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Seniors Search For Virtual Immortality 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the put-your-entire-life-on-youtube-for-the-grandkids-to-enjoy dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Most ancestors from the distant past are, at best, names in the family records, leaving behind a few grainy photos, a death certificate or a record from Ellis Island. But J. Peder Zane writes that retirees today have the ability to leave a cradle-to-grave record of their lives so that 50, 100, even 500 years hence, people will be able to see how their forebears looked and moved, hear them speak, and learn about their aspirations and achievements. A growing number of gerontologists also recommend that persons in that ultimate stage should engage in the healthy and productive exercise of composing a Life Review. In response, a growing number of businesses and organizations have arisen to help people preserve and shape their legacy — a shift is helping to redefine the concept of history, as people suddenly have the tools and the desire to record the lives of almost everybody. The ancient problem that bedeviled historians — a lack of information about people's everyday lives — has been overcome. New devices and technologies are certain to further this immortality revolution as futurists are already imagining the day when people can have a virtual conversation with holograms of their ancestors that draw on digital legacies to reflect how the dead would have responded."
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Seniors Search For Virtual Immortality

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  • by able1234au (995975) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @05:25AM (#43195767)

    putting names against the people in those millions of digital photos

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Ya know, the guy that invents a truly "smart" file system is gonna make Bill Gates look poor. What we need is a file system that can actually "look" at the videos and pics and "learn" enough about each one that if I say typed "Aunt Edna" it would know which videos and photos contain Aunt Edna without having to label thousands of photos, or if I typed in "green dress" as that is all I can remember about a photo I'm looking for it can show me the photos with green dresses in them. Bonus points if you have the

      • Microsoft has already invented this (sort of), no-one really used it because it was slow, buggy, and made your entire computer run like shit. But that didn't stop them from patenting it. So rest assure, Bill Gates will get the money anyways. And now you know why Microsoft is still in business and will always be in business as long as there isn't any patent reform.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Microsoft has already invented this (sort of), no-one really used it because it was slow, buggy, and made your entire computer run like shit.

          That's certainly not uncommon for MS wares. Actually, most commercial software, not just MS.

          But that didn't stop them from patenting it. So rest assure, Bill Gates will get the money anyways.

          You can't patent a concept, just its implementation. Viagra's patent didn't stop their competition from patenting Cialis. Plus, MS's patent runs out 20 years after they filed it.

        • Microsoft has already invented this (sort of), no-one really used it because it was slow, buggy, and made your entire computer run like shit.

          What was it called? I'm not finding anything from casual googling.

    • arrogantly expecting that some of your descendants might actually take an interest in your life...
      At best, they're likely to have it synopsized by some AI which is tasked with going through it, and through the better records left by intermediate descendants. The synopsis is likely to be short: "dude lived, had kids, then died". Another likelihood is that most of them won't care at all.
  • by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday March 17, 2013 @05:35AM (#43195785) Journal

    Folk will be foraging for themselves in a post-nuclear/bioweapon apocalyptic wasteland as the ice sets in for 100,000 years.

    Maintaining family photos will not even enter their minds. Nor should it. They'll be about finding a way toward the equator if they're smart.

  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @05:36AM (#43195787)

    Add a couple pedestals with appropriate video clips of the deceased appropriately cued, and you have the basic setting for the Max Headroom classic episode, "Religion."

    My question is twofold - who is arrogant enough to assume that they are interesting enough at all times to warrant 24/7/365 sousveillance, and who assumes that the massive amounts of this generated data will be taken care of indefinitely? Is this what a legacy amounts to these days and how much money can I charge for this service?

    • Thats OK - the records will be safely filed on DVDs long after they are as readable as 8" floppy disks are today! (Except mine of course - my pictures are archived on DDS2 tapes (except the older ones that are on 800bpi magtape) ;-)
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @08:25AM (#43196219) Journal

      who is arrogant enough to assume that they are interesting enough at all times to warrant 24/7/365 sousveillance,

      Spoken like someone who has never studied history. Detailed accounts of average people (or average members of a demographic) are immensely valuable in attempting to reconstruct an accurate picture of a particular time in the past. If anything, uninteresting people are more valuable: they provide a representative snapshot that can be used to extrapolate others. If you have a few hundred of them, you can do very detailed comparisons and discover the common details. The historian in me cringes whenever I see someone delete an email.

      • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @10:25AM (#43196697)
        Accounts of average people throughout history were valuable because they were rare. Now they are billions of times less rare.
      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Valuable to historians perhaps, not really anyone else. And if a modern historian volunteers to go to the effort and expense of maintaining my digital archive I'll consider letting them. The thing is though that historians are typically interested in, you know, *historical* stuff, not building and maintaining archives of modern data for the convenience of their future counterparts. And without archivists taking active steps to maintain digital data it will vanish far faster than even crappy photographs a

        • The joke about it is that those stone tablets and papyrus scrolls are way more durable than 18th century paper written on with acid containing ink.

          Wouldn't it be hilarious if we found out the reason why we have so few records of the "dark times" between 6th and 10th century is that they invented that quick rotting crap back then, too?

      • Yes, yes, we're incredibly interested in the average life of a medieval peasant. But one is enough, thank you. When we have Joe Shmoe, we don't need Bill Blah anymore.

        Historians are interested in average data. So don't worry, having a few emails of you left will do. They'll get thrown in with Joe's blog, Bill's Facebook account, Jacky's browser history and my porn collection and historians of the future will distill the average Joe of the 21st century out of it.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      My question is twofold - who is arrogant enough to assume that they are interesting enough at all times to warrant 24/7/365 sousveillance

      The answer to the first part of your question is anyone with a twitter account...

  • Nobody will care (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @05:40AM (#43195799) Homepage

    I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents - so far, so good. But go a few more generations back and I have 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, all of which are less than 1% me. Even if I had the complete records of what their lives and ambitions were in the 1750s or so, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't care what my mother's father's mother's mother's father's father's father was doing, I doubt I'd even get around to checking out 128 people before I was bored stiff. At best I'd print out a nice family tree where you could have about three bullet points to describe yourself and that is it. Maybe some historians want to dig through it, but I wouldn't.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      People seem to feel that they have to have some kind of lasting impact on the world of their lives to matter. Actually what matters is the affect you have on your contemporaries, those whose lives you come into contact with directly. That stuff may seem small but it's what's important.

      • by Sooner Boomer (96864) <sooner.boomrNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday March 17, 2013 @06:18AM (#43195911) Journal

        People seem to feel that they have to have some kind of lasting impact on the world of their lives to matter.

        And this sums up the philosophy behind twitter users completely...

      • Actually what matters is the affect you have on your contemporaries, those whose lives you come into contact with directly

        I'm guessing that most grandparents would prefer to spend time talking to their living descendents now, instead of lecturing to unknowns of the future. A two way conversation is much more natural than a recorded monologue or rant.

        Actually, what I really believe, is that older folks should do whatever they damn well please. They are old, time is short, and they don't need anyone to tell them how to spend that time.

        Let 'em spend their days telling me to get off their lawn, if that what brings some minor j

        • A two way conversation is much more natural than a recorded monologue or rant.

          True in theory, but the way my grandpa talked to me usually it wouldn't have made much of a difference...

      • by vlad30 (44644) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @08:27AM (#43196231)
        Some people would be interesting to listen to for all society e.g. Leonardo Davinci, Einstein, Steve Jobs for the impact they have on society as a whole.

        Most people however are like ants one, ten or hundred get stepped on and nobody even notices as what they churn out still gets done by the thousands of other ants.

    • As someone with even only a passing interest in genealogy, I have the exact opposite reaction - I would find this fascinating, especially if it included things like medical records etc. The possibility of "conversing " with dead ancestors is also interesting. My maternal grandfather died before I was born, but by my Mother's description and stories of him I would love the opportunity to chat.
      • Well, I've taken some time to trace back my family history. My grand aunt (unwittingly) helped a lot, but then, she needed to, it was "that time" when tracing your family line was in style for some lines of work (hint: the year was 1938).

        Judging from the people I found that way, I'm pretty confident that talking with them wouldn't have been a lot more interesting than the average pub "discussion". And I guess that would hold true for most people. Remember that before 1900 or at least 1800, nearly all people

    • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

      If you are old right now and do this thing, you might be one of the few out of your generation who has made these records available.
      That should set you apart from the other 127 not so tech savvy grandpas and grandmas.

      Being the most ancient entry in the digital family tree will surely draw you some attention. So grab the chance.

      Us younger people will just be another record in between.

      • by baegucb (18706)

        I knew there was a reason for having a low UID here! (Pity my kid isn't tech savvy despite using Apple laptops).

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Should that be "despite" or "because of"? Apple makes very nice computers, but they specifically do everything in their power to maximize ease of use = minimize the incremental benefit of tech-savyness.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        If you are old right now and do this thing, you might be one of the few out of your generation who has made these records available.
        That should set you apart from the other 127 not so tech savvy grandpas and grandmas.

        My grandmother was born in 1903, and I found her baby pictures on the internet. The difference today is we take a lot more pictures and movies because now we all have movie cameras all the time.

        • Taking a picture was a huge event back in the last century, shortly after it was invented. I have a photography of my great-great-grandfather (who happened to be the local forester for the local royalty back then) and my great-grandmother who was a child when the picture was taken was able to tell me the story behind it a few years before she died, or else it would just be a "storyless" picture for me. She remembered the day because it WAS such a huge deal that they now could also get their likeness immort

    • I have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents - so far, so good. But go a few more generations back and I have 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents

      Possibly not - as you go further up the tree the chances of you finding some inbreeding increases. These days people move around a lot, so aren't so likely to inbreed, but previously that hasn't been the case, and with a relatively small population of partners to choose from, inevitably you'll get inbreeding (even more so for people who lived in small villages).

    • by SpzToid (869795) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @08:14AM (#43196191)

      640 relatives should be enough for anyone.

    • Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

      Never has a truism been more applicable.

    • Maybe some historians want to dig through it, but I wouldn't.

      As a historian, let me just say this: no, I really wouldn't want to dig through that crap. What people WANT to say about themselves--their pre-packaged, self-conceived advertising--is rarely the most interesting, reliable, or relevant material.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Interestingly, when my father past we found a journal, or at least a life review, that he had been writing. His writing was very detailed and not some kind of self promoting but very factual in both the good and bad of his life. I've felt the need to do a similar review, with the idea of it not being read until after I am gone and I would like to have an accurate account of my life, warts and all.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      You're ignoring the people in the American south. They typically only have 4-6 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents

  • Revelation space (Score:4, Interesting)

    by j1976 (618621) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @06:03AM (#43195869)

    This theme has been investigated extensively in the revelation space [wikipedia.org] books by Alastair Reynolds, if anyone is curious about reading fiction about how it could look. Here, a full dump of a person is called an alpha-level simulation and is essential a living digital copy of a person, capable of continuing to "live", learn and having conversations with their descendants.

    • Even a relatively static personality/experience dump seems pretty interesting to me. Imagine having the collective wisdom of the past to draw on.

      • by causality (777677)

        Even a relatively static personality/experience dump seems pretty interesting to me. Imagine having the collective wisdom of the past to draw on.

        If we still keep failing to learn from history (continue using fiat currencies for one example*) then it really would make you feel hopeless.


        * All of them, without exception, have ended with hyperinflation. Perhaps we think we're special?

        • If a fiat currency ends, then it has become worthless. How else would that occur except through hyperinflation?

      • That has been invented already. It's called an encyclopedia. I've heard a rumor that someone put something like that online, too.

    • by hardie (716254)

      Also try Dark as Day by Charles Sheffield. He has a somewhat different take on personality simulations. Excellent book.

  • Imagine the future - trying to read 21st century data storage.

    Can you imagine trying to read beta videos, cassette tapes, Zip drives, etc even now - let alone in 100 years?

    They will be using totally different data storage technology - imagine trying to watch a VCR in a house that only has Blu-ray?

  • See Schneier: The Internet is a Surveillance State [slashdot.org]

    So, not only is every action, every message, every visited website recorded. But it's also going to persist forever and will, ultimately, be probably be the most concrete mark made by your existence on this planet.

    Though I'm not sure it'll be much use to future historians; I'm sure the information will be heavily paywalled as some deranged capitalist is bound to think the porn habits of people who've been dead 200 years still has commercial value.

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @06:44AM (#43195971) Homepage

    A lot of people have some minor interest in their ancestry. However, with few exceptions, our ancestors were people just like any other, with lives interesting only to themselves. Those few exceptions are people who will be in the historical record, and have no need of this kind of service.

    And that's the point: my life is interesting to me, but I am not egotistical enough to suppose that - in a hundred year - anyone will care how I looked, moved, and spoke. Anyone who thinks that their distant descendents will care about such a "life review" is, imho, pathetically full of themselves.

    The other point to take issue with is the idea that this is "healthy". As one gets older, there is a danger of living more and more in the past. The happiest and healthiest elderly people I have known are the ones who avoid this: they live in the present and have plans for the future. Spending your time producing a "life review" would seem to be exactly the opposite of a healthy activity!

    • by Livius (318358)

      An individual ordinary life is not interesting in terms of the big picture, but ordinary life itself is of great interest to historians, since it's not the same as ordinary life in another period or another place, and it's the context in which extraordinary lives were lived.

      We don't need *everyone's* lives, just a representative sample, but, given that technology makes this easy, it doesn't take a great deal of interest to justify it for the people doing it Compared to 'reality' TV the life of an ancestor

    • I am not egotistical enough to suppose that - in a hundred year - anyone will care how I looked, moved, and spoke. Anyone who thinks that their distant descendents will care about such a "life review" is, imho, pathetically full of themselves.

