Digital Immortality

Chapter 12 looks at the concept of digital immortality, and the significant impact that virtual humans could have on it. From the moment someone creates even a simple chatbot based on a real person then you have a form of digital immortality - as long as someone keeps paying the hosting bills! The digital traces that we all create everyday are grist to the mill for the creation of such virtual personas (as seen in Zoe from Caprica - see VH and SF), but what happens if we make these personas active, with their own goals, interests and resources so that they can continue their progenitor's "life" indefinitely. And what is the impact on everyone who has been left behind - and how does it effect the concept of grief?

We'll post additional analysis here, links to "digital immortality" systems, and blog about interesting  papers and the emerging start-ups that aim to support such digital immortality.

Digital Immortality Start-Ups

We strongly recommend not believing any of the hype and trying the systems out for yourself!

Selected References

Bassett, D. (2017). Shadows of the dead: social media and our changing relationship with the departed, Discover Society. Available online

Bridge, M. (2016). Good grief: chatbots will let you talk to dead relatives. The Times. Available online

Bowlby, J. (1981). Attachment and Loss Vol 3. New York: Basic Books.

Burden, D. J. H. (2012). Digital Immortality. Presentation at TEDx Birmingham, UK.

Dubbin, R. (2013). The rise of twitter bots. The New Yorker. Available online:

Ellis Gray, S & Coulton, P. (2013). Living with the dead:emergent post-mortem digital curation and creation practices. in C Maciel & V Carvalho Pereira (Eds.), Digital legacy and interaction: post-mortem issues. Human–Computer Interaction Series. Berlin: Springer.

Nansen, B., Arnold, M., Gibbs, M. & Kohn, T. (2015). The Restless Dead in theDigital Cemetery, Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age, in C. M. Moreman & A, D. Lewis (Eds.), Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age. Santa Barbara: Praeger 111 – 124.

Savin-Baden, M. & Burden, D. (2018) Digital immortality and Virtual Humans Paper Presented at Death Online ResearchSymposium, University of Hull 15-17 August

Savin-Baden, M. Burden, D & Taylor, H. (2017). The ethics and impact of digitalimmortalityKnowledge Cultures, 5 (2), 11-19.

Sofka, C., Cupit, I. N. & Gilbert, K.R. (Eds.), (2012). Dying, death, and grief in an online universe: For counselors and educators. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Steinhart, E. C. (2014). Your Digital Afterlives. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.

Walter, T. (2017). How the dead survive: ancestors, immortality, memory in M.H. Jacobsen (Ed.), Postmortal Society. Towards as Sociology of Immortality. London: Routledge.