From being buried on the surface in a ‘mushroom suit’ to downloading your loved ones onto a computer, the funeral is about to change forever.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and even genetic engineering are going to change funerals and rituals around death forever, experts told DailyMail.com.
Even wakes are about to change, with virtual reality versions just around the corner and memorials that could take the form of glowing mushrooms spliced with the deceased’s DNA.
Other technologies hint that death may not be the end, and people hope to “return” after their funeral.
Talk to your relatives beyond the grave
Could the dead speak to us at their own funerals? (Photo Rob Waugh/Midjourney)
In the future, at funerals, family members will be able to talk to their deceased relatives thanks to artificial intelligence technology, said Luke Budka, artificial intelligence strategist at Definition.
It could mean, for example, that a deceased person could give a speech at his or her own funeral.
‘We can already replicate the ‘tone of voice’ of the deceased as long as there is enough content online to use as a filter.
‘We put it on top of a big language model like ChatGPT and voila, you’re having a conversation with someone from the past like Winston Churchill.
“Companies are now talking to us about combining the ‘voices’ of figures from history, so that their CEOs appear particularly optimistic (or conciliatory, for that matter) depending on their current situations.”
Living monuments with the DNA of the deceased
Living memorials spliced with the deceased person’s DNA could become common (Photo Rob Waugh/Midjourney)
In the future, memorials of the future could be living things like trees or even bioluminescent fungi spliced with fragments of the deceased’s DNA.
The idea of ”transgenic tombstones”, with trees carrying “junk DNA” of the deceased, is not new, but a 2004 project found the procedure to be expensive and complex.
But in the future it could become a reality, said lawyer and technology expert Tautvydas Sutkus, who works for Glow Bar London.
Sutkus said: ‘By harnessing biotechnology, the memorials of the future could be living entities.
“Imagine a genetically modified tree that grows and changes in response to visitors, or bioluminescent organisms that illuminate a grave, with its brightness and color directly influenced by the DNA of the deceased.”
Virtual reality awakens
Will virtual reality wakes become common? (Photo Rob Waugh/Midjourney)
The pandemic has caused a change in the way people attend wakes, with a trend towards some attendees appearing via video link, Matthew Lymn Rose said.
Rose said: “There has been a change in people’s mentality, they no longer value being there in person as much and the pressure to attend has also been removed.”
‘We now live in a world where people communicate differently. As technologies like live streaming and virtual reality continue to advance, people may no longer feel the need to be there in person.”
‘Digital twins’ will live after death
Digital twins of family members could live on (Photo Rob Waugh/Midjourney)
After death, people can “live on” in the form of virtual “digital twins” who can offer their surviving relatives advice based on their real lives.
Services like Hereafter.AI already try to do this in a limited way, but in the future, advanced AI tools could make people “live on” in the form of a virtual replica.
Dr Ajaz Ali, Head of Business and Computing at Ravensbourne University, said: “Using language-based tools that will be far more advanced than ChatGPT and Bard, people will be able to interact with these digital twins in real time and benefit from their knowledge and ideas.
“Loved ones could continue to interact with their deceased relatives.”
People will be frozen, not buried
Will people be frozen instead of buried? (Photo Rob Waugh/Midjourney)
By 2050, the prospect of being resurrected after death will become more realistic and more people will be able to choose to be frozen after death.
Alcor Cryonics currently offers the service, but it is very expensive, as tech billionaire Peter Thiel opted to preserve his body in liquid nitrogen along with Google pioneer Ray Kurzweil.
Their advocates hope that when they are “thawed,” medical science will have advanced enough to treat them, or they could be resurrected inside a robot body.
Lawyer and technology expert Tautvydas Sutkus said: “Although cryonics is not new, by 2050, the technology could mature enough to have a genuine chance of resurgence.”
“It is not simply about freezing bodies, but also involves the delicate process of potentially restoring consciousness, memory and identity. “Such an advance would radically transform our perception of the permanence of death.”
Liquifying corpses and human composting
Will people choose to become composters? (Photo Rob Waugh/Midjourney)
With environmental concerns on the rise, green funerals such as ‘aquamation’ look set to gain popularity, where the deceased is ‘dissolved’ in a solution of water and sodium hydroxide.
Other eco-friendly options include human composting, where the body becomes fertile soil, and even a “mushroom suit” that speeds up decomposition.
Aguamation, already practiced in some US states, is considered an eco-friendly option as the chemicals break down contaminants in the body, including embalming fluid.
The bones of the deceased remain, are crushed and given to the family in the same way as ashes from a cremation.
Evie King, author of Ashes to Admin, said: “It’s a cleaner version of cremation that uses water and is actually more biologically useful afterwards, whereas ashes planted in a tree don’t help much.”