Webinar: Living with the Digital Dead
Hello. And welcome to this Deakin University alumni. Webinar, with presenter, associate, professor Patrick, Stokes Sam. Johnston here from the Deakin alumni relations team, it's great to have you with us, I'd. Like to start by acknowledging the, traditional owners of the land from which we're broadcasting today, the, boon wurrung people, of the Kulin nations, and to pay our respects to their elders past, present. And emerging. Today. We're broadcasting from, deacons downtown, offices, and our webinar topic is living, with the digital dead to. Watch past, webinar, and seminar recordings, you can visit the webinar and resources, page on the Deakin alumni website, which. Is displayed on your screen now so the, presentation will run for about 40 minutes followed, by a discussion session, with presenter, associate, professor Stokes throughout. The presentation, if you have any questions, please, type them into the question box and hit submit and then we'll get to as many as we can during, the discussion time at the end Patrick. Stokes is associate, professor of philosophy at Deakin University where. He's worked since 2012. He, previously, held research positions, in Denmark the UK and US he's. Written extensively on, the work of 19th, century philosopher. Søren, kierkegaard, and has also published on death' personal, identity, and moral philosophy he's. A prolific media, commentator, on philosophical. Matters appearing, regularly in, new philosopher, the conversation, radio national and ABC, Melbourne thank, you so much for joining us today Patrick thank, you so much for having me it's a great great. Pleasure to be here and I really, appreciate so many people taking. Out their lunchtime to talk about death which is not always the first thing you want to talk about during your lunch break but, the. Topic that I'm, going to be talking about today is one that I've been working on in, one way or another since, about 2011. And, one. Thing I found really interesting about, this and this doesn't, always happen to philosophers, is, that. When I start talking to people about it everyone's, had some, experience. Of it as I myself had, one, of the things that got me interested in this topic was. I was already working on philosophy of death and she's, around memorialization, and I, started to notice that there are at least a couple of people in my own. My social, network specifically, in my Facebook, friends. List who. Were dead and, I. Was struck by the fact that the dead persist. In this way they persist in the. Online, space that, we all increasingly. Spend more and more of our time in, in. Fact there's some interesting work done in the philosophy of Technology that suggests, that we really need to stop talking about the, online space as a separate, realm that 90s idea of cyberspace, is this separate place that you go to that. Made a lot of sense when the internet was a place that we had to sit down at a desktop computer to access, nowadays. The, Internet's built into our everyday movements, through the world we all walking, around with the phones and we're interacting, with the world in ways that seamlessly. Build. Digital. Communication. And digital interaction, into, our embodied, experience, of the world so as a suggestion actually the online, offline, distinction.
Has More or less collapsed. No, one's got a good name for what we have left some, philosophers, are luciano, floridi and others have called it the, on life paradigm. I'm. Not a huge fan of that term but I don't think we have a better one for where we are now so the, reality is we spend more and more of our lives. Using. Online communication. And living, online and. Not. Surprisingly, a lot of people are therefore dead, online, and dying online we, don't know how many in fact Carl. Omen and his colleagues at the Oxford, internet Institute of, just published a paper last week in which, they're trying to work out when the dead will start to outnumber the living on, platforms, like Facebook, and there's a number of different scenarios based, on different. Assumptions, about how long those platforms will survive and in what form well, they don't know and in fact what no one seems to know exactly is, how many dead people there are right now on, social media we. Know that it's definitely well. Over the tens of millions because it was at least 30 million as long ago as 2012, but we don't know exactly how many dead people there are right now in, our platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, snapchat. Twitter. And others. There. Has been a lot of discussion, in. Psychology. Sociology and. In internet. Studies is a broad interdisciplinary field. Into. What. It means for us now. That we have dead, people online now that part of our mourning practices take place in these electronically. Mediated ways, I, just. Sent a condolence emails someone, immediately before this session actually so and. Also, how we deal with these things from a policy perspective what do we do with the. Things, that the Dead leave behind I'll say a bit more about that later and there's actually some interesting developments, happening on that in Australia right now which I can give, you some insight into, there's. Been some interesting studies around things like online grieving. Grief, enfranchisement, who has the right to grieve who has the right to post grieving, messages who has the right to direct, the way we grieve online. And there's. Been some interesting studies into. How. We interact with the profiles, of the dead Alaine casket, who's a British, based psychologist. Has some really interesting things to say on that in fact Oh books just came out last week called what's, in the Machine which I'm looking, forward to I'm a little annoyed because I wanted to use a ghost in the machine pump for my free. Chapter of my book that I'm working on at the moment so anyway not to worry she got there first so. Philosophers, though haven't had a great deal to say about this is a couple of us that have written about this and. It's. Interesting actually that philosophers haven't been more drawn to this topic. Because. Philosophers. Have been working for a very very long time and by a very long time I mean well over to another thousand, years on issues. Of death and the. Status of the dead and and what sort of duties, or ethical. Responsibilities. We might or might not owe to. The, dead there's. Really interesting questions around how we can have any duties, to the Dead or how we might have any sort of relationship to. The, dead there's. A really, big ongoing, problem in philosophy which we're still grappling with it goes all the way back to Epicurus, in the 3rd century BCE. Which. Is is. It possible to harm the dead and, if. So. In, what ways and what sort of duties can, we therefore have to the dead do, we do the data harm when, we slander. Them after, their death for instance if we, fail to remember, them and we're doing them a harm equally, if we let's say work, to get a long executed. Person, who was innocent, exonerated. Are we therefore doing them a benefit, by doing that the case of Colin Campbell Ross here in Victoria, is an interesting case he was pardoned, I. Think like 80 or 90 years after, he was executed you, might say well that's, not helping him because he's long dead he doesn't exist anymore but there are actually some interesting arguments to show though. In fact we can benefit and harm the, dead but that raises a whole bunch of other interesting questions how. Is it possible to harm, or benefit the dead what, is the relationship, between harms. And interests. Do. We frustrate, the interests, of the dead and if so is that what causes them harm. When. Is it the case that the dead are harmed, are they harmed now when, they don't exist that seems problematic or are they harmed in the past by something we do now that also seems. Problematic, and there's broader questions here about the temporal boundaries, of persons, where the persons, begin and end where do lives. Begin, and end our persons, only, as temporarily. Extended. As extended, across time as their, biological, functioning wouldn't exist for a time before and for time afterwards.
