TED Conversations

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.

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  • 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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