Want to live forever? Sorry, physically and scientifically, it is still impossible, but with all the data that we’re putting on our social media accounts, virtual immortality is all but inevitable. We’ve already seen how the funeral industry might transform caskets and urns into digital devices for people to remember us in the afterlife. There are even ways to manage your accounts (or, at least, allow someone else the privilege) after we’ve died. Simon McKeown of Teesside University in the U.K., recently told The Telegraph that within 50 years, computers will be so advanced, they will be able to create avatars of dead relatives or “synthetic digital life” based on past movements, preferences, and social media history.
Until now, there have been limited ways to “communicate” with our departed loved ones or keep their memories alive. While some social media users often wonder what will happen to their accounts once they pass on to the other side, companies like Eter9 are using artificial intelligence to allow people to continue to post on Facebook and “like” all those cheesecake images — after they have moved on.
Taking it a step further than just carrying on our social legacies through platforms like Eter9, McKeown claims we will have the technology and capability to use our online activities, photos, and videos, to create virtual 3D humans through photogrammetry. As part of his idea, referred to as “Preserved Memories,” we will, in the not so distant future, be able to digitally recreate loved ones and bring them back to life through their social media histories. For fans of the British sci-fi series, Black Mirror, this will all sound very familiar.
And it isn’t just an inactive 3D model recreation of your loved one. Computer voice synthesis can determine and match local and regional accents, so the digital life forms not only look like you, but also speak like you. With the combination of linked social networks and databases, the digital version of you could continue to update your activities online, and also communicate with friends and relatives about your daily adventures, as if you were alive.
Whether you find these scenarios creepy or endearing, Preserved Memories shines a spotlight on the increasing importance of including our social media accounts in our estate planning. Even more important could be considering whether we really want a digital version of ourselves created from our Facebook photos, wandering the Internet, tweeting, sharing, and chatting with people after we are dead.