & Dying

By Catharine Allan

How many times have you had a dream that involved death? Have you ever dreamed about someone you loved dying or been visited in a dream by someone who has passed away? Though we don’t often talk about them, I’d say that death is a common dream theme—especially this year.

Dreams are, after all, a way for us to process life. And dreaming about death is often a way to process the fear of the unknown. Morbid dreams can show up when we are in the middle of a job transition, a divorce, an identity crisis, or any other kind of major shift. In 2020, we are all going through a transformation on some level. We are all connected, so on some level, we are all affected.

Generally speaking, dreaming about death is likely a sign that you are in a period of change, but here’s how to further interpret this type of dream based on the details.

If you dreamed about a loved one dying:

If you’ve ever had a dream of a loved one dying, you know how utterly upsetting they can feel. You wake up wondering if it’s a premonition, a warning of an accident—you name it. Once this panic is activated, it becomes extremely hard to be objective.

So the first thing I would do if I dream of someone I know dying would be to ask myself if I am afraid of losing that person. If the answer is yes, this dream may have served as a wake-up call about how much this relationship means to me.

Start there and see if your body drops the tension and you stop obsessing over that dream.

If you dreamed about yourself dying:

This can be a very scary dream or a very tranquil dream, depending on its quality. I’ve heard of people who have dreamed that they’ve died and been met by spirits, angels, ancestors, or guides and experience peace. I’ve also heard from people who dream of painful deaths that occur under scary circumstances. So it’s complex, and ultimately the only person who can decode the meaning behind this dream is you. But here is an example of how I would approach a dream like this:

Let’s say I had a dream that I died in the water, drowned when I fell into the sea. If I felt peace and calm in my dream and like my spirit was at rest, I might come to the conclusion that this dream was about a past life.

If I had the same dream but I struggled for air, felt alone and in despair, this would obviously be a bad death. In this case, I would try to remember some more details of the dream. What was the scenario that caused me to fall overboard? Was I pushed? Were large waves washing me away?

I would look for more clues about what the message could be and how this dream could be signifying a different kind of “drowning” in my own life.

If you had a nonsensical dream about death:

When we are processing many emotions at once—fear, sadness, loss, frustration, desire, longing, etc.—our dreams often become giant mashup scenarios. They don’t make much logical sense. One minute, it’s the 1980s and you’re wearing the pants you bought online last week. The next minute your ex from five years ago is there, and suddenly you see your dying fall.

When timelines are mixed, people past and present are juxtaposed, and you can’t put the dream in any logical order, that’s your psyche processing your waking life. That’s the one for the analyst’s couch or the dream books. Its message is always personal and only clear after a lot of inner reflection. If you die in this kind of dream, it’s likely pure fear of change or loss.

If you dream of someone you love dying in a similarly haphazard way, the same criteria apply. If the story is convoluted and the steps are mixed up in time and space—and especially if you wake up instantly emotional and confused—this is not a predictive dream. You might just be feeling scared to lose this person, literally or emotionally.

(I do believe that some highly intuitive people can have predictive dreams, but these tend to be very matter-of-fact, detailed, and orderly. You wake up with a clear, concise flowing story, and you don’t feel emotional about it.)

If you dreamed about someone who has passed away in real life:

If the dream is confusing, has mixed-up timelines, and causes you to wake up feeling sad or confused, it’s likely you processing their loss.

If that person is happy and at peace in the dream, maybe talking to you or showing you something, and you wake up feeling calm, it could have been a visitation from them. And those are the best dreams of all.

Dreams are a common way for us to process our waking life. So most of the time dreams about death are not about literal death but the challenges and unknowns we are facing. Pay attention to the details of your death dreams and how they make you feel for further insights into their messages.

Complete Article HERE!

This empathic website helps you think and talk about death

Death is all around us this year. We need tools to help.

By Mark Wilson

It’s been a year of loss. But even seeing the devastation of COVID-19 hasn’t made it any easier to talk about death—and specifically, the possibility of our own deaths and deaths of those we love. Of course, ignoring death doesn’t make its inevitability any less real, during this year or any other.

Life Support is a new website from the London creative studio The Liminal Space, funded by the U.K. government. It’s a resource that proclaims, “Talking about dying won’t make it happen.” And with that premise as a baseline, it lets you explore topics about death and dying from the perspectives of experts, like palliative care doctors and social workers.

