Against the backdrop of improving technology and growing influence of social media on the society, EMAMEH GABRIEL writes on the move to resurrect the dead through the social media and holographic technology
Have you ever had such thoughts as to what will happen to your intellectual property or social media account after you passed on? Perhaps, the possibility of you communicating with a loved one who has passed away?
Can the dead live forever?
The question may sound more sinister to some and pretty catchy to others as to how humans become immortal. However it goes beyond what could naturally be imagined as science and technology in the last few years have attempted to create not only an afterlife avatar, a digital creation of a person which communicates with the decease’s family after death but also a social technique of communicating with the dead.
For those who have seen the excellent near-future science fiction series Black Mirror, they could easily create the imagery of the episode titled Be Back Soon, which tells the story of an avid social media user who dies tragically young, but who nonetheless is able to keep communicating with the love of his life, through social media.
The intention of the afterlife tech concept is no less than to offer individuals some level of immortality after biological death.
Marius Ursache, the Chief Executive of Eterni.me, an after death tech company, revealed that lots of people all over the world are becoming more interested in creating more curating digital legacy during their lifetime.
He noted that as at 2016 more than 18,000 people have already signed up to make an avatar of themselves, saying to become an avatar on Eterni.me After Death, the service is not about cobbling together a likeness of someone who is already dead without their permission.
Ursache said that those who want to become an avatar are involved in the process while they are still here. According to him, ‘‘This will mean taking their digital footprint and turning it into something bigger and more cohesive – cohesive enough to communicate with the relatives they leave behind when they are gone,” he said.
For many, it is a scary thought, but a number of sites have been launched and dedicated to maintaining your social presence once you die. This idea is no different from making an avatar of a dead person that can do things nearly close or perfectly close to the biological person.
Also an earlier article published by Olivia Lambert, suggests that one can still communicate through social media once he/she is dead and living forever through the social media pages is possible.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne who studied how social media and death relate to each other have discovered the concept of social immortality.
Currently Google and Facebook use an algorithm to create a profile of people, to target them with certain marketing campaigns that match up with their individual interests. This same algorithm, according to research, could work with other software to generate posts from their profiles after they die, allowing them to update their statuses and participate in online conversation.
Emailfromdeath.com is another website people sign up to so they can write emails to be sent out after they die.
“You store your emails and the website prompts you to respond with a password. If you fail to respond a number of times it assumes you’re dead and sends out the emails you have prepared to the recipients you nominated,’’ said Professor Michael Arnold, University of Melbourne History and Philosophy Science.
“It can send emails to relatives or data to business partners or emotional content.” Professor Arnold said another website, DeadSocial, also allowed people to manage their social media from beyond the grave. “It takes it a step further,” he said.
“It is not simply emails but also social media posts on anything like Twitter, Facebook or blogs.
“You can nominate when you have a social presence, whether that be immediately after your death or later on. You might prepare media to be sent out on the first anniversary of your death or on the wedding of your young child, 10, 15 years down the track.”
Not only can you leave posts for websites to publish, but social media will be able to generate its own content. Looking at your social media activity, your sense of humour and language, algorithms could create a social media post so you can continue to participate in discussions online. More advanced technology could even mimic your voice and make phone calls on your behalf and virtual reality could generate images of you.
Professor Arnold however warned that there could be issues with social immortality. “There is the problem of trolling from beyond the grave and bullying. How do we control that? Services encrypt everything and they can’t determine if it is malicious,” he said.
Two rival companies, Pulse Evolution and Hologram USA, are already very involved with future computer-generated performances of artists that are no longer among us in person. In fact, there are many signs that digital versions of entertainers or any humans will become increasingly common in the future, says a report, which was published in 2016.
However beyond communication, the dead still makes money for the living. ‘‘Tupac earns as if he is still alive’’, said Forbes Magazine in 2017. What could be responsible for this is not connected with the number of assets they may have left behind but how technological holographic illusion tends to bring them back to life to relate to or entertain millions of their fans all over the world.
For instance, death has not stopped Michael Jackson since passing away on June 25 2009, the King of Pop has released an album, earned over $600 million, and been a part of the seventh highest grossing tour of all time. Yet Jackson’s most recent posthumous action is also the most thrilling. On Christmas Day 2017, Michael Jackson – via The Official Michael Jackson Twitter Page – wished his fans a Merry Christmas.
In the entertainment industry, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur have at some point all been virtually resurrected to give concerts at various events. The Michael Jackson hologram is gradually becoming an annual even with the 2018 tour holding in October-November.
If ever there was an individual who was born to be re-born as an undead avatar, it is late Pop start, Michael Jackson. At the 2014 Billboard Musical Award, six years after his death, Michael Jackson was seen moonwalked across the stage in an appearance that captured his energy as he appeared to sit on a throne and bust his signature moves alongside a troupe of live dancers for a run through ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ from one of his latest posthumous albums as millions of his fans across the world watched from home.
At the time, for someone who passed away half a decade ago, Michael Jackson seemed very much alive on stage given the number of audience that were entertained with the aura, the sensation and ecstasy he brought on stage left the world in shivers.
Created by Pulse Evolution Corp., ‘‘the MJ hologram is probably history’s most Fast forward to today, and a nearly 4-minute-long hologram performance at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards cost “multiple millions” to make, revealed Frank Patterson, the chief executive of Pulse, the company that produced the show.
The Michael hologram has not only continued to rake in millions of dollars to the creator and his estate but by confession, it has brought back feelings of reconnection to his fans and other acquaintances.
Tito Jackson, a brother of the late Pop king and member of Jackson Five said after that he believes he can feel Michael’s presence, and that his “spirit” often visits him on stage.
“All the time I feel his spirit, especially when I’m performing with the brothers on stage at a live performance.
“You can feel the spirit all the time, absolutely. It is a happy feeling because Michael was a warm, happy, loving person. It is a comforting feeling,” he said.
Tupac Amaru Shakur
“What the fuck is up, Coachella?! His stunning appearance and entrance by asking this question was effective enough to both stun and freak out thousands when a holographic image of late rapper, Tupac Amaru Shakur, appeared at the Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival at the Empire Polio Field, California in 2012, fifteen years after his death.
The company, AV Concepts, that created Tupac’s hologram had refused to reveal the exact price tag of the project, but says that it was in the $100,000 to $400,000 range, and perhaps more.
Initially intended for leisure, digital media have transcended the primary objectives of their founders. People now make money based on the number of the followers they have. With a constantly expanding entrepreneurial base, digital media accounts are now used to measure some individuals’ financial worth.
Usually only celebrities and persons with strong social media presence should expect to earn well with Twitter. Some celebrities even earn in millions.
Within the short period of time that Nigerians have paid a serious attention to virtual networking, not a few pages have been abandoned on account of death. They are neither taken down nor memorialised as advised by experts. Indeed, in a world where business organisations are looking for ‘priced’ social media pages to buy into, families of popular social media users could make money from such pages.
Before her death in February 2013, Susan Harvey (popularly known as Goldie) had grown her Facebook and Twitter pages followership up 53,000. It was at that point on a commercial value that could attract millions to her annually even after death.
Seven years after the death of the singer, her Twitter page still operates and she last update it on March 13, 2018. Currently, she has over 35,000 followers which of course guarantee any celebrity, dead or alive due to her followership certain amount from brands who will want to have their contents advertise on her page.
Even after her death, late Professor Dora Akunyili, former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has kept her Facebook page alive, still maintaining over 45,000 followers. Akunyili’s family may not have continued the cause the late pharmacist’s fight but through her social media account, the world can track what diverse groups are doing to keep her memory fresh.
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