Humans seem to have a need for immortality. We also seem to have a need to understand where we came from. So here are two scenarios to help me frame a question:
What would you give to know how your ancient ancestors lived? Where were they when the pyramids were built, at the birth of Jesus, during the dark ages, the Renaissance? What were their lives were like? What forces shaped their lives? How did they die? What was important to them?
2,000 year from now:
A far distant descendant wants to know what life was like for his ancestors living at the dawn of the digital age. His digital family tree shows him all his ancestors back to the mid 1900’s. For any person in his tree he can see video, still images, writing, and conversations (and who knows what other forms of media) from that person’s entire life – birth to death. His oldest ancestor on record is a man named John Romano. Born in 1971, he witnessed the the cold war, fossil fuels, the beginning of the Net, and global warming. He saw the birth of mobile technology, augmented reality, and ubiquitous computing.
The question is “do we want this?”
Is an archive of human history important to us or to others? Is this valuable? Do we want this? To me, this is the essential question at the center of the conversation about digital afterlife.