Never be clever.

I deepfaked my dead cat

Technology has gone absurd. I deepfaked my dead cat, and later realized I put myself into my own personal Black Mirror episode.

One of our cats died suddenly, at a relatively young age. Now, I keep mistaking errant socks for a cat tail, and whenever I walk past the places where she'd often sleep I unthinkingly glance over to see if she's there.

But it is after all the year 2024, so 15 photographs, 9 minutes of train time and €0.78 in cloud costs later I had a deepfaked copy of my dear, dead friend. I spent a lot of time interacting with the deepfake, and for a while it felt good to memorialize her in quirky oil paintings, marble statues or hyperrealist digital art.

It was the ordinary, photorealistic generations of "just a cat pic" that eventually started messing with my head. The output is so life-like and convincing, it felt like some version of her was really still there, doing cat things in a cloud GPU. Checking in with the dead? Just make an API call; heaven as a service.

After writing a script that sent me a couple of cat pics throughout the day, of her in randomly generated poses and settings, I began to feel deeply weird about the endeavor. I thought I let the dead rise; I was actually sampling derivative experiences over and over again from the unchanging past. But what would this look like a couple of years from now? And how would I feel about the idea of my grandkids cloning me?

A deepfaked photo isn't conscious, of course. But what if we're two, three paradigm shifts away from real digitized consciousness? Imagine replacing our dead with artificial copies on an industrial scale. That's pure, unadulterated Black Mirror shit, but if it's technically possible, someone will surely build it.

And most interestingly, how would the AIs themselves feel? Will we grant them autonomy, personhood? How would you like it if all your memories were synthetic, and you found out you exist to replace someone who died, or went away?

To conclude, I've been generally skeptical about the real impact of generative AI. But throughout this weird-ass project I felt that we're deeply into some Blade Runner 2049 timeline, only with the dates moved up to the very near future.

Rest in peace, my dearest friend.


(Not a deepfake, but the generated cats were damn convincing.)