Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
— Emily Dickinson
Death is a scary thing; not just due to the physical implications, but also the social: does anything that we do today matter? Are we destined to be forgotten? Will anyone remember us once we’re gone?
Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to be sure exactly how our deaths will be perceived; millions of people die and are forgotten, while others flourish in the memories of friends and family. While we can’t ensure that we’ll forever be fondly remembered by generations to come, either by our generosity, intellect, or work, it’s never been easier to ensure that our loved ones have all the resources they need as to never forget us. While it’s common practice to pass on photographs and documents when we die, this practice has become antiquated in this digital age, where everything can be done faster, safer, and more efficiently. Rather than passing down material items, now you can pass down yourself… As artificial intelligence.
Lifenaut is a service that allows one to create a “mind file”– a sort of profile in which one can store images, text files, audio files, and so on, that can be accessed by those one allows. This is especially useful for communicating things such as a will or personal writings that may be hard to access once one is gone. Lifenaut also provides a timeline in which one can map out their life for others to see– no major event in one’s life need go unnoticed. Personally, I haven’t uploaded much to my mind file, but I did upload my feature-length screenplay, Abattage, which I feel is a defining part of who I am.
While all of this seems pretty basic, one of the aspects of Lifenaut that really stands out is the inclusion of an avatar– an artificially-intelligent projection of oneself that one can train to communicate as they would. This feature was likely included to be accessed after one’s death so that loved ones would still, in a way, be able to speak to them. This is where things start to get interesting, as you’re encouraged to teach your avatar more about you, your life, and your speech patterns.
As you’d probably expect, I made my avatar as close to myself as possible, using my own face as reference, which is recommended by the program.
Though I’ve put in a bit of time to teach my avatar how to communicate like a human being, it still has a lot to learn; while it can easily name off my family members, where I was born and raised, my favorite movie, and so on, it has a bit of trouble sounding organic.
As a matter of fact, I am.
Perhaps the most ambitious and eccentric project of them all, however, is Lifenaut’s Spacecast, which broadcasts one’s mindfile into space using a commercial satellite; even if earth falls, Spacecast users may have a long-lasting legacy with Extraterrestrials. The website explains it best:
In reality, Lifenaut is a program that all people who wish to be remembered should use. Not only does it provide a sort of memorial for your loved ones, but it ensures that your information will never be lost, even if earth itself is to fall. Death can be a scary scenario for many people, but with Lifenaut, you can rest easy knowing that your legacy will go on.