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: 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 http://lifestreamblog.com/tag/memorial/.

    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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