Dead Man's Switch

It's spring break this week, so there won't be a Philosophy through Film post for class.  But I watched Mean Girls with my girlfriend today, so I think I will write about that some time this weekend. In an interview with Ryan North that I can't find the source of at the moment, he talked about programming his web presence with an emergency function, which would begin wrapping up his affairs if he were to fail to check it for a certain length of time.  I think it was something like 10 days.

It would post final comics, divulge his passwords and financial information to trusted confidants, and otherwise smooth the process of concluding the continuity of his on-the-grid existence.

In the novel I finished earlier this year, among many other things I speculated about people whose online presence might continue onward after they die, when vastly more of human experience is conducted online.  This isn't a new idea, obviously, but I think it's one of the more interesting conceptions of technological immortality.

It occurs to me now that it might be possible, and might even be necessary, for people who want to avoid that sort of thing happening to set up a system by which their online presence is archived and dismantled after they die.

I wondered about the reasons someone might do this.  Maybe they believe in the soul, and feel that their own soul having departed, an entity continuing their presence would necessarily be insufficient.  Maybe they feel that the online presence might become corrupted, or believe that continuity of physical form is the ultimate marker of continuity of existence.   And I imagine there would be a great deal of squick factor.

But like most biases about computers and consciousnesses, I think over time these objections would fade, and the dead man's switch, if it becomes necessary, will inevitably become obsolete -- or, at least, extremely fringe.