Binary autopsy, digital eulogy and the post-mortem clouded shrine

Nowadays people still write eulogies. They try to sum up in a few paragraphs another person's lifetime of contributions and effect upon society. More and more the person writing up a notable life is also an uninterested, salaried employee of this or that news outlet, devoid of any emotional connection to either the person being wrapped up or his true meaning to the field he leaves behind in mourning.

What prompted me to write this piece was the near-simultaneous demise of both Steve Jobs and Dennis Richie, and the waves they caused in both blogosphere and computer science minded academia. One was jubilated, the other one nigh forgotten, despite a vast difference in their contribution to lasting human knowledge.

So it's that knowledge aspect which then bothers me, even looking into my own eventual passing. I was no Steve Jobs or Dennis Richie, neither in charisma nor in technological insight/prowess. I never left my mark that an archeologist might find; not as a billion once shiny iPhones, nor in the form of code that underlies the hundred billion further, fundamentally digital artifacts that they're going to be digging up in ten kiloyears or so. By those standards, I'm absolutely nothing; I haven't left a lasting mark; I could easily be gone and soon forgotten, with the surrounding society hardly noticing anything ever changed.

Except that I don't feel I'm a total idiot, with nothing to give, never having thought of anything novel. In my musings, I believe there are occasional nuggets of gold, every here and there. Though minor by the standards of Jobs or especially Richie's, they're still there, and add to the sum body of human knowledge. And they are entirely digital, again more like Richie's and less like Jobs's.

Which finally brings me to the point: increasingly a person's life and achievement is encapsulated in his correspondence, personally accumulated library—read: hard drive—and the rest of his electronic goings-about. That's no longer just a collection of letters or works, the like of which they've built for notable figures since written-history-day-one. No, our generation's legacy is increasingly a day-to-day, acute description of us as a whole, as networked beings, and much easier to put together afterwards than the "letters and correspondences" of some singular historical figure of the past.

So why is it that even now all of what is heard about a dead person, even a notable one, is a somber epitaph? Why doesn't it come ripe with a link to a well-secured package of everything digital the person ever did? By modern standards, most of the facts of his life? The standing record of what, how, when and who you were?

Why is it that we still don't perform a binary autopsy, write a truly digital eulogy, and entomb a person's complete life work in a well-preserved, forward error corrected shrine of a torrent, floating in the Cloud?

Because that's what I'd like done once I'm gone. It shouldn't be too difficult anymore even for the Joe Nothings like me. Yet most especially, it'd even make the Richies of our day grin from their grave onto the Jobs's, as it should be.

1 comment:

  1. Because no one cares. And no one would not read it and go through the information that would be written to this output. There are people I love but I still couldn't be bothered to go through all that data when they die. It's better to miss them, remember the good things (and not to be reminded of the bad things, because everyone has them as well) and then go on with your own life.