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  • Writer's pictureMichael Bastianelli

Breathing Life into Memories: AI-Generated Images and the Ethical Debate

In today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) is breaking barriers and pushing the boundaries of what we once considered impossible. As an artist and AI enthusiast, I, Michael Bastianelli, have been experimenting with AI-generated images using Stable Diffusion and custom model checkpoints. One of the most fascinating and deeply personal projects I've undertaken is the recreation of images of my deceased family members, bringing them back to life with stunning accuracy.


Using a limited collection of photographs, I utilized the power of AI to fill in the gaps, recreating my loved ones in vivid detail. This journey has sparked a range of emotions, from the joy of seeing their faces again to the unsettling feeling of tampering with something sacred.


One of the experiments was placing my Great Grandparent in a Twilight Zone episode.


My Great Grandmother Maria Rosario Quattrini.

Mother of my Grandmother Maria Bastianelli

12/27/1902 - 10/23/1990







and..

My Great Grandmother Rosina Bastianelli. Mother of my grandfather Tito Bastianelli 06/10/1911 - 02/10/1999








With use of video footage and photo scans.. I trained the image data as checkpoint models with DreamBooth.


It was a interesting and trial / error process which I learned from YouTuber Aitrepreneur.

Please check out their channel and video here -> LINK


The Twilight Zone result? (With many attempts and tweaking)


Generated in Stable Diffusion in January 2023


 

This process has striking similarities to post-mortem photography, a practice that was prevalent in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The act of capturing images of the deceased was a way for families to preserve the memory of their loved ones, often creating an eerie yet poignant memento of a life once lived.


As I continued to experiment with AI-generated images of my deceased family members, I couldn't help but grapple with the ethical implications. Is it tasteless to use technology to resurrect the images of those who have passed away? Is it controversial to recreate images of individuals who can no longer consent to their likeness being reproduced?

As an artist, I believe that this debate is an essential part of the creative process. Art often challenges societal norms and provokes deep introspection, leading us to question our values and beliefs. While some may see the use of AI-generated images of the deceased as a beautiful tribute, others might find it invasive and inappropriate.


In my exploration, I've found solace in the fact that these images serve as a powerful reminder of the lives my family members lived, and their presence continues to be felt. I acknowledge the potential controversy and ethical dilemmas, but ultimately, it is up to the individual to determine their comfort level with such practices.


As I delved deeper into the world of AI-generated images, I found myself increasingly curious and excited about the possibility of creating clearer, more detailed images of my deceased relatives. The idea of having a high-resolution visual representation of them felt like a gift, allowing me to explore their features and relive memories with unparalleled clarity.


However, this process also raised a pertinent question: are these AI-generated images truly a representation of my loved ones, or merely an approximation pieced together by algorithms? While I marveled at the technology's capabilities, I couldn't shake the feeling that the images, though visually impressive, might lack the emotional essence of the people they represented.


This led me to ponder the differences between AI-generated images and the traditional portraits of deceased lords or kings, often painted by skilled artists long after their passing. In both cases, the artist – whether human or machine – relies on existing data and a creative interpretation to reconstruct the subject's likeness. However, the key distinction lies in the human touch and the emotional connection that a painter might bring to their work, adding depth and nuance to their subjects.


While AI-generated images are undeniably impressive, they may lack the emotional depth and artistic intent that comes from human expression. Yet, it is important to consider that, as AI technology evolves, it too may develop a sense of creativity and emotional understanding, further blurring the line between human and machine-made art.


Ultimately, the significance of these AI-generated images of our deceased loved ones is subjective. For some, they may provide a comforting connection to the past, while for others, they may be a pale imitation of the real person. As we continue to push the boundaries of technology, we must also grapple with the philosophical and ethical implications of our creations, and determine for ourselves what we choose to embrace and what we choose to question.


Generated in Stable Diffusion in November 2022


Generated in Stable Diffusion in November 2022

 

As AI continues to advance, we must collectively navigate the complexities of these new technologies and their implications on our lives. The conversation surrounding AI-generated images of the deceased is just one example of the many ethical debates that lie ahead. By engaging in these discussions, we can strive to find a balance between innovation and reverence for the past.

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