As if life wasn’t confusing enough, pondering the question of death is bound to render a lifetime of uncertainty. The mystery of dying and what happens in the afterlife has garnered unfathomable amounts of religious, spiritual and scientific theories. The only thing that remains certain is that it happens.
Experiencing loss is a life-altering tragedy for those left behind, which can leave them desperately seeking any method, belief or guidance to create a connection with passed souls. This is where people such as psychic mediums and ghost hunters have allegedly bridged the gap between the spiritual and physical world, through psychic abilities to communicate with the dead. However, as technology expands, there are now ways to stay connected with passed souls in true 21st century fashion.
The purpose of DeathSwitch is to “bridge mortality” through information insurance. The website is designed to be a figurative control for those who wish to release personal electronic information they have chosen to keep private until after they have died. Every so often, DeathSwitch users must type in a passcode to alert the website they are still alive and well. Inactivity triggers the website’s virtual switch with the assumption the member is deceased, and distributes emails and other personal information to previously designated recipients. In the blink of an eye, passed loved ones can virtually return to potentially soften the heartache, or offer a painful reminder of death for those left behind.
Originally, DeathSwitch was designed to reveal important passwords users did not want exposed while alive. However, DeathSwitch soon became the ultimate opportunity for users to express final wishes, apologies and unspeakable secrets. Members of DeathSwitch can even schedule emails for specific events such as graduations, marriages and birthdays, offering a sense of love and support, despite physical absence. To an extent, David Eagleman, the creator of DeathSwitch, challenges the permanency of death by virtually immortalizing human life.
In 2003, FutureMe launched with a similar intent to DeathSwitch. FutureMe echoes the idea of communicating with future selves or loved ones and preserving important memories. The free, online service allows the public to write email letters to themselves or another person, which will be received at a specific date in the future.
“I think maybe the appeal of futureme.org is it is our last chance to write and offer explicit instructions to our future selves before we become them and it is too late,” FutureMe’s co-founder, Matt Sly, said in an interview with NPR.
FutureMe registered users can send emails to themselves or to their peers offering future advice, reminders of certain goals or words of wisdom. Once a FutureMe email is released into cyberspace, there is no turning back. Unlike DeathSwitch, FutureMe’s information will not wait for a confirmation password to send the emails. Once the “Send to the Future!” button is clicked with a specified delivery date, someone in cyber-space future will receive a notification for that email sent days, months or even years in the past.
Photos, diaries and conversational references were once the only sources utilized to preserve the memories of passed loved ones. But now, technology is taking a meaningful step into the future of how humankind connects with past, present and future selves. DeathSwitch and FutureMe are only the beginning.