• Some of us may view these options as exciting. Others may recoil. Still others may simply shrug. No matter your reaction, though, you will almost certainly leave behind digital traces. Almost everyone who uses technology today is subject to “datafication”: the recording, analysis, and archiving of our everyday activities as digital data. And the intended or unintended consequences of how we use data while we’re living has implications for every one of us after we die. (View Highlight)
  • As humans, we all have to confront our own mortality. The datafication of our lives means that we now must confront the fact that data about us will very likely outlive our physical selves. The discussion about the digital afterlife thus raises several important, interrelated questions. First, should we be entitled to define our posthumous digital lives? The decision not to persist in a digital afterlife should be our choice. Yet could the decision to opt out really be enforced, given how “sticky” and distributed data are? Is deletion, for which some have advocated, even possible? (View Highlight)
  • Some people may prefer that their digital presence vanish with their physical body. Those who are organized and well prepared might give their families access to passwords and usernames in the event of their deaths, allowing someone to track down and delete their digital selves as much as possible. Of course, in a way this careful preparation doesn’t really matter, since the deceased won’t experience whatever postmortem digital versions of themselves are created. But for some, the idea that someone could actually make them live again will feel wrong. (View Highlight)
  • This act was at least a denial of autonomy. When we’re alive, we’re autonomous and move through the world under our own will. When we die, we no longer move bodily through the world. According to conventional thinking, that loss of our autonomy also means the loss of our human rights. But can’t we still decide, while living, what to do with our artifacts when we’re gone? After all, we have designed institutions to ensure that the transaction of bequeathing money or objects happens through defined legal processes; it’s straightforward to see if bank account balances have gotten bigger or whose name ends up on a property deed. These are things that we transfer to the living. (View Highlight)
  • If technology like the Microsoft chatbot patent is executed, it also has implications for human dignity. The idea of someone “bringing us back” might seem acceptable if we think about data as merely “by-products” of people. But if data are more than what we leave behind, if they are our identities, then we should pause before we allow the digital reproduction of people. Like Microsoft’s patent, Google’s attempts to clone someone’s “mental attributes” (also patented), Soul Machines’ “digital twins,” or startup Uneeq’s marketing of “digital humans” to “re-create human interaction at infinite scale” should give us pause. (View Highlight)