Adam Ostrow

Executive Editor, Mashable


This conversation is closed.

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.

  • Aug 9 2011: I'm very grateful to have my son, Mahito's, digital id memorialized at FB--comments there by his friends after his death have helped me on my grieving process. His memorial website, his photos, his video clips all bring me to great joyful tears. I wouldn't want it any other way.
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    Aug 9 2011: After I died, I'd want a printout of my digital identity sent to several family members and chats/conversations I had with friends or pics that we were tagged in sent to them as a reminder of the good times. I wouldn't necessarily want my profiles to live on (hence the printouts).

    I think it would be fun to have an AI post a blog, picture, or video of my choosing for every birthday I have after my death. I'd prerecord them with a guess as to what I think I would've done that past year and what I hope to do in the next. I wouldn't go beyond this because I don't think it's necessary. I don't necessarily want to give my family and friends artificial memories of me. I want them to remember what they already have.

    Sounds cruel and heartbreaking on some level, but I think it could be a way for some of my friends and family to find peace, and for me to still show them love.
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      Aug 9 2011: Interesting idea! Some people have told me since my talk that they don't like such an idea -- especially more life-like options like video (or eventually holographic recreations) though because it wouldn't let them find closure.
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        Aug 9 2011: I think if it's done properly it can be a fun thing. I think people jump to the worst conclusions because they have no control over how that projection or video will be interpreted. I think a video at least could definitely help parents find closure when their kids die young.

        Though death affects everyone differently.
        • Aug 9 2011: I would agree with Adam that this might make it difficult for some people to move on, although I can understand why it might help others. One of the things we are doing to help people move on with their lives after losing someone close is to create memorial dates on their calendar, and build collections of media and stories about that person to share with other survivors.
  • Aug 9 2011: I just read an e-mail from a fellow teacher that one of his students was killed in a car crash over the weekend. This 18 year-od left behind a 9 month old son. This is a situation where it would have been nice to have that repository, but how many 18 year olds would think of making one, even with a child born? Have people do it in school.
    • Aug 9 2011: Incredibly tragic.

      But, a digital will could be a great exercise for HS seniors - as morbid as it sounds to someone so young, philosophically, it might in turn give them a reality check and help them focus on goals for their lives after HS.
  • Aug 9 2011: I'm conming in late but I've been thinking about related questions for a while. On the one end of the spectrum digital cemeteries and memorial sites that can be tended by family and friends, on the other agents that "learn" or "become" a person by processing their online behavior (possibly many years of it.) Key for the latter, though, is ownship of the agent. I don't like the idea of bots roaming the social networks "learning" people without their knowledge and then "being" them in contexts that the real person is unaware of. This goes for both living people and dead people. On the other hand the combination of the two ideas could be pretty potent.
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      Aug 9 2011: Yea, bots that act on our behalf while we're alive is a whole different issue and another exciting possibility. Ultimately, this type of technology absolutely has to be opt-in though.
      • Aug 9 2011: would it be possible to program my autopilot bot with my personality traits ? and can it make new friends and add people on facebook and flirt with people ?
        • Aug 9 2011: That kind of stuff is possible for sure. I'm sure there already friend-adding apps. As to flirting, don't you want to do that in person?
  • Aug 9 2011: Personally, I doubt I'd want any sort of AI to update in my name in the event of my death. Unless it were to comment every month or so with something along the lines of "Yep, still dead" or "Man, I'm bored to death". I'd be content to leave any accounts as they are, just as anything else I would leave behind. One doesn't really need an AI to do that, though.

    Either way, I suppose someone would be able to set up such an AI if there was enough content from the deceased that it could learn from. Almost a creepy thought.
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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 :)
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    Aug 9 2011: This is an interesting question for me. I graduated from high school a couple of months ago and about a week and a half ago, a wonderful classmate of mine was hit and killed while riding his bike home one night. He was an acquaintance of mine and many of my friends were very close to him.

