A year ago, on February 6, 2020, a heart-wrenching, South Korean TV documentary had aired presenting the latest in VR technology: the ability to interact with the deceased through a virtually simulated recreation. Initially, it seems impossible, but upon further speculation, one will either see the beneficial aspects of such interactions, such as receiving closure for grieving loved ones, or the emotional hindrance and psychological damage that is done in the name of science and progress.
Little Nayeon Ji-sung had passed away in 2016 from an incurable disease at the tragically tender age of seven. Four painful years later, Nayeon’s mother, Jang Ji-sung, was given the chance to meet and interact with a virtual recreation of her deceased daughter through the use of a headset and haptic gloves. It’s an eerie thing to imagine, which becomes even more unsettling to watch.
The documentary production team had spent eight months building a virtual effigy of Nayeon and the elaborate park scene where the two celebrated Nayeon’s birthday. According to futurists, interacting with the dead through virtual reality could become the norm. A couple startups have already been working on creating digital avatars and chatbots of the deceased, as well as talk of mausoleums placed in cemeteries where such VR interactions could take place.
With the intrusion of advanced surveillance technologies and the massive data collection of SMART devices and social media platforms, all compiled together with the use of machine-learning algorithms, visiting a dead loved one has become seemingly possible. Then painful grief of losing a loved one can stick with one for the rest of their life. We already put bodies in graves and line up to see them, or have them incinerated in order to keep their ashes in jars. Would this be any different?
Rather than allowing the memories to fade away as we learn to live our lives in a healthy, natural way, having the ability to see and interact with the deceased greatly hinders the emotional and psychological growth that such tragedies provide.
When watching the documentary, you can feel the pain as Jang Ji-sung immediately begins to cry upon hearing and seeing her deceased daughter once again. The unsettling feelings start to arise when she attempts to hug and hold her daughter but watches as her hands go right through her digital daughter. The realization of none of it being real weighs down on Jang and the viewer, as well.
Although the documentary is spun in a way to make it seem as if Jang Ji-sung had received the much needed closure to be able to move on for her three other kids, the disturbing truth can be seen throughout the majority of the interaction. The truth being you having bear witness to the nsidious psychologial and emotional torture of this poor, grieving woman. It’s a whole new level of human abuse, which is to become part of the new norm.
This is straight out of the future, dystopian world of Netflix’s Black Mirror, which typically focuses around humans living and interacting within simulations under a utopian guise, which always end with negative repercussions.
Below is a preview of the documentary, spun in a positive way. But if you want to experience the gut wrenching sense of unease set to be in our near future, the full documentary can be found on YouTube.