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One of the startup ideas I've had is to modernize death.

Most humans want to "live forever." Given that we can't do that, we resort to procreation, and leaving behind some pieces of ourselves to be remembered by, with lots of cultures having some type of funeral practice to ensure this occurs (i.e. tombstones).

With the proliferation of our digital lives, many of us have more photos, videos, and other media than we know what to do with. Furthermore, we probably don't have a great way to preserve this information.

Imagine a funeral service that could comb through your digital life, archive it all, and keep it accessible to your family for generations. Bonus points for summarizing it into a beautiful montage to be played to your family at your service.

Financially, it would work a lot like how funeral homes operate with deposits, insurance, and annuities, but the marginal cost should be much lower due to it being a digital vs. physical product.

One of the problems I've been mulling over is the fact that digital storage isn't perpetual, which means that someone has to ensure the data is maintained in some way.

Therefore, something like the quartz glass storage medium in the article would be perfect. Your data would be accessible via traditional means for 10-20 years after your death. Afterwards, it would still be accessible, but it would be on cold storage, so it wouldn't be instantaneous. It would mean you'd "never really die" since any of your descendants would be able to see what your life was like.

I think that would be enough of a "hard problem to solve" to build a startup around. Of course, you could extend it to preserve other forms of data, like your DNA, or your mind like Westworld, where your descendants could communicate with you whenever you wanted.

It could easily become one of the first perpetual corporations.




> Imagine a ... that could comb through your digital life, archive it all

No, and no thanks. Every company already does that. :)

A better idea would be something like a GitHub or Dropbox option that makes your content public after your death.

Unfinished projects for others to take up, ideas you never got to work on, thoughts you couldn't speak out when alive, secrets you didn't dare spill, stuff like that.


I think gp's point is that nobody does this in an organized way that's not tied to a platform. When Facebook and Google eventually die, their archives will die too. You'd ideally have some format with the openness and durability of an ASCII file that could be stored in a single location and survive multiple storage medium migrations trivially; something like a photograph in a box, which anyone can interact with easily regardless of whether the camera maker is still in business. And while a GitHub or Dropbox sounds great, the issue is that most people don't have the technical ability to collate their data from all the places its stored, and their descendants also mostly won't have the ability to pore through it unless it's pithy and organized--and if that's the case, then that it just means that the deceased came up with their own ad hoc durable "life archive" data format.


Yes, it wasn't cool of me to cut them off at one sentence. Sorry.

Still though, instead of having a firm scour ALL your data, including things that you may not wish for others to discover, wouldn't it be better to let you choose what you want to be released after your death?

For example, besides marking select files/repositories, and setting my own criteria for releasing them (e.g. 1 year after I haven't logged on), I would have the option to notify specific individuals when my data is released, or even have it automatically posted on places like HN/Reddit/etc.

Other people would then have the choice of what to do with my data.

They could archive it, enshrine it, build upon it, whatever.


Mind uploads? A digital afterlife is one of the dystopian trolls of post scarcity fiction. Bonus points for providing a 'digital hell' for those whose transgressions merit it.

It would be much better to gracefully accept death as a natural part of the cycle of life, than offer fake simulacra of eternal life IMO.

But that's just me. Let the markets decide!


I want a life-sized hologram deep-fake, coded with all of that stuff. People could come and ask questions or chat. It would take what they said and try to either recall or synthesize what my response might be. I would not want it online, insisting instead that people make a special trip to interact with my digital remains.


If you like hard sci-fi I'd recommend reading Zendegi by Greg Egan. One of the main plot-lines is about a father creating a digital version of himself to leave for his son when he dies.

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zendegi

- http://www.gregegan.net/ZENDEGI/ZENDEGI.html


This is quite brilliant and much more preferable. No one is going to want to sift through someone’s old vacation slide show. But to interact with a close facsimile of an ancestor...priceless.


Have you seen the “Black Museum” episode of Black Mirror?


The earliest appearance of this idea I can remember is the Dixie Flatline [1] construct in Neuromancer (1984), but I'm sure there are examples preceding that.

[1] https://williamgibson.fandom.com/wiki/Dixie_Flatline


I've thought about this too, but I think you've got two big marketing problems.

One is that discerning customers will be reluctant to deal with a startup. Most startups go out of business, and it will be challenging to convince people that you'll really be around even as long as the service purchaser, let alone their great-grandchildren.

The other is that non-discerning customers won't be able to tell a truly well-designed and well-endowed long-term archive company from one that just talks about it. So you'll have competitors that will charge 10% of what you do, and once who will charge the same but put 5x the money toward advertising.

I suspect this is a market only truly available to companies with long-lived brands. It's sort of like how cloud computing took off once Amazon put their brand behind it; if what you're selling requires deep trust, startups face big hurdles.


Like the scene in "Firefly", graveyard with moving pictures to remember loved ones by.

Interesting idea. I am not sure I want that level of detail preserved. I also am pretty sure those to come would want it.

Lots to think about with this.


Tombstones with pictures exist, so moving pictures would be a natural evolution.


The first time this happened, to a friend of mine whose parents out a photo for her, I found it really creepy. I still don't like to visit her grave. It makes me curious how differently people process grief.


Agreed. But this concept goes way deeper.


I had a similar idea a little while ago, but it was primarily aimed at storing DNA of your loved ones.

Not only would a backup of the DNA be stored inside a physical product, but the most variable regions of the genome would be sequenced and used as input for a set of lights embedded in the device, so that in the end every product is visibly different from ever other one in a way that's related to their actual genetic makeup.


You've just described the film "The Final Cut".


We kind of have this with social media. I have a good friend who passed away and I occasionally go look at his Instagram to relive the good times. Guess I should probably archive it in case they delete it.


This is almost exactly what the LifeNaut foundation aims to achieve: https://www.lifenaut.com/


Even more tantalizing idea: Some advance versions of GANs can learn from huge amount of data from your life and recreate you in digital world. Future generation can talk to that generative model of yourself which talks like you and says things you used to say and have beliefs you used to have. We shall call it Reanimation GAN.


Actually, there's this really neat network called Arweave which solves this permanent data archiving problem quite elegantly. Then, you only have to pay one fee upfront and the data will be there for a very, very long time if not forever.


How do you offset the fact that your operating costs are going to grow to infinity?


Charge $500 up front and use it as an endowment. Operating costs shouldn’t be more than hosting after the first year.


Storage gets cheaper over time.


Subscription, your remaining family pays 25 per year for each relative "digitally available" (otherwise it gets deleted)


> Given that we can't [live forever]

It's not can't it's don't currently.

That's the "hard problem to build a startup around."


Better sens money to SENS and the likes


Dixie Flatline




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