Blow Your Mind: The Quest for Cyberimmortality


"The Burning of Shelley" painted by Louis Edward Fournser.
"The Burning of Shelley" painted by Louis Edward Fournser.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Death is always strange, but modern technology has a way of making it stranger still. My father died last month and, as I relate in this podcast, one of the first things I did after I heard the news was to call his cell phone. I'm not entirely sure why. But call I did, and I interacted with the digital remnants of the man that was. In the weeks that have followed, I've e-mailed his account a couple of times as well, an act that feels equal parts weird and therapeutic. What does it all mean?

Our online selves live on after our deaths. What are we as humans to make of that? In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I discuss how something as mundane as a dead man's blog is a precursor to digital immortality. How will advancing neuroscience and AI technology enable us to recreate the deceased or create life after death? And will this be a comfort or just troublesome and weird?

Just how much ethical grey area emerges when we contemplate a future of digital immortal copies of ourselves? Who owns them? Who has the right to copy them? Can we edit an ideal version of who we are to live on after the flesh dies?

STREAM THE EPISODE RIGHT HERE:

[audio http://podcasts.howstuffworks.com/hsw/podcasts/sciencelab/2011-04-21-stbym-cyberimmortality.mp3]

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About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.