    From what I understand, he had deactivated his Facebook at some point before his death. And after he died, someone somehow reactivated it. People were commenting on his wall, telling them how much they miss him, sharing memories. And you could go back and see some of the last things he posted, comments on pictures and stuff. It was sort of weird, but oddly comforting, to me at least, because it kept his memory alive, because the comments he had made and the statuses he had posted were his own words and they were still there for me to see. It was later deactivated again, I think largely because he had deactivated it in the first place and his family and friends wanted to respect his wishes.

    And it has made me think about this exact issue. To be honest, I don't care much what happens to me after I die. Because I've realized that mourning is a very selfish process. We are sad that we can no longer talk to and touch and see the people we loved. And I am ok with that, it's natural. For example, I do not want to have a religious funeral service, but if it would make my family feel better, I would not mind them doing it because they are the ones living on and dealing with the loss. That said, when a person who has passed away has specific wishes, those should definitely be respected.

    Like, I would prefer my Facebook page be kept up (I can't really explain why, I just do), but I would want my family to have the final say. However, I specifically would not want an AI posting for me (other than maybe an "I'm dead now" type post that I had written myself and was to be posted after my death) because that is not me. It'd be fake. Even if it knew me well, it would still not be authentic.
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      Aug 9 2011: No offense but I totally disagree, I would never want my memories left in this world once I am gone because, this world is a Temporary endeavor and we are just actors here. There is much better to come in Hereafter.
    • Aug 9 2011: I agree with your thoughts on this Shannan. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.
  • Aug 9 2011: Have i missed this conversation ? Oh I hope I am not too late to ask a few questions about this.
  • Aug 9 2011: This is a very good question and one that requires some thought. After you posted this question, it got me thinking that I need to include in my will some way for all of my social media to be deleted. I need to keep track of all the sites I sign into, all the subscriptions etc so that my media presence doesn't not continue longer than I do. It's already scary enough that so many people can know about me with a few clicks of a button because of the internet. Really, the internet scares me for security reasons and I would for sure want my internet footprint deleted as much as possible. If I want my friends and family to know of my pictures, thoughts, videos etc., I would make sure to leave them on a hard drive that is accessible to only those who have it, not saved on the internet on some website. No, not for me.
  • Aug 9 2011: I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave.
  • Aug 9 2011: You're welcome. One of the things I love most about Intersect is that as people post stories over a long period of time, it is impossible for anyone who is a regular contributor to be disingenuous - which means you start to really get to know people with shared interests, humour etc over time.
  • Aug 9 2011: Hi- I was briefly in a class in which the professor maintained that online identity constituted a separate identity from the individual and could continue on as a real identity. This seems quite poetic, but I had a tough time with the related concepts discussed, such as that fictional identities created would form separate personalities of the individual, e.g. the middle-aged man would really have an aspect of self that is a 14 year old girl (I dropped the class and went on to a PhD in cultural psych). Might you comment about the perpetuity of actual self online and the reality of alternate selves?
    Thank you and best wishes
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      Aug 9 2011: Hey Stephen -- A lot of people have mentioned this since my talk. Some people definitely project something online that isn't necessarily the "real" them. I think as social media tools evolve though, that could become less of an issue. The tools of 20, 30, or 40 years from now are going to be so much more advanced than what we're using now it's hard to comprehend.
      • Aug 9 2011: Oh! OH!!!! That's a good point. It seems very far but...maybe it won't. Will we be reaching a time where the real me and the me online could be one and the same? Surelly we are closer. If this is an interesting topic, it will be more and more interesting as years go by and online life goes evoluting.
      • Aug 9 2011: I agree that social media will cause an evolution of sense of self. It will be pretty interesting to see how that affects individual psychology and constitution of personality.
    • Aug 9 2011: That is an interesting concept. Certainly many people create digital personas to express themselves in different ways. I don't know that I would be willing to accept that this is a truely different "person" than the individual who is behind the creation of this identity. It is just another social mask that people wear to hide behind and protect themselves from dealing with others directly, digital or not. My guess is that the person will be most missed by those who knew his or her real identity and personality, rather than online friends sharing in the charade.
      • Aug 9 2011: Zane, I agree on both aspects of your comment. It was my belief that the "alternate identities" are social masks that made me drop that course, though "personality" indeed derives from "persona," or mask. Who will miss one most may alter, if we become increasingly connected across virtual space. Thanks for the comment.
  • Aug 9 2011: I always wonder about it and I personally feel that every web service should have a special section especially for sharing of information after the user dies.

