Former stand-up comedian and filmmaker, Justin Harrison, is a tech entrepreneur who is one of the foremost experts in pioneering grief technology. He joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss his work helping people alleviate the effects of grief and loss by re-creating personality dynamics to fill the void of loss. It was after his own near-fatal motorcycle accident and his mother's stage-4 cancer diagnosis, that Harrison was motivated to create a program where people could interact with their deceased loved ones by utilizing technology to capture the uniqueness of who they were.
As Harrison pondered what could be done about relationships surviving death, the 'aha' moment came to him after speaking with this father who had been in the hospital room with him as he was recovering from his motorcycle accident. Even though he could only speak gibberish, his father knew the essence of who he was had remained intact since he was getting annoyed by his father's questions, Harrison recalled. The concept was not to recreate a "Wikipedia of somebody" but rather replicate the unique relationship the deceased had with the person wishing to still communicate with them.
"I'm not trying to save the information about my mom, I'm trying to save what I know is her, what I know her to be," Harrison explained. To that end, Harrison's start-up based their technology on communications people had with their deceased loved ones. The company examines communication samples from emails and texts, as well as audio and video recordings, to find patterns unique to the person's relationship dynamic with the decedent. "We don't actually build a virtual personality... we build dozens depending on who wants to connect with that person because it's going to be a different relationship [for each person]," Harrison revealed.
Open Lines followed in the latter half of the program. Barry from Texas told Ian about a wondrous otherworldly experience he had with his deceased brother-in-law, Andy, who had died at 58 years old. Barry revealed he had known Andy from when he was only five years old, and was asked to speak about funny moments the two had together. According to Barry, he was doing paperwork one day when he received a message from Andy three weeks after he died. Barry said he was with Joe and other friends and he was in a beautiful place, Barry added. "It was just like a phone call but there was no phone," he revealed.
Scott in Costa Mesa, California, disagreed with an idea presented by first-half guest Justin Harrison about eradicating grief. "You could only manage it... not eradicate it," he said. Ian agreed with the assessment, noting there is a benefit to grief. "Eradicating something which is as basic a human emotion as grief... would be like giving up part of our humanness," Ian noted. Tim from Carson City, Nevada, expressed his concern for his grandchildren's future in regard to the rise of technology and artificial intelligence. "Five or ten years from know how am I going to know what is actually real," he asked. Tim referenced videos that show astronauts on the ISS in front of a green screen as evidence technology is being used to fool humanity.