The design appears nebulous at first glance, with words floating in hand-drawn bubbles, which pulsate like the rhythm of your own breathing. But looks can be deceiving. What’s really lurking inside this casual space is a sharp curriculum built to answer your lingering questions about death.

As you scroll through the interface, the site offers several potential paths of thought that are probably familiar to most of us, like, “I’m scared to have a painful death” and “I don’t know if I should talk to my child about death.” When you find a question to explore, you swipe for more. That’s when experts come in. Some of their answers appear in blocks of text. Others are actually recorded, with audio you can play back. You might think the audio is a gimmick or unnecessary panache. In fact, I found it quite affecting to hear a doctor offering her own thoughts and advice about death aloud; it creates a level of intimacy that printed words can’t quite capture.

Ten or 20 years ago, a resource like this might have been a pamphlet (and indeed, anyone who frequents hospitals knows that pamphlets are still a mainstay to educate patients on topics of all types). But Life Support makes a convincing argument for how giving someone a bit of agency—like choosing our own questions to be answered, or hearing from doctors with our own ears when we’d like to—makes the information easier to digest.

I doubt there’s any quick resource out there that will ever get people completely comfortable talking or thinking about their own mortality. Religion and the arts have already attempted to tackle this topic for millennia. But Life Support is a solid attempt to ease us into the conversation.

Complete Article HERE!

What Do Dreams About Someone Dying Mean?

by Ann Pietrangelo

You call out to your best friend, but there’s no response. You shake them and gently nudge their shoulder before it dawns on you that they’re not sleeping. They’re lifeless. Dead. You reach for them again but the distance between you grows until they become one with the fog.

You wake up with a profound sense of loss yet strangely unburdened. You’ve had a common dream about someone dying — but in all likelihood, it has nothing to do with your friend or literal death.

Read on as we take a closer look at dreams about dying, what they mean, and if there’s reason for concern.

It’s not uncommon for terminally ill people to dream about loved ones who have died, according to a 2016 studyTrusted Source done in India. And a small 2014 surveyTrusted Source found that it’s not unusual to dream of someone you’ve recently lost.

Most people reported these dreams to be pleasant or both pleasant and disturbing. A few respondents said they were purely disturbing.

Such dreams may be part of the mourning process or a reflection of the fact that you miss someone who’s no longer in your life.

If you aren’t terminally ill or mourning a loved one, however, your dream may not really be about death at all. Instead, death may represent change or a period of transition.

When trying to interpret a dream, it helps to focus less on specific details and more on the way it made you feel. Consider how these feelings relate to what’s going on in your life.

For example, if you woke up feeling scared and anxious, you might consider whether you’re stressed out about changes in your life or fearing the unknown.

If you woke up feeling good, perhaps you’re accepting that something in your life is ending and you’re embracing a new beginning.

While it can be upsetting to dream about death, remember that dreams aren’t predictions and shouldn’t be taken at face value.

Things we dream about are often symbols for other things. So, dreaming about death could be part of the bereavement process or a representation of great change in your life.

Dreams about falling are fairly common and may represent:

  • insecurity or lack of self-confidence
  • feeling out of control
  • letting go or setting yourself free

The symbolism of falling may go hand-in-hand with symbolism of dying — both can represent an ending, a beginning, or both.

Death can show up in many types of dreams. Whether it’s your own death or someone else’s, there’s a good chance your dream is really about unresolved issues.

Dreams about family members dying

A 2018 study on childhood nightmares found that common themes include:

  • death
  • injury
  • threats to family members

When you dream about a loved one dying, it might be due to changes — whether perceived or actual — to your relationships.

Dreams about you dying

Dreaming about yourself dying could mean that you’re in a major life transition.

It might be a symbolic goodbye to a relationship, a job, or a home. It could represent a part of you that is dying or something you’d like to escape.

It could also be that you’ve been putting your own needs on the back burner in favor of everyone else. Part of you feels neglected and is vying for attention.

Dreams about celebrities dying

When a celebrity dies in your dream, it’s probably not about the celebrity. The meaning may lie in who or what that particular celebrity represents to you.

Dreams about pets dying

You may dream about your pet dying if they’re old or sick and you’re genuinely concerned about them.

But your pet may symbolize something else, such as:

  • comfort
  • security
  • companionship

And dreaming of your pet dying might symbolize your fear of loss of these three qualities.

Dreams about friends dying

Dreaming about the death of a friend could signify concern for that person. It could also mean that your friendship is undergoing change or that you’d prefer to be free of this person.

