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'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?

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