TED Conversations

Adam Ostrow

Executive Editor, Mashable


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LIVE CHAT With Adam Ostrow: What should happen to your digital identity after you die?

The average social media user will create hundreds of thousands of pieces of content in their lifetime. Already, this is changing the way we remember our loved ones and creating a legacy that is much different than that of any previous generation.

At the same time, technology's ability to understand vast amounts of data is expanding exponentially, and in the long run, enabling the possibility of leveraging our social media footprint to create a version of us that can live on long after we're gone.

What do you want to have happen to your digital identity after you die? Would you give an AI permission to post content and interact online after your death? Why or why not?

ADMIN UPDATE: This LIVE CHAT will open on August 9, 2011 at 2PM EST/ 5PM PST.


Closing Statement from Adam Ostrow

A few thoughts in closing:

(1) There's a large interest in people assigning an executor for their digital assets after they die. A number of startups already serve this need. One issue with this though -- what happens when the services noted in the will change, close, get acquired, etc? That will create similar issues to the ambiguous wills of today.

(2) Lots of questions about whether or not the complete recreation of ones self, which I forecast towards the end of my talk, could make it more challenging to find closure. Outside of that, however, it at the very least seems like an intriguing opportunity for future generations to get to know their ancestors.

(3) In thinking about this topic, it's important to remember that the social media tools of today are incredibly primitive compared to what we'll be using in the future. The type of data we'll be capturing 5, 10 or 50 years from now is what's needed to make an AI-powered scenario realistic.

(4) Thanks to those that shared their personal stories of already dealing with these issues. It's a huge help in thinking about the topic going forward.

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    Aug 9 2011: I agree with Shannan
    Think about.
    What happens if anybody's memories would not remain after we die ? Your existence would be somehow diminished or maybe not even be known.
    Why not leave behind pictures of great moments of laughter and joy ? Why would I want to be remembered by the way that I die ? Instead, isn't much better, and maybe wiser to be remembered by what I have lived for and all the things that I've done ??
    This world is indeed a temporary endeavor, but it is a necessary path, otherwise we would not be here. And the experiences are temporary but your legacy and memories are forever.
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      Aug 9 2011: And that's one of the things that's so different from any previous generation, who at best left behind some photos or a diary -- nothing dynamic, indexable and searchable. It's certainly a personal decision though.
    • Aug 9 2011: Providing people with the ability to preserve their legacy for future generations is exactly what our company is all about. Our software was designed to capture a person's life story to share with their friends and family both before and after they pass on. Unlike Facebook, we do not consider ourselves a social media platform, and we are not about instant communication, but rather more like a safety deposit box for your treasured memories.
      • Aug 9 2011: ... and so is intersect.com :)

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