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Dear Kevin - When we’re gone, all that remains is automation
An open letter to Kevin
Hey Land of Random readers, today is one of those special “one off” issues that I write every once in a blue moon. The topic for today’s issue is a deeply thoughtful post considering the question of what happens to all our technology after we die. As you know, I write about death tech / digital afterlife tech from time to time.
I read your piece “What Happens When We’re Gone” and am glad that you also recognize the deeply intrusive thoughts that we face as we and our family members draw closer to the end our mortal coil.
What happens to all our tech stuff when we die?
Like you - I’m a bit of a techie, and my wife has no idea about most of the services I use. We’ve discussed that I need to figure that out and at LEAST make a little black book of all my passwords.
I wrote a book in 2016 called “Cemetery Lights” that explored the idea of graveyards being a place for family members to meet with the AI replicas of their loved ones.
Ever since I’ve been pondering that question.
WHAT is the right response to dealing with death in the digital era?
Now - we live in a sort of “grey area” where anything involving tech and death tends to be a very uncomfortable conversation topic. Few people want to talk about it, and fewer still want to actually deal with it.
What happens with most people these days is - A loved one gets their phone and tries to “figure it out.” That’s not ideal at all - and causes unnecessary sadness.
Who wants to play “Digital Death Detective” with a bunch of laptops / iPads / phones?
That’s like being forced to watch the embalming process at the morgue.
If I died tomorrow - I think the only thing I have set up is the Google automation that gives my primary google account to my wife.
I don’t even have a “dead man trigger” article for my newsletter subscribers set up yet - which I keep putting off.
Why? because it’s a dark thing to think about.
Ideally I should have an article set up to share all of my interesting internet links + Substack archive in a downloadable Wiki format, and a call for someone to take up my newsletter - if they want it. This would also necessitate automation that involves several of my friends to vet potential acquirers.
I . . . Just keep putting it all off.
Cuz it’s morbid as heck
Just thinking about “digital death” involves dealing with an overwhelming amount of information.
My Twitter needs an announcement + a update in the bio
My Facebook needs to turn into a memorial account
My crypto wallets need to go to next of kin
All my various internet friends need an update
My “best song” needs to be memorialized on Distrokid so it stays on all the services
My Substack either needs a successor, or a “Archived” mode.
My family is gonna want all my Google Photos/videos
All of the accounts I pay for need to be deleted
My domains need to be canceled / saved
Sharing the drafts of my three unfinished books with my family - and at leads add notes of what happens at the end of them.
And the list goes on - this is all off the top of my head.
The more tech you acquire or set up - the more complicated this all gets - and Kevin, I have no idea what to even begin to do about your personal servers.
Do I add goodbyes?
I’ll toss in one further addition to the morbid bit.
Life is full of unexpected tosses and turns - like flipping tractor trailers on rainy nights, or burglars with itchy trigger fingers, or a clotted artery from one too many Sonic mozzarella cheese sticks.
One of my ambitions is to record goodbyes to upload to my offline wiki. Videos for my loved ones and close friends, videos for my children to watch at important ages “just in case.”
Is that too morbid to think about? Am I being a little too Black Mirror?
We’ll get into them later - but services are popping up to address this kind of thing.
The DIY Solution
You’re right about the offline backup + moving to gmail.
Simplify all that stuff - or write down a detailed guide.
Maybe the best solution is some kind of downloadable wiki (TiddlyWiki comes to mind) that you can preemptively generate + update once a year with all the important stuff - passwords, photos, and all that kind of stuff.
Keep a copy of it on three different USB’s or hard drives - one in a bank vault, another in your safe, and another at a friends house who is “in the know.”
This way - you can ensure that your family gets a hold of at least one of those.
Try some Automated Death Tech
Some startups have - please pardon this dad pun - started popping up to deal with this. The trick here is the stress of trying to figure out which one of the ends up being the “Google” or “Apple” of the niche.
Do I trust this random company to do right by me in 50 years?
That’s like setting up a dead man trigger in 1999 to go to all your AOL messenger chats for the year 2040.
Here’s all the ones I’ve collected so far. Posterity seems like the most suited of the bunch so far to take up a lot of space within the niche.
Posterity - Once your death is confirmed, it will set off IFTTT automations (and soon to include webhooks) of your own creation. Once your death is confirmed, the automation ball starts to roll.
We Expire - Create encrypted digital notes that only open IF you do not respond to Weexpires messages within the set amount of time. It’s a neat “proof of life” concept.
Hereafter AI - Record videos about your life that can be played back after you pass away - and make it interactive too.
Kevin - I wish you the best of luck as you decide which course of action to choose. It’s a difficult and morbid task - but one that’s very necessary. Hopefully, startups like Posterity will step up to the plate to become the Apple (or should I say IBM since they’ve been around so long) of this space - so people can feel at ease using a “death tech” service.
Until Posterity or some other company fills those shoes - I’m probably just going to back up some USBs at the beginning of each year with all the important things I want my family to have. That’s really the best solution I have . . .
Let me know if you find any other solutions!
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