It was part of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ series that explores the darker side of technology and was called ‘Be Right Back’. In the show a woman could still talk to and connect with her dead boyfriend using technological advances that would mimic him on social media channels, telephone calls and later in a synthetic body that was made to look and act just like him. I found the whole show frightening and disturbing but brushed it off and thought that it was just a fantasy created for entertainment.
It now seems that the show was not far from reality as a new service, LivesOn, is being developed to analyse a user’s output so that they can carry on posting online long after they have gone. It will base new statuses on those that were posted when the user was alive and mirror their language and interests. The digital robot will exist as an online twin that will outlive the real you.
LivesOn’s slogan is, the somewhat crass, “What if, when your heart stopped beating, you kept on tweeting?” and they have already had 7,000 volunteers sign up to the service. The programme seems to already be quite polarising and many people have expressed the opinion that it would upset rather than comfort the bereaved.
Apparently, it was the episode of Black Mirror that spurred creative Dave Bedwood at London’s Lean Mean Fighting Machine agency to start working on the project with programmers at Queen Mary University in London. He said: “I was thinking about the huge amount of data we post for our clients and wondered, where does it end? Will we ever get to the point when a Twitter feed could carry on as you?”
After he heard about the storyline for Brooker’s TV show he decided to make the project a reality.
It seems ironic to me that a programme that aims to highlight the dark future that could lie ahead of us if we continue to rely so heavily on technology could inspire a project like LivesOn.
Addressing the criticism, Bedford said, “Is it any weirder than the one promised by religions?” I personally think that it is. It makes me feel very uncomfortable to think that someone who has passed away could appear on my social media feeds. Call me old fashioned but I think once you’re gone you should be remembered by the lives that you touched, not by your tweets.