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: Well, i'm 24 years old and... It's hard to say what i would like in this exact moment. I am one of those who has constant use of internet for social activities like facebook. And exists many, many, many, many other sources of socialization. This is a kind of question: how would you like your relatives to react to your death? Pay their tributes and respects or move with their lives and let me rest?
    I don't really know. I don't like the idea of thousands of people that i've never known in my life, giving their laments. And i say this because, although internet is a social utility, i don't have a real bond with those people. For those who really loved me in life, i think that they'll want their time alone not being bothered.
    But, on the other hand, most people don't do things on bad purpose. I don't blame them on making people live through internet. It's nice in its way. I understand.
    What i make in life and waht i do in life is what my loved ones will retain of me. That is what counts. I won't be here to see the rest. Can i let my personality flow through the internet?
    I don't know.
    I'm 24.
    Do i want a life made by memories and thoughts of others?
    Or do i want peace?
    I think it's a real good topic and i wrote this in a rush but...yeah, i'll live on and i'll see what pops in my head.

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