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Life as Performance Art

Since the dawn of civilization humans have wondered what happens after our heart stops and we quit breathing.
What’s on the other side? The ancient Jewish Sadducees believed death was the end, i.e. dead is dead. Most people worldwide hold out hope there’s more.
Ancient Egyptians memorized passages from a Book of the Dead, an elaborate way of getting to the afterlife, and practiced mummification. As long as one’s name and mummy existed, the person was still alive. Other religions had their own ideas and teachings.
Many us have our own ideas of what happens after death, often based on religious views of heaven, hell or purgatory in between. In the Middle Ages, wealthy Christians gave money or property to the church, so monks and nuns would pray for their souls and keep their memories alive.
On the first November Sunday, many denominations observe All Saints and Souls Day, with lists of deceased loved ones printed. New names are added, but I’ve noticed each year a few drop off as well.
Perhaps that’s why we like to hedge our bets by leaving some tangible reminder of our presence. Cemeteries are full of markers for current occupants six feet under. If you have enough money you can get a building or even an entire university (i.e. Stanford, Duke …) named for you.
My sister signed me up for a year’s subscription to Storyworth a few years back. She selected the questions each week and I was invited to write my answer. If I didn’t like one of the questions, there were others from which I could choose.
I answered and wrote, pushed the send button and at the end of the year all of the stories were collected and made into a book. All for a substantial fee, of course. The idea was after I fell of my perch, someone could spend a few hours being delighted by my answers. Yeah, right.
Now the afterlife’s been democratized and made easier, thanks to computer wizards. A new AI idea lets you to record your name and voice. For a few minutes you will be prompted to answer questions into a microphone: name, date of birth, perhaps family members, where you lived and what you did during life.
In short, we are creating a data clone of ourselves with our own computers. We record our picture and voice, and the algorithms in Hereafter “bring it to life.”
Self-teaching AI Hereafter apps help you to create a hologram legacy. Years from now, someone can ask a question, the computer does its thing and you give an answer.
As AI advances, more information can flood into your hologram. In theory, sometime in the you can take your place at the Christmas dinner table. You can talk, but not not actually taste the turkey and trimmings.
There is not much different, except for the technology, to having our likeness carved in a tomb with hieroglyphs, writing our memoirs or autobiographies, or telling our life story on Storyworth or with an AI app. We are, in essence, banking who we are to be shared sometime in the future.
Is this in response to our anxiety over the great unknown?  How can the world continue without us around? So we think and ask.
If some future relative or other person wants to ask me about growing up, my work or what I did for fun, we can have a chat. When the technology improves even more, several of us who have participated in the app can talk to each other.
Imagine sitting down to a virtual video conversation with Hemingway, Einstein and Jefferson, all in the same room.
I see two big problems. We can become too much like the ancient Egyptians, who spent so much time preparing for the afterlife it cut down living in the moment. It’s easy to let hours to slip by when we are using our devices.
Adding a new app that will potentially influence others long after we are gone can take up even more time, to a point we’ll have nothing about living in the present, engaging with people and in activities, to give the communications context.
Ponder too that a hologram speaking to a living person is a one-way communication. We receive nothing back because we are in permanent repose. There is a lot of ego involved if we believe someone really wants to talk with us that way.
The idea of this app appeals, but participating means I pay about $3 a month for the rest of my life, and when I die my sister will inherit the Hereafter program. She’s going to be stuck for about $8 a month right now, a price that will likely go up before that happens.
If she decides it’s not worth the money she can cancel her subscription, but poof, I’m gone for good. She’s too much of a sentimentalist and a hoarder to do that. At least I hope.

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