Tech After Death

Paula LaBrot

What with Halloween and The Day of the Dead just moving off the calendar, what do you suppose is new in technology for our modern ghosts and spirits. Surprise! Death is keeping up with the times. At Futurism.com, researchers and writers are busy following the new trends in dying, funerals, and…“re-creation.”

DYING

First of all, people are living much longer due to medical advances which have accelerated through the availability of huge amounts of biomedical data. From genetic sequencing to electronic medical records to blood analysis to drug reactions, the data is there for researchers to use on a scale never before dreamed of. Sarah Marquart, writing for futurism.com, found that, according to the Center for Disease Control, the most common causes of death today are heart disease, cancer, and accidents.

In the future, that list is going to change. Marquart postulates that future “accidents,” might be more dramatic than a deadly disease like, for instance, being impaled by a resurrected Wooley Mammoth, murdered by a vengeful sex robot, or perishing in a car crash caused by internet pranksters who hack driverless cars.

We already have bioengineered organs made from patients’ own cells, cell therapies, and drugs that accelerate regeneration. Thousands of electronic devices are predicting, diagnosing, and preventing problems before they even have a chance to begin. Alex Zhavoronkov, Director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation, writes, “Platforms like PatientsLikeMe not only enable patients to get a broader view of what is possible with regard to their disease, but also to act as massive clinical data aggregators analyzing clues to attain effective personalized treatments of diseases and diagnostic techniques.” Through telemedicine, patients can travel the world looking for a doctor.

We haven’t crossed over into a deathless world yet, but, with all the aggressive research developments becoming available, dying in the future may not be so easy, especially when you are able to completely download and store your brain…. Say what?

 

TECHNOLOGY IN THE MODERN POST MORTEM WORLD

So, once death occurs, what then?

For the mortal remains, there are the traditional methods of burial and cremation. For the modern corpse, however, there are alternative offerings, according to Andrew Munro of Finders.com. He suggests you can continue to make an environmental difference after death by having yourself turned into human compost. A company called Recompose will snap freeze a body and break down the brittle, frozen body to a powder, which needs to be immediately composted.

The Urban Death Project in New York has raised thousands of dollars to pioneer a multi-storied cemetery where bodies are to be planted in an open-air roof garden. As the remains decompose, they are moved to lower floors like a real composting apparatus. People are getting themselves frozen through cryonics for $90,000, signing up to have their ashes sent into space or mixed with concrete to form artificial reefs. For the bling conscious among us, one’s ashes can be compressed into diamonds.

At globeandmail.com, Charles Bombardier writes about driverless hearses like the Aeternal, and multi-media funerals. “Aeternal’s concept simply tries to imagine how today’s hearses could evolve with integrated driverless technology, robotics, and multimedia. It tries to celebrate the departed in a new way. Not only will the body be displayed so that family and friends can see their loved one for the last time, but a part of the soul of that person as well, since the Aeternal can play their favorite music or display videos from earlier in their life.”

Just like people now live-stream weddings on Facebook or other social media sites, funerals are also being live-streamed, making it possible for faraway relatives and friends to “attend.” GPS navigation is being used to accurately locate gravesites, especially useful in cemeteries like Arlington where gravestones are so uniform. (no pun intended).

My personal favorite tech trend is the solar powered “E-Tomb.” Imortuary.com reports, “In this prototype, the headstone itself functions as a kind of computer. Information storage devices and Bluetooth transmitters in the headstone would allow those visiting the gravesite to access information using their smartphones. The available information includes social media sites the deceased maintained while alive (blogs, Facebook, Twitter), as well as memorial websites, photos, and videos.”

THE DIGITAL AFTERLIFE

Ethicists at the Oxford Internet Institute argue, “The web is increasingly inhabited by the remains of its departed users, a phenomenon that has given rise to a burgeoning digital afterlife industry. This industry requires a framework for dealing with its ethical implications.”

Do you know people who have passed away but still have a Facebook page? I do.

Sometimes, I see friends and relatives leave posts for ghosts. There are lots of ways of exploiting the dead and those who grieve for them. Images of loved ones talking in their own voices could be devastatingly powerful in the wrong hands.

Lifenaut.com offers free personal digital archiving. You can create a “Mindfile” with pictures, documents, videos…a portrait of your whole life! Then, you can create a computer-based avatar to interact and respond with your attitudes, values, mannerisms, and beliefs.

Meanwhile, someone is storing that for you…and has access…and it’s a lot of information. Just sayin’….

Dearest Readers, this is one, spooky, nutty article…and it’s not even half of the new, high-tech afterlife experience. 

Happy Halloween and may your Dia de los Muertos altar fill your heart with good memories. Maybe we should just stay with that.

Vamos a Ver!

 

Paula LaBrot
Paula LaBrot

Paula LaBrot is a 30-year resident of Topanga, a futurist with a special interest in the uncharted waters of cyberspace. plabrot@messengermountainnews.com

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