Live forever: Would you like to become a digital avatar after you die?


There are about 1 billion people in the world using social networks now. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Weichat,Weibo are generating enormous amount of information every single minute. But have you ever considered how to deal with these contents after you are dead? Are all of the data going to be destroyed or used for creating a new human miracle?

Yahoo Japan has launched a life-ending service, which would automatically eliminate the user’s information in Yahoo email account, photos, videos and document after receiving the confirmation message of death. So what Yahoo is doing is to fully terminate the interaction on social networks of the dead.

But you may think of another possibility—assuming you are dead, but you are not dead yet on social networks, which means there is still a digital avatar interacting with the world instead of you. This is an ambitious imagination: If I were dead, there would be a digital avatar about myself generated after death, who could simulate my way to talk and think and my cognitive view of things. “She” is able to comment on my famlily and friends’ Weibo, give a like and forward contents, or even make phone calls. This may now sound unrealistic or ridiculous. And it also seems not in compliance with human relations and ethics.

But this assumption has been put forward already and there are a group of people who believe in it working on the website Opposite to what Yahoo Japan is doing, Eterni’s job is to collect someone’s data left on social networks and process it into a digital alter-ego, which could communicate with living relatives online continuously even after he or she passes away. And one significant thing is, like Ursache—the CEO of Eterni said, you will need to have a live person to make it work, not a deceased one. The hard work begins while you are alive. Although quite a few people are against to their concept, more than 18,000 volunteers have signed up online for the afterlife avatars. And if you open their website, you’ll see a paragraph of text on the top: We all pass away sooner or later, leaving only a few memories behind for family, friends and humanity—and eventually we are all forgotten. They have emphasized the word” forgotten” to point out the reason why it will happen: it is simple, nobody wants to be forgotten.

So can the digital avatar really keep interacting with the world? Can my digital alter-ego actually have my acute ability to observe and discern? Can it meet the emotional appeal of my relatives? Will you accept a digital “you” after you die and let it keep communicating with your family and friends instead of you? Is this the right thing to do to comfort people who have lost their loved ones? Or are we already lost in the high-tech and overly depending on social networks?

—Li Meilin


2 thoughts on “Live forever: Would you like to become a digital avatar after you die?

  1. I don’t think this can work. It seems to be in direct conflict with careful curation of a social media presence. The social media version of people is not the same as the live person. Therefore, a social media version of the deceased will not be an accurate representation of the deceased.

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