      I know right? The market for this "virtual immortality" is HUGE! It can't miss....as long as the business plan involves collecting money from those who want to be preserved (content providers) rather than billing the eventual consumer.

      • What makes the deal even sweeter is that there's a lot of old people who have money and who know that they can't take their money with them when they die, so they don't give a shit what it costs. Whether it costs 10% of my fortune or 50% is moot, when I die I'll have to leave 100% of what's left behind.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I think you're totally wrong. I think it would be fascinating to be able to find out what my forebears thought. I hardly know what my parents think, because we have differences that prevent us from engaging in meaningful conversation.

      • Having a similar father and having had a grandfather who was also not much different (I wonder if it's genetic that my family doesn't like talking with each other... ohwell), I don't know whether my great-grandfather would be much more willing to inform me of his thoughts.

  • Revisionism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craigNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday March 17, 2013 @07:07AM (#43196023)

    None of this will necessarily mean history gets told any more accurately. It will just get revised differently. Since people are eager to "embellish" their resumes, these "life review" autobiographies will be chock full of all sorts of tall tales to make even Mark Twain grimace. What makes us think that behavior starts and stops with former Presidents? Facts have always been as malleable as Silly Putty in the hands of people with motives that make the raw facts inconvenient. That class of people just happens to include nearly every person that has ever lived.

    Only good old "peer review" will straighten these Life Reviews out and make them truly worth preserving.

    • I was going to make a comment like the one you made. The stakes for historians is not overcoming a lack of information, tout court, but to overcome a lack of reliable information. Life reviews are not it.

      Another problem is that, even assuming perfect reliability (which we both agree is unlikely), additional documents may have a very low signal to noise ratio. In know from experience that an overabundance of data is not a blessing when combing through it for relevant information has to be done by hand. Somet

    • Yes, but if everyone does it we'd get to hear all sides of the stories for a change. Not, like we do now in history books, only the story of the one who won.

      Wars never decided who was right. Only who was left. He was only right because, well, if the other side doesn't show up to the trial, you win by default. And dead guys cannot testify.

      Yet.

  • How about uploading one's personality into some kind of artificial neural structure, as in Peter Hamilton's Edenism [wikipedia.org]? Now that would be much closer to 'virtual immortality'. Just sayin' ...
    • by gweihir (88907)

      No problem, give it a few hundred years before that becomes available though. If ever. Computing and storage technology is currently exploring the limits of physics. We may be pretty close to what is feasible in this universe.

      • We may be pretty close to what is feasible in this universe.

        Not even close to likely. :) Where did you get that idea?

        We don't know what our own genetics mean; we can't manipulate them hardly at all. Or those of anything else, other than in the most crude, ham-handed ways. Our medical knowledge is at the scratch-the-surface level. We can't control aging yet. Chip tech is still at the 2D level... when it goes 3D, which will require lower power tech or some new means of heat transfer, chip complexity will lea

        • by gweihir (88907)

          My "idea" comes from close understanding of the technologies involved. From your comments, I gather that you barely scratch the surface but have listened to a lot of BS. For example, chip technology will not go 3D for a number of reasons, each of them prohibitive and fundamental.

  • I found some 120 year old newspapers a while ago. What was fascinating was the style, what people found important and that there was a Usenet-precursor (a column labeled "From anybody to everybody"). The people themselves were completely immaterial to me, as I had no previous personal connection. Looking at videos from a granny you actually knew as a child may be something people can understand, but personal stuff from 100 or 500 years ago is not going to engage anybody.

    Side note: Storing data reliable even

  • Having some individual/organization concoct a flattering bio' is hardly a new thing. None of the "data" provided by these "services" is particularly useful to a historian, except as yet another example of vanity press, and, perhaps, as a record of what the "biographed" considered flattering.

  • by rssrss (686344) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @09:22AM (#43196433)

    "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment."
    Woddy Allen [wikiquote.org]

  • Interesting to specify a system which relied on multiple targetted questionnaires, textual analysis of e-mail, docfiles etc for style and keywords, tagged pictures, family tree, DNA results even. Usecase being for posterity to interrogate the deceased 'as if' they were still there. Analysis fundamental enough to be extensible as technology evolves. But hear this - it must be open source, because it can only be microseconds before some megacorp or startupgeek patents every obvious feature and makes all pos
  • but you have to die — its the only way to live again!! :-)

    safe passage — our cat, 'puck' goes today.. :-(

  • I will trade longer life for longer remembrance every day :).

  • Future archeolisits will be able to see the text on stone tablets, but memory chips? All gone.

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