business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Interesting story in the Washington Post the other day about a new business model that seems to be gaining some traction - companies that create technologies that allow people to interact with their descendants for years, maybe even decades and centuries, after they’ve passed away.

If these businesses work, the story says, “future generations will be able to interact” with dead relatives “using mobile devices or voice computing platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa, asking … questions, eliciting stories and drawing upon a lifetime’s worth of advice long after (the) physical body is gone.”

As opposed to autobiographies and memoirs, technology will make creative interactive experiences … and here is how the Post frames it:

“For decades, Silicon Valley futurists have sought to unchain humanity from the corporeal life cycle, viewing death as yet another transformational problem in need of a “life altering” solution. What began with the cryonics movement, in which bodies are frozen for future resuscitation, has intensified amid the rise of digital culture. Today, a new generation of companies is hawking some approximation of virtual immortality –– the opportunity to preserve one’s legacy online forever.”

The Post goes on:

“The rituals surrounding death may be as diverse as the cultures they spring from, but for decades now, many of us have followed a similar script after loved ones depart: We pore over old family photo albums, watch grainy home movies, plaster their faces on T-shirts — or even memorialize their Facebook page, preserving their digital quintessence online.

“But futurists say that script may be on the verge of a rewrite. If technology succeeds in creating emotionally intelligent digital humans, experts say, it may forever change the way living people cooperate with computers and experience loss.”

I find this fascinating … and in some ways a reminder of the impressive technology developed at Rival Theory, where they are using AI and machine learning to develop what essentially are technology-enabled virtual consultants that actually can have relationships with users. (Amanda Solosky, co-founder/CEO at Rival Theory, was featured on a Retail Tomorrow podcast that I did earlier this year.)

I’m not sure that my kids would be all that thrilled about having me virtually available even after I’ve passed away. (Though they might like the idea of being able to unplug me whenever they want to. They’d probably like that ability now.)

On the other hand, maybe we could develop that capability for MNB … I’ve often talked about not wanting to retire, but I wonder if we could develop technology that would allow me to do virtual commentaries long after I’ve kicked the bucket.

Now that would be an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: