June 24 2008 / by Jeff Hilford
Category: Culture Year: 2008 Rating: 7 Hot
Death increasingly has a new face. One that endures. One that has a life of its own.
George Carlin died Sunday. He was an innovator and a provocateur and at his best, pretty damn funny. He’s also illustrative of a developing trend – the public, multimedia epitaph. In fact, he recorded the way he would like his obituary to be, how he would like to be remembered, in this Associated Press interview 10 years ago.
This is a trend that really began with videotape, often used to read wills and say goodbye to loved ones. Now there are sites like Respectance that memorialize people in perpetuity, that people can add to in terms of memories, stories, pictures, video, etc. Where people who were brought together through that person can still connect. Social media sites. We also see this on facebook and myspace. (cont.)
These sites also serve to retro-actively quantify people. Improvement in these types of social forensic tools and methods coupled with our desire to answer life’s biggest questions – Who are we? Where did we come from? What is my ancestry? – as well as to know more about other individuals, are driving this trend. Piece by piece, step by step we puzzle this together, not knowing if we’ll ever find any ultimate answers but discovering more and more about ourselves and others along the way. Sites like Geni are part of this equation. They allow us to find out who we are/were related to and, as we unravel the secret records hidden in our DNA, begin to understand how we are all connected and that even on a planet of 6 billion people, it’s still a small world.
As life extension, immortality and transhumanism movements and technologies grow – as people try harder and harder to preserve health, stave off death and garner insurance in the event that they do die or suffer serious injury, the notion of death is increasingly changing in our society and becoming a topic of passionate discourse. Issues of abortion and euthanasia have generated great controversy with regard to ethics and rights. But powerful changes in technology are bringing new issues to the forefront and the ethical and social reverberations of these are only just beginning to be felt.