There's. A whole range of fascinating. Philosophical. Questions that, are well ventilated and that we could well apply to some of these questions around, the. Ongoing. Electronic, existence, of the Dead. So. One question is for instance and this is one that I've spent a bit of time working, on do. We have a right to delete the dead the. Dead leave all of these artifacts, behind is, it okay to, simply delete all of the stuff that they leave or do we do them a harm by, doing that now. One thing you might like to do here is immediately go to some, of the off-the-shelf, arguments. That philosophers, have got waiting for you on whether. It's possible to harm the dead and how, it's possible to, harm the dead so. There's, a couple of standard approaches, here one. Is to say that, if. You do something now that frustrates, the interests of a person, who is now dead what, you're doing is you're making it the case now, that, the interests, they had while, they were alive, were. In fact always going to be frustrated, so. Most of us have an interest in having a good reputation so, if I slander, a dead person what I'm doing is frustrating, the interest that person had while, they were alive in. Having a good reputation, now. You might say but that sounds like backwards causation. Aren't you saying that what I do now harm. Them in the past will george pitcher famously argued no, it's, only, changing. The past in the same sense that if, a comment, were to destroy, the world right now that. Would make it the case that barack. Obama was the second last president, of the united states. It's. Not so much that it changes, the past it's just that it turns out that barack obama was always. In fact the, second last President of the United States, just. As if I slander you after your death I make, it the case that it was always the. Case that you were going to have your interest in a good reputation, frustrated. And, if I delete your. Facebook, profile, perhaps, I'm frustrating, an interest that you had while you are alive in maintaining, that profile.
The. Other way you can do it which I won't go into too much because it's very technical is, you can talk about possible, worlds, and you can say that the. Nearest possible world in which I delete your Facebook, profile is worse for you than the world in which I don't, delete your profile and because those are a temporal, statements, we get around the timing problem don't worry too much about that I'm happy to go into it in question time if need be. Thing. Is of course all that assumes that we have an interest in not having our Facebook profiles or whatever, other social media profiles deleted, that's, not clear that everyone just automatically, has that. That. Interest we, can take it as read that most people have an interest in having a good reputation but it's far from clear that, most of us care about the ongoing persistence. Of our social, media relics, after, we die so that might lead us to think that maybe there's nothing too wrong with, deleting, the dead. Another. Way, we could go and I think this does give us more of a reason to preserve, the. Online, traces, of the dead is, what's called the rescue from in significance approach I'm taking that phrase from Jeffrey blasting, blasting. Argues, that we. Have a duty to remember, the dead because. The dead has certain sort of value and insofar as we say that value matters while that person was alive we, should continue to, remember them to say that that value matters, after they're dead writes, a way of saying this person mattered, their existence have mattered in, the same way that we do that with people while they live we should continue to do that after they die. Now. This again is quite an old idea. In philosophy, eros, actually, says this in the you Demian ethics that, it's, a good thing to remember the day and, its praiseworthy to, remember the dead because the dead can't pay you back for remembering. That they can't reciprocate. Care, caught in his book works of love says there's much the same thing he says that the work of love in remembering somebody, who's dead is. The, freest. And most. Uncoerced. And, praiseworthy duty. Of love because the, dead can't force you to remember that make out sort of impose themselves on you and equally. They can't pay you back for, remembering. Them this isn't a line of argument here that suggests that maybe we shouldn't delete the dead, because. Keeping. Them alive in, social media so to speak is. A. Good way of, testifying. To their value and preserving, their significance, rescuing. Them from insignificance. James. Stacy taylor, has taken. Bust into task here and said that that's. Not really a duty, to the dead all, we're saying is that if somebody's. Matters. In a certain way while they're alive then, we should remember them after they did because it mattered. The same sort of way Taylor, says that's just a norm of consistency, of rationale, consistency, it's nothing to do with the duty to the dead it's, just saying that if we rationally, care, about something all the person's alive we should continue to care about it after they're dead it's. An interesting argument there I. Actually. Think that, there's. Something stronger here you said you what. I want to say and have argued in print, and I'm trying, to sort of work this up into a book-length treatment, at the moment, what. I want to argue is this, there. Is a sense in which the dead really do persist online, it's. Not a sense that's anywhere near as good as ordinary. Survival. It's not a sense in which we could look forward to a kind of life after death online, I absolutely don't want to say that and the dead only persist, in a radically, diminished way, but. It's not quite the same as complete, annihilation either, and.
For. That reason I think that the traces. We leave online have a certain kind of status, because, they. Actually present a. Degree. Of survival. Of the person, a very, limited degree but nonetheless a degree. And. I think that part that's because there's this interesting, ambiguity. About the dead the, dead both, continue. To exist as part of our life world and are, also radically absent. From that, life will the dead both absolