As technology evolves the way people pursue immortality is changing accordingly. The traditional road to immortality has been faith. Faith is a cheap, universal and democratic ticket to immortality. So simple, passive and naïve indeed than powerful men and women along history have always looked for additional means to supplement it. Their efforts have concentrated mostly on trying to preserve the physical body from the deleterious decay experienced after physical death, something which has proved too expensive and, consequently not for everybody. Moreover preservation technologies so far, from rich graveyards and mummification to cryogenics or mission eternity sarcophaguses are so precarious than high doses of faith are still necessary.
Another well known road to immortality is fame. Fame is the most secure way to preserve someone in the memory of generations for decades, centuries or even millennia. The greater and better grounded the fame, the longer the future time assured. The use of writing, the success of movable type and the endurance of paper have provided effective ways to preserve the words and thoughts of the dead and significantly strengthened the reliability of this path to immortality. The problem with faith is that it is difficult to achieve and the kind of immortality provided by an eventually eternal persistence on the individual or collective memory of people, it is not entirely satisfactory for the human ego because it does not support physical resurrection which has always been the ultimate aspiration, and the only comprehensive way to experience again and forever the pleasures of life.
The chances to reconstruct a person from his or her writings alone seem remote. However nowadays the current state of information technologies allows us to very easily build up an extended archive including text, voice recordings and images (photographs and video). One might argue that an extensive catalogue of digital anecdotes should provide a set of life-traces enough for reliable life re-construction by means of a future, yet to discover technology able to organize them together in an structured way and capable to reverse engineer personality. An extreme example of life-logging is the project MyLifeBits pioneered by Gordon Bell. But I do not think it is necessary to go that far. You need not be rich or famous for low cost lifelogging. If only, you still need a bit of faith.
And it comes at a price: the time devoted to chatting, uploading and backing up photos, posting at blogs, etc. But this price is already being paid by an ever increasing number of people who are using their handsets for taking and posting pictures, checking in at remote virtual locations and twitting their lives away while enjoying a real life dinner with their friends or family.
I can already foresee a new source of revenue for a next wave of web crawling companies which will offer us a convenient way to search through the cyberspace, dig up our digital records and bury them on a digital sarcophagus. Lawyers should take notice and jump on the bandwagon to define a new breed of historical memory laws.
Featured Image: Pope Benedict XVI sending his first tweet on December 12, 2012