A while back, I wrote about the possibility of social automation leading to digital dopplegangers who stayed around long after our deaths (Digital Ghosts – Something creepy this way comes). Looks like I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this topic.
@tomscott, creator of the hilarious Actual Facebook Graph Searches tumblr and subsequent meme, created a (also hilarious) video on this topic. When Facebook Resurrected the Dead takes a mock historical perspective on the creation of the digital afterlife.
Whereas I wondered about the strangeness of interacting with the digital ghosts of deceased loved ones, When Facebook Resurrected the Dead looks at the economic and social impacts of immortal surrogates. Jokingly examining such questions as “who owns the royalties of an album created by Michael Jackson’s digital ghost” and “will the creation of a digitized Jesus count as the second coming and bring about the end of the world,” it’s well worth your time.
The video is a joke, but in a “it’s funny because it’s scary because it’s true” way. (Well, maybe not the digital second coming thing…) Marketing automation software is already on available. Textual analysis software that can pinpoint an individual author based on word usage patterns (identifying an individual’s written “voice”), is on its way. At some point, the two will meet and combine with a whole host of other products that are certainly being thought of by great minds in Silicon Valley and around the world. It’s just a matter of when.
The part about this topic that I find most intriguing is difficult to put into words. Humanity’s interest in immortality is nothing new, but it seems like the goal has changed. Previously, people wanted to live forever so they could live forever – pretty simple. It was about personal immortality, a never ending experience, fear of death, the unknown, and all that. But, this new digital immortality isn’t about that at all. It’s underpinned by the fact that you’re body and your consciousness will be gone – that there will be no you left to experience your immortality. It’s about leaving something behind – an interactive version of carving “Maggie was here” into stone. In some way, this kind of immortality is selfish; it’s about creating monuments to our own egos. But, in another way; it’s not; it’s about leaving behind a new version of ourselves that is truly a man for others – a part of ourselves who exists solely to comfort the loved ones that we’ve left behind.
My Dad would tell me that he doesn’t need to leave a digital version of himself behind because he’s already created four of them, one in my head and one in each of my siblings’. When we were growing up, he’d say, “A sign of good parenting is that your kids should always know what advice you’d give in any situation. They should be able to hear your voice in the back of their head.” He’s probably right – I might not always listen to that voice, but I do always know what it would say. (Right now, he’d say to stop slouching and sit up straight. He’d probably also tell me that he’s planning on sticking around for a long time, so I’ve got about 50 more years of advice coming my way.)
I won’t need to talk to my Dad’s digital doppelganger, but maybe some other people will. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but some version of this technology is on its way. I, for one, am excited (if a little bit scared) to see what develops.
Questions of the day: Do you think digital ghosts are coming? When? Would you want to interact with deceased relatives Facebook profiles? Or will you, like me, hear enough of their voices in your head?
Maggie (Not Margaret) is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.