    Every web service should ask a set of questions which will decide which information can be passed on to whom when the user dies.

    The set of questions vary depending upon the kind of web service like Facebook will have a different set of questions when compared to Gmail and Twitter.

    I think its the time for every web service to initiate this process. I would love to see this happening.
  • Aug 9 2011: I am happy to build up my life 'profile' (which includes not just mapping chronological events in my life but also the trivial - things that make me laugh, a saying on a particular day, a poem, whatever) using a timeline, so that it's dead (excuse the pun!) easy for my children, grandchildren and future generations to search those 'stories' within the timeline that I have made accessible to them.

    If the site you use makes it as easy as Intersect so that you determine with every 'story' or 'post' who can see it with one click - there shouldn't be an issue with people you don't want accessing your information after your death.

    Within your account, you should be able, as suggested by one comment here earlier, to nominate a virtual 'executor' of your details. There could be a form that goes with this outlining specific requests. It would be as responsible as making a will. Just digitally.

    Are there any downsides to this?
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      Aug 9 2011: I'd imagine the downsides are similar to those of the wills we know today -- the executor ultimately not acting upon the wishes of the deceased, or ambiguity in the will complicating issues. With digital there's also the issue of the unforseen -- what if a social media site changes its terms, or gets acquired by someone else? The will probably doesn't take that into account (and it would be hard for it to do so).
      • Aug 9 2011: Hmm. Very good points. Clearly, I haven't thought this through! I think I better think it out again :)
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    Aug 9 2011: As someone who has covered the emergence of sharing our lives online at Lifestream Blog I have also given some thought as to what happens to our digital footprint after we pass and have written about it

    This is such a new area that will require a rethinking in many areas in the future. I believe people should have their digital legacy wishes outlined in their wills. I feel that a digital legacy will provide so much more for future generations to learn about their family and heritage. All I have to remember my grandparents are a few photos and stories told by my parents. I'd love to be able to browse and search their digital legacies to learn more about them.

    I can also see an opportunity for changes in businesses such as funeral homes and cemeteries. The digital legacies could be used for family members to help share a life at a memorial and cemeteries could also offer kiosks that provide the digital legacy for people to view. I see many changes and innovations that will result around this area in the future.
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      Aug 9 2011: Thanks for sharing Mark. All topics I'm diving deeper into as I explore this topic further. Look forward to reading your posts!
  • Aug 9 2011: i think whatever rules you had around your digital life when you were alive should remain in place when you die unless explicitly noted in your will.
  • Aug 9 2011: This is a valid business opportunity for the right people - the ethics around this are essential. But I would love to pay for a solution.
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      Aug 9 2011: the commercialization and the ethics around it were definitely something I was getting at with my closing remarks -- the possibility of some form of "recreation" is something that some would pay anything for, which makes it ripe for exploitation.
  • Aug 9 2011: I do wish my profile be alive even after I pass away. Death is certain, but identity and memories live on, and I am certain that it would be really comforting to my friends to have me in their list forever and post on my wall, and share memories, rather wiping off my virtual presence and leaving nothing substantial for intimacy. It won't bother me either way-- dead, but I certainly think that it will help augment the sense of togetherness.and tranquility, cos we unite people in the moments of plight!

