“Simply Become Immortal” is the tagline for eterni.me, a website that claims to use complex algorithms to immortalize you in the digital realm.
Eterni.me’s founders met at the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program and say the site uses a lifetime of information to create an avatar that isn’t subject to biological inevitability. This avatar “emulates your personality and can interact with, and offer information and advice to your family and friends, even after you pass away.”
My immediate reaction was a pit in my stomach. Algorithms can’t feel. Looking at an avatar with the lopsided smile of my high school friend won’t be the same as seeing that easygoing grin.
But it’s an interesting concept. And memorializing the dead in the virtual world isn’t new. Newsweek talks about eterni.me and other virtual graveyards. The one that stuck out the most to me was the Polish Virtual Graveyard. All graveyards are macabre and eerie, but these online graveyards are unsettling.
The graveyards seem too public, but maybe they aren’t. In our culture, bereavement is private. Grief is universal, but we grieve discreetly. Facebook’s “legacy contacts” and virtual graveyards are more than another consequence of New Media Age – they are fundamentally changing the way we look at death.
Sites like eterni.me are challenging the finality of bodily death. I am reluctant, the pit is still in my stomach. Yet, I am intrigued. Can our legacies live forever?