How do you want to be remembered after you die? A new documentary from Wall Street Journal tech reporter (and Verge alum) Joanna Stern examines the idea of what it means to pass on a digital legacy, and how we think about preserving our identities after death.
She interviews Lucy, a young woman with a medical condition who is bound to a wheelchair and needs a feeding tube. Lucy is acutely aware of creating a digital footprint that will outlive her, but her mother Kate is not so certain about what may comfort her if Lucy passes on.
Stern also spoke to James Vlahos, a man who recorded interviews with his terminally ill father and created a “Dadbot” to keep his father’s personality traits — as well as his jokes and his singing — alive after his death. Vlahos founded HereAfter AI, which uses conversational AI to record people telling their personal stories and creates a voicebot based on those conversations.
And then there’s Terasem, the company that can create a “mind file” for potential download into a robot. Bina48, the robot, is based on a real person, and while it looks a little rough around the edges, you can certainly see the potential for bringing human “consciousness” to digital avatars.
In the interest of disclosure: I only know Stern by reputation (I started at The Verge long after she had departed). But I think this is a truly remarkable piece of service journalism; she connects Lucy and her mother with Vlahos, who helps create a bot for her. I’ll admit I was a little wary of watching something that appeared to be so focused on death, but really, it’s about legacy, and helping keep our memories of our loved ones vivid and real long after they’re gone.