Can You Live Forever—Digitally?

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted June 02, 2020

Four years after Jang Nayeon, a little girl in the Republic of Korea, died from a blood disorder, her mother Jang Ji-sung “saw” her daughter again.

An experiment by a documentary filmmaker, this virtual reality project allowed Ji-sung to view and interact with a digital representation of Nayeon—which looked and sounded like the child she remembered.

“Maybe it’s a real paradise,” said Jang. “I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it’s a very happy time. I think I’ve had the dream I’ve always wanted.”

Such digital “resurrections” are not yet common, but experiments of that kind are increasing, according to the CNET report. Five years ago, Replika.ai founder Eugenia Kuyda created a “chatbot,” a software-based robot that would “speak” in the manner of her deceased best friend using the data of thousands of text messages the two shared.

According to CNET, “The first time she messaged the bot, Kuyda said she was surprised at how close it came to feeling like she was talking to her friend again. ‘It was very emotional,’ she said. ‘I wasn't expecting to feel like that, because I worked on that chatbot, I knew how it was built.’”


Digital Spiritualism or Alternate Reality?

But the human race is far from recreating life.

Tech startup Nectome attracted $1 million in funding and even “a large federal grant” to develop a way to capture the mind’s contents with what CNET called “high-tech embalming,” perhaps the most audacious concept to date. Notwithstanding the moral dilemma involved in such a procedure, which would require subjects to be euthanized, other brain scientists voiced their skepticism on the probability of its success. Along with the withdrawal of former partner Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Nectome’s vision is looking more like an impossible dream.

“Neuroscience has not sufficiently advanced to the point where we know whether any brain preservation method is powerful enough to preserve all the different kinds of biomolecules related to memory and the mind,” an MIT statement said. “It is also not known whether it is possible to recreate a person's consciousness.”

artificial intelligence robot

And while scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory has built a robot that looks, moves, and talks like the Japanese professor (it will be able to deliver his university lectures indefinitely), there is still something missing.

“We cannot transmit our consciousness to robots,” Ishiguro told CNET. “We may share the memories. The robot may say ‘I’m Hiroshi Ishiguro,’ but still the consciousness is independent.”


Afterlife—False and Real

CNET purported that “more people are now interested in immortality.” But why do we attempt time and again to play God?

If we only looked at Scripture, we would know that no one but God can supply life: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Scripture plainly tells us that death will end only at Christ’s second coming, where “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

But still, so many desperately cling to the concept that—as John Troyer, director of the University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society, put it—“death is something humans can defeat.” It is one of the greatest deceptions Satan has used, this ephemeral hope of an eternal life apart from God.

He sold it to Eve when he tempted her to disobey God: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). And he has been peddling this lie ever since, exploiting the powerful element of human suffering.

King Saul succumbed to it when he consulted with a medium to contact the dead prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7–20). Though he knew full well that “till the heavens are no more, [the dead] will not awake nor be roused from their sleep” (Job 14:12), he allowed his feelings of desperation, terror, and desolation to bear sway.

Even in Kuyda’s experience, we see how her emotion overpowered her logic, for while she knew the “chatbot” was not her best friend, her feelings told her otherwise. What will tip a person over that fine edge of trading fantasy for reality?

While these digital scientists may not be dabbling in the occult, they nonetheless have fallen victim to the same charm of spiritualism—that we can bring back our loved ones from the grave.

That soothing falsehood is the very reason the Bible warns us multiple times against the “deceiving spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1), that “the dead know nothing, … [that] the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). 

Remember God’s promise. There is a time coming when those who are dead will be alive again, but not at our own doing—at God’s. The most perfect virtual reality simulation will pale in comparison to that day when “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16): “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:5, 6). When Jesus returns, He “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). And “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Do you want to live—really live—forever? Would you like a new, healed body? How about a mind freed from sorrow and an eternity to create happy memories? All this and so much more is available if you will but follow Jesus and obey His commands. Our free online Bible lesson “The Witch of Endor” can get you started. Why not view it right now?

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.
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