    Leave the profile the way it is, default is the best in this case, at least from my point of view!
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      Aug 9 2011: Thanks for sharing -- for the moment, it certainly seems profiles living on have been a positive for the majority of people.
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    Aug 9 2011: Since I have a lot of content online, I wish to keep it that way after my death, but who will curate it?
    • Aug 9 2011: One of the features we offer, and are planning to build further in the future is the ability to "back up" data which is stored on other sites such as Facebook or YouTube. You can then designate a member you would like to be your "digital estate manager" for your information.
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      Aug 9 2011: someone you assign to do so in a digital will ...
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        Aug 9 2011: A digital will, not a bad idea. We should get that soon.
  • Aug 9 2011: I'm a brand-new TED member who is joining this chat without the benefit of having heard the talk (yet). One concern I have is about certain people's psychological health in continuing to relate to those who are no longer alive. Some people may end up spending more time "interacting" with the dead than with the living, while our population of living people continues to grow.
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      Aug 9 2011: It is a bit scary and you worry that some will never be able to "let go" if my forecast becomes a reality.
      • Aug 9 2011: I believe that for the vast majority of our society, interacting with the living will be more enjoyable than spending all of your time relating to the dead. However, having the ability to watch movies and hear stories from a deceased loved one could really help some people move past the trauma, and may even be enjoyable long after that person is gone and you have come to grips with that fact. There will always be a few outliers who cannot cope, but we see that today, in parents who keep a lost child's toys in their room, etc. Most people deal with the grief and move on.
    • Aug 9 2011: Probably not, I know people who lost their friends, best of friends, and they moved on with their life, and I don't think that letting a profile remain will drag them to nostalgia for ages-- time is the best medicine, and it will take care of things, and so will the necessity and inevitability to move on.
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    Aug 9 2011: I like Zane Thorn's comment; legacy is an important issue. We will leave a legacy no matter what. We can't exactly control that either; we will be remembered by different people differently. My grandmother wanted me to write her life's story after she was gone, but I finally convinced her that if she wanted her biographer to get it right, she should write it herself! I helped her do some of that.

    Being remembered, and being remembered well is important to some people. After all the Stuff we do in this life, it is the relationships we create with other people that will matter the most.I am into genealogy research. Being able to research on the internet you turn up all sorts of traces nowadays for people who have lived part of their lives through the internet. I appreciate that there is an archive-of sorts, of this electronic world, but don't count on that. Write your life's story if you want your great grand children to know about you. You don't want to be - Page Not Found. Publish or Perish, or publish And perish.

    I believe that the part of us that is living this life in this body endures after the death of the body. Memorials and tributes for the dead are mostly for the grieving of the living. I don't know that re-opening a facebook page is my kind of memorial ( there are other places for that), but that was interesting. My father was in the cemetery business. He wanted to implant something into the headstone (like they have photographs now) that would play a video of the person's life, even written and orchestrated by the deceased themselves. That is certainly possible now. If our spirit lives on then we can take comfort in not being so attached to our digital identities maybe.

    I want to live my life now without regrets. Life is a work in progress. I don't doubt that there will be loose ends no matter when I go. Maybe one of the duties of an executor would be to tie up the loose ends in the electronic world, too. Sigh
    • Aug 9 2011: My grandmother was very interested in genealogy, and when she died unexpectedly, no one was able to access the records stored on her computer. A huge piece of our family history, as well as a very important person was all lost at once. It is one of the reasons I am in the line of work that I am today.
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      Aug 9 2011: Interesting -- I have to imagine that technology will become part of the executor's role at some point. The gentleman that told me about how he put a QR code on his mother's tombstone that links to an online memorial said that the funeral home is now offering that service to all of his customers.
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    Aug 9 2011: allow in the life of the user that to whom he can authorize someone after his death and that person can access to the person who passed away,FB can ask for confirmation from other friends or other authorize people.
  • Aug 9 2011: What do you think about past life regressions?
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    Aug 9 2011: This really is up to the individual and how them and immediate loved ones want to deal with the loss. I had a friend who passed over a year ago in a bicycle accident and his facebook page to this day is still being updated with photos and messages from family and friends. The family voted against deleting it wanting to keep his memory alive. I would compare a deceased ones page to a memorial site we have at cemeteries or on the side of the road. I personally don't like not having control over my digital profiles, and feel that keeping any profiles active after passing would irk me in the worst way.
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      Aug 9 2011: That's why I'm betting services that let you control what happens to your online accounts after you die will prosper -- it's a very personal decision that people will increasingly want to take control over. Right now, what happens is very much up in the air for most.
  • Aug 9 2011: My fiancee passed away very tragically this past March. As we shared everything digitally, professionally and creatively, he had complete access to my accounts - passwords etc - and I to his. His family asked for access to his accounts to which, I didn't hesitate to give them as I had no idea it would backfire.

