The future of death

ILab Notes

Innovation Labs Silicon Valley-udsendte Hannah Morgan skriver hjem fra sidste uges Ten Year Forecast event på Institute For The Future (IFTF) i Silicon Valley

Death is inevitable for all of us and if there is one thing we can be certain of it is that we are all going to die eventually. Therefore it might seem odd to look at such a thing as the future of death – what will be so different about it? Jamais Cascio a research fellow of Institute For The Future tells us that
as our lives become more and more digitalized, so will all of the milestones we experience – even the ones we have found to be pretty much analogue so far.

In the online game World of Warcraft it has become tradition that the avatars of the different gamers meet up in the virtual world to do a wake for a World of Warcraft gamer who has passed away. These are people who only know each other as online avatars and who might never have met in the real world – heck, when they met in the virtual world of World of Warcraft, they were actually fighting each other. However this ritual makes them all stop doing what the game is actually for and instead bring the real world – death – into an online fantasy world.

Even funerals are being digitalized. A nursing home in Montana is now streaming 1/3 of all of their funerals online so that old aunt Elly in London can take part in her loved one’s funeral without actually being there. For millions of people Facebook has become a tool to remember deceased loved ones or perhaps even continue communicating with them. Message like “I miss you”, “I cannot believe it has been a year since you passed away” or “Going to see Britney Spears tonight. I know you would have loved to go.”, dominate the walls of many deceased Facebook users. These profiles will be online forever as the user himself will not be able to close his account – due to natural courses. People begin to use Facebook as a common place of mourning, sharing and remembering.

In the future we might see even more radical approaches on this. When we learn to accept our virtual eternity we might begin to embrace it. It will be possible for Granny to upload pictures, videos and audio recordings of herself so that her loved ones can be reminded of even the smallest detail of the person she once was. Perhaps an intelligent tool will be created so that the we can ask the online avatar of Grandmother what she thinks about your teenage daughters dress sense or what your deceased wife thinks of your new girlfriend.

All of this will make it easier for us to remember the ones we love who has left this world – yet I cannot help but wonder if that is necessarily a positive thing. A part of death is learning to let go. And will you be able to let go when your deceased boyfriend tells you how much he loves and misses you on a daily basis?