Amid the chaos that is the battle for privacy in regards to just how much info on each of us is out there and who has access to it, there is one little silver lining, a teeny tiny blossom poking through the smog, that I think a lot of us haven’t really thought much about, if at all. Despite the legitimate concerns and problems of late, the internet has effectively made us immortal. That is brilliant and terrifying in one breath.
I had a conversation with an atheist friend on the meaning and value of life when you don’t believe in an afterlife. Bouncing our opinions back and forth, I joked about all the weird things people might find out about me if they went through my computer and online profiles, and then the thought occurred that… well, they’d find out a lot.
My grandfather was an artist, like me, and along with some of his ability, I inherited a few of his crafts and domino set when he passed away. I didn’t know him well – the fact that I spoke little Spanish and he little English caused communication barrier which never allowed us to really bond. I still know next to nothing about the man he was; just what my family told me and the little I saw of him. A thin, frail man who was always sick and would hit us upside the head for no reason. Allegedly a terrible father but a brilliant thinker. An artist who belonged out in the fields with no shoes, not at home with six kids. That’s all I know. However my grandchildren, should I have them, will know me so much more even if we never speak a word to one another.
The Privacy Wars of Today May Become The Immortality Tools Of Tomorrow
We live in a world where everything is digitized and saved somewhere out there. Every thought, rant, comment, musing we choose to share is in one way or another forever archived in this massive sea of data. Although that fact has been the subject of a lot of controversy over privacy, when we think of the bigger picture, it’s actually pretty amazing to ponder how much of us is online, perhaps eternally at least as a backup if not accessible. I’ve had those moments, where on a whim I google an old screen name and find my stupid teenage rants. Or when I imported all my LJs and Bloggers to WordPress and wound up with a huge archive of almost 10 years of my life in one place. There’s also a level of creepiness to it. At some point in high-school I was so mad at my father I said I wish he died. Then he did a few years later and so connecting those two instances of my life was pretty profound to me. Once upon a time such a stupid thought would’ve been easily forgotten. But now the fact that I ever said that is burned into my mind.
It differs a bit, I think, from written journals, mostly in style and intent. When you sit down to write a journal, you often think a little harder, speak your mind a bit clearer or more elegantly. But rarely do we think much about the comments or status updates much, or even a blog entry. There’s a strange sort of dismissal of relevance when we speak our minds online. Perhaps, it shows us a bit more honestly, as well. More unfiltered, less inhibited.
I read a story recently of a woman who tweeted about not feeling well and heading to the hospital, updating on her progress. Hours later, her husband hopped onto her account to announce her passing. Reading through this timeline of events is morbid at times but also fascinating. This person, here, she was alive and speaking to us directly, and hours later she’s gone and that’s it. This is not rare on social networks. Same with Facebook and blogs. It’s like our being and thoughts are forever suspended in time, even after we’re gone.
When We All Become Data
That brings me to my last thought on the subject. There’s been lots of hype and wild predictions that within the next 50-100 years we may be able to upload / download our minds into digital format. That’s an interesting thought to consider. What would that mean? What would you do with that? Depending on who you are and what you believe, you may think we’re technically already just advanced, complex computers. Coupled with the processing power and ability our current AI has to think / react, is it so farfetched to consider one day we may exist as software? And to bring it up a notch; what about our current generation. Many of us may not live to see the day such an event happens or is available commonly, but how about everything we’ve left behind? Our blogs and comments and musings. Who’s to say someone can’t go through those 10, 20, 50 years of archives, stick them in a program that can pick out patterns of our thoughts and create a replica of the person we once were?
It’s creepy but fascinating.
To The Readers What do you guys think? Do you like the idea of being “immortal?” Would you want to continue existing in a digital format?