    They then used his Facebook account to slander and libel me online and blocked me as well as many of our mutual friends from his account, so I couldn't see what they were posting about me - using HIS account. Due to FB's inherent lack of customer service and response, my only option was to request to memorialize his account, which effectively locked it so they couldn't abuse it. However, now all of his friends they defriended cannot view his wall and post memories to share with so many others that are still on his friends list that love him. Because of the blocking, on both sides for their personal accounts, I can't see what they may be posting more about me on his fan page I created for him.

    As he was a creative and talented comedian, actor and filmmaker, now something that could have been used to carry on his legacy, has been misused and abused and used as a weapon. The only thing I didn't give them access to was his blog and like page (thankfully), which I still manage and post things that I find or other friends share with me. I sincerely doubt he ever would have approved of this and it is painful to think about, but I continue on trying to preserve and share the legacy of his creative genius and beautiful sweet soul.
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      Aug 9 2011: Thanks for sharing your story. I think it highlights the importance of the services that are cropping out that let you decide what happens to your accounts after you die -- essentially a will for your digital assets. Not something that's pleasant to think about, but a growing necessity given the way our society is evolving.
      • Aug 9 2011: I love the concept of a digital will for your assets. I can foresee this becoming a new feature in our product. Being able to choose how you pass on your data is a critical issue in today's society, and I only predict that this issue will rise to greater importance as time goes on.
        • Aug 9 2011: I wish we had done a digital will now for sure, but because I was the tech savvy one, he probably just assumed I would take care of it like I always did... until all of this mess started a month after he passed. And because we weren't married, I have no legal recourse.
      • Aug 9 2011: Hopefully others will learn from my experience and will consider the digital will. Grieving is painful enough then having to deal with cruel people is not fun.
        • Aug 9 2011: Sorry what happened to you. You shouldn't bear that cruelty. Especially you. It's not a case of delete all is social life he had. I bet you knew him better than anyone in life and what you decided to do would go according to his will. It's a matter of not only respecting you but also him. It's reaaly a shame what's happening. But thank you for sharing.
    • Aug 9 2011: Wow Katherine. I'm so sorry. That must have been really painful.
      • Aug 9 2011: Thank you Joanna. It was. Still in "limbo" about it too as I don't know where they may be "coming from" next. They even used his Gmail account to "follow me" on Google Buzz and then say mean things to me. I figure that all I can do is ignore them. It's really only coming from one person in the family who is controlling his estate, but no one is doing anything to defend me I am assuming because none of them ever got to know me due to his distant relationship with them. It's a nightmare.

        ...and funny thing is, I haven't asked for a nickel. I might be able to understand if this was about money, but I don't want a cent. Just want him to be remembered the way he would have wanted to be.
        • Aug 9 2011: Well, it's a bit like that. I know it sucks but let it be and ignore it. You don't have to do anything when you've done nothing. :S
          Some just can't understand. Just can't...understand. What can we think?!
  • 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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    Aug 9 2011: This raises a much bigger question: "what is identity?" It's not just about me as an individual entity; it's also about the footprint I've created, and interactions I've had with other entities. Identity in the absence of context is meaningless.

    I'm loathe to think that the lovely and wonderful things a friend may have written on my Wall, or the photos a family member posts on Flickr are ephemeral -- that they will be eradicated upon deactivation of that person's account. On the other hand, it's important to provide users a choice about whether they want to be exposed to photos and memories of a person they're grieving.

    As to the question of AI-created interactions post-mortem, I frankly don't think we're ready for that, psychologically. Mourning is a critical part of the human condition, and there have been SO many changes to how we undertake that process already. I don't think we've adapted fully, and the very notion that some insentient, digital version of my father could continue to interact with me feels like it would be horribly detrimental to my ability to grieve.
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      Aug 9 2011: Great points -- the grieving issue is certainly one that has come up in a lot of conversations since my talk and I think is ultimately a very personal decision.

