my friend randy coppinger posed this interesting question:
sure, people of many faiths have made arrangements for their soul after the death of their earthly body. likewise, many folks create a last will or trust to look after their physical remains. but what preparations have we made for the afterlife of our cyber-presence? is there digital life after death, and if so, who controls it?
thankfully, scott brown addressed this very question in a recent article in wired magazine.
Our local, carbon-based “hard drives” may fail, but vestiges of our inimitable selves will remain ambient and accessible long after we log off this mortal coil.
This distributed deathlessness means we’ll all need a little cleanup on Aisle Me. The aspects of life we archive online, be they valuable, heritable, or simply embarrassing, require posthumous management (and, in some cases, eradication) lest our friends and loved ones and executors be embarrassed or inconvenienced by our lingering digital detritus, a trash-strewn wake of left-behind liabilities.
apparently, there are companies who will look after your digital remains after your physical body ceases to be.
it’s the online equivalent of the old mob/spy trick: ‘if you kill me, and i don’t input the secret code every 12 hours, [whatever you're looking for] gets sent to the cia, etc.’ basically, after you kick the bucket, your failure to respond to email alerts triggers a series of bots, which go to your online accounts, insert your passwords, and process the transfers or deletions of all your online assets and accounts.
At least three companies — AssetLock.net, Legacy Locker, and the charmingly named Deathswitch.com — have arisen to keep customers’ passwords, usernames, final messages, and so on in a virtual safe-deposit box. After you’re gone, these companies carry out last wishes, alert friends, give account access to various designated beneficiaries, and generally parse out and pass on your online assets.
clever. why didn’t i think of this?
now, what would be more clever than a service that deletes your online accounts? i’ll tell you: a process that makes one’s online presence the primary, permanent presence, somewhat like the end of avatar.
here’s how it would work: when you’re about to die, you trigger the transfer. your thoughts and memories in real life get scanned and transferred to your online life (much like second life), and you live eternally in there. who knows, maybe we’ll have that ability someday and we can combat the ‘rise of the machines’ by becoming the machines.
fantasy, i know. perhaps i’ll stick to the less fantastic vision of living forever in a paradise with other, like-minded, disembodied, immortal souls.