Keep in mind the meaning behind the dream may not have anything to do with that friend at all. Instead, it might relate to what that friend represents in your life.

Dreams about deceased loved ones

The aforementioned small 2016 studyTrusted Source found that end-of-life dreams are common. Terminally ill people reported dreaming about loved ones who’ve already passed on.

These dreams tended to be nonthreatening, and the people in the dreams were seen as they were in their prime of health. This could be a coping mechanism.

“The goal ultimately may not be to avoid having such dreams, but rather approach them with curiosity to better understand them,” Dr. Alex Dimitriu, of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California, told Healthline.

Recurring dreams about death can be the result of ongoing stress and unresolved issues. Try to identify the cause of stress in your waking life. Confronting the issue may help stop the dreams.

You can also ease into a more peaceful sleep by scheduling wind-down time before you go to bed. Make sure your bedroom is free of glowing electronics and other sources of light.

If you wake up in the night, use deep breathing or other relaxation exercises to get back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, get up and do something relaxing until you’re sleepy again.

If you’re having a hard time dealing with recurring dreams or ongoing stress, talk with a doctor or mental health professional. A qualified therapist can help you work through anxiety dreams.

Dreaming is a natural function of our sleeping brains. In fact, everybody dreams.

Dimitriu, who’s double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine, says dream content can be:

  • leftover remnants of the day’s thoughts and events
  • an ongoing subconscious theme or feeling
  • just random

“In my work, after thoroughly exploring conscious and subconscious explanations of dream content, sometimes we are left with no clear answer,” Dimitriu said.

He noted the importance of letting the person experiencing the dream draw conclusions, rather than plant ideas in their mind. It’s a process that can take time.

“In the case of dreams with intense content, such as dying, it is worth noting there is a lot of emotional energy to such a dream,” Dimitriu said.

“Lastly, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and some dreams are truly random,” he added.

Dreams of someone dying can be unsettling, but they shouldn’t be taken literally. Death in a dream may symbolize the end of something and the beginning of something new.

Dreams provoke emotions — and those emotions can help you connect a dream to events in your life. But dreams can’t always be deciphered.

If you’re troubled by frequent stress-related dreams, it may help to talk things out with a qualified therapist.

Complete Article HERE!

Life Support is a new digital tool to help us talk about death

by

Creative agency The Liminal Space aims to help break taboos around death and dying, through a new digital tool called Life Support.

The idea is to help people have difficult conversations, “empowering” them at a time when, thanks to Covid-19, many of us have dwelled on our collective mortality more than usual. Indeed, according to The Liminal Space director Amanda Gore, research shows that “one in five of us are thinking about death more since the outbreak of Covid-19” and that “80% of people are more likely to be thinking about death in 2020 than actually talking about it.”

The mobile-first site offers practical tips about how to discuss death, and also shares people’s personal experiences around topics such as what dying looks like, talking to someone with COVID-19 about dying, having a dignified death, talking to children about these topics, how to overcome the fear of death and more. Users can also Download and share tips that can help in starting conversations with loved ones.

The voices used on the platform include spokespeople from charities such as Compassion in Dying and Marie Curie; as well as experts in end-of-life and palliative care and people who’ve experienced different aspects of end-of-life care, who share practical advice on how to manage end-of-life decisions, such as choices they have about how and where they die.

Many of those who shared their stories for the site did so as part of death and dying-focused project undertaken by The Liminal Space in 2019 along with The Academy of Medical Sciences called The Departure Lounge, spaces including a popup in Lewisham shopping centre, south London, which were styled like airports which aimed to start a public conversation about the end of life and how we can support people to have a ‘good death’ in the future.

These have been supplemented with stories from charities such as Compassion in Dying and Marie Curie, and insights from some of the leading palliative and end-of-life care physicians, nurses and experts in the country (see ‘notes to editors’ for a full list of these experts).

The project has been supported by the Academy of Medical Sciences and a government fund run by Innovate UK, an organisation set up earlier this year to “help drive innovation throughout the pandemic,” according to Liminal Space.

“We felt it was hugely important to find a way to enable people to start having these essential conversations about end of life so that we can all be better equipped to deal with death, and more empowered to make important decisions,” says Gore.

Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, adds, “This year has made conversations about death and dying even more challenging with people more likely to be distanced from their loved ones. However, like so many things in the pandemic, Life Support shows that we can use digital space to enable and support those conversations to take place.”

Complete Article HERE!