      One application I think is interesting, however, is down the line being able to "meet" your great grandparents, or other relatives you never knew when they were alive. That's one of the things that's so radically different about the generations to follow -- they will know so much more about their ancestors than we do today.
    • Aug 9 2011: I completely agree with your last point Fatemeh. It would not only detract from the mourning process but leaves no room for dignity or respect of the person who has died.
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    Aug 9 2011: Ohhh, imagine what the network would look like decades into it. Deceased AIs commenting on another deceased AI's post. Talk about your ghost in the machine! I guess maybe there'd be a time-frame set in place.
    • Aug 9 2011: I don't see why a time frame would necessarily need to exist. If the AI and personal profile were sufficiently advanced (I'm talking much more so than today's tech) I don't see why your virtual persona couldn't exist indefinitely. Think about it, young adults 400 years from now getting virtual advice and listening to stories from their great great great great grandparents.
    • Aug 9 2011: That would just be plain weird!
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    Aug 9 2011: me was thinking the same few days before about FB that if any user dies what should happen to his/her account, well personal identity must remains "personal" even after the death of someone,for example on FB and Twitter there must be options that if this user dies (obviously his friends and family will know this) who can control his account or information and on which limit,like we write will than who and how much will get from our authorizing someone and confirmation of the death and revealing his limited or full information we can add some options to secure the account.
  • Aug 9 2011: As head of product development for a company which is developing software intended to help preserve someone's legacy once they have passed on, this is a very important question to me. We believe that many people die without having shared all of the stories and memories they would have liked to with their family and friends. The ability to use digital technologies to preserve a person's life story is hugely important to their survivors. I believe that this should be an elective process--that someone should choose to set up such a digital storybook of their life, but that capturing a person's history to preserve for future generations is one of the best things someone could leave their family.
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      Aug 9 2011: Anti-hacking methods would have to be set in place, of course, to eliminate the possibility of a deceased person's AI being hijacked. Also, maybe the minimization of companies able to "prioritize" like they are able to do in Google searches.
      • Aug 9 2011: Our data remains private so it does not appear in Google searches. There are serious layers of security around our information so it is pretty well protected. I am not saying it is impossible for an account to be hacked, however, since we do not really have social network posting like facebook, there isn't much a hacker could do to act obnoxious.
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      Aug 9 2011: I agree, and I've heard a lot of great stories since my talk from people that are working to create such a legacy for their loved ones. One of them was actually another TED attendee, who put a QR code on his mother's tombstone that links to a memorial site that other people can contribute to, and in turn build a richer legacy:

      What's your company?
      • Aug 9 2011: Our motto is "Don't just save it, Legacy It" Our goals and objectives are very much tied into what is being discussed here today.

        We allow people to upload media and tell their story with a combination of text, video, audio and images. We also allow people to "tell the story in their own words" by using a webcam. Everything is displayed on a timeline of that person's life. Each story can have privacy settings enabled that allow the user to choose who can see each story, so the more personal ones can be shared only with close family. You may also elect a person to administer your account after you die.
    • Aug 9 2011: I use for this reason specifically. I've had my 82 yr old mother sign up and write her life story on a timeline from 1928 to date and, as Zane mentions with his site, she has the benefit of easy to set privacy settings. I think it's an excellent idea, within the account settings, to nominate someone to administer your account and the data after you die. Of course, that person would have to be asked permission and to give it happily!
      • Aug 9 2011: Thank you for the information. This is a really interesting product, I will need to perform more research about it.
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    Aug 9 2011: Maybe run a test set first? Run the AI program while someone is still alive and see how the paths correlate.
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    Aug 9 2011: It's a very personal decision. Like what you would want to happen to your body. Everyone is entitled to their decision in the matter. I find the idea of an interactive AI, set up with all of your previous preferences making previous choice based decisions, very interesting. Would it be based off of a psychoanalytical breakdown of oneself, doing a personal psychohistory analysis to forecast future decisions?
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      Aug 9 2011: Psychohistory would definitely be important, and I don't think the type of content most of us are producing today using social media would be enough to accurately forecast how someone might react to various situations (like the comical inaccuracy of the My Next Tweet example).

      But I think when you consider how much social media has evolved in the past 10 years and how it might evolve in the next 50 (think about the visual/audio data you'll be able to capture) it becomes possible and creates the notion of "artificial you" scenario that I ended my talk on.