The Afterlife of Data
What Happens to Your Information When You Die and Why You Should Care
by Carl Öhman
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Pub Date 11 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 08 Mar 2024
These days, so much of our lives takes place online—but what about our afterlives? Thanks to the digital trails that we leave behind, our identities can now be reconstructed after our death. In fact, AI technology is already enabling us to “interact” with the departed. Sooner than we think, the dead will outnumber the living on Facebook. In this thought-provoking book, Carl Öhman explores the increasingly urgent question of what we should do with all this data and whether our digital afterlives are really our own—and if not, who should have the right to decide what happens to our data.
The stakes could hardly be higher. In the next thirty years alone, about two billion people will die. Those of us who remain will inherit the digital remains of an entire generation of humanity—the first digital citizens. Whoever ends up controlling these archives will also effectively control future access to our collective digital past, and this power will have vast political consequences. The fate of our digital remains should be of concern to everyone—past, present, and future. Rising to these challenges, Öhman explains, will require a collective reshaping of our economic and technical systems to reflect more than just the monetary value of digital remains.
As we stand before a period of deep civilizational change, The Afterlife of Data will be an essential guide to understanding why and how we as a human race must gain control of our collective digital past—before it is too late.
“This short and accessible book is not to be missed. Öhman draws on his groundbreaking research to explore a pressing issue facing any digital society: the rapid accumulation and management of data belonging to the dead. The Afterlife of Data is a fascinating, provocative, and theoretically rich exploration of the ethics and politics of our digital remains. It will be of personal interest to any mortal with a digital presence.” ― Luciano Floridi, author of The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence
“What happens to the data of the deceased was first regarded as a morbid curiosity, then as a niche concern for those with particularly hefty digital footprints. With deft reasoning and great eloquence, Öhman exposes the true scope and significance of the digital dead, and how fundamentally they are intertwined with our collective present and future. In finely tuned, incisive prose that cuts straight to the bone, he effortlessly brings readers into deeper understandings of novel territories and urges us toward what ultimately feels like an obvious conclusion: the digital dead are our responsibility, for without them, we lose ourselves.” ― Elaine Kasket, author of All the Ghosts in the Machine
“The online presence of the dead may seem like a somewhat marginal, if creepy, quirk of life in the internet era. But as Öhman shows in this clear-eyed and wide-ranging book, the digital dead sit at the intersection of fundamental historical, economic, and cultural forces. Situating hyper-contemporary phenomena within a human narrative stretching all the way back to prehistory, he guides us through urgent problems of the ownership, exploitation, preservation, and destruction of the dead. The Afterlife of Data makes it inescapably clear that, as the first citizens of a new global archive, we owe it to both those who have died and those yet to be born to take control of our digital destiny.” ― Patrick Stokes, author of Digital Souls
Average rating from 4 members
This book is more philosophical and talks about issues concerning the digital data of someone else has died. Who has the right to that data? Should it be saved, or shared? Should it be destroyed?
The most poignant story was about a boy who was unable to play on a gaming system after his father died. They had spent a lot of quality time playing together, and it hurt too much for years, but eventually the son played their game again and discovered the "ghost" of his father still in the game, which made him happy.
There are also issues about regulation and accessibility. If you are interested in what happens to data after someone dies, this is an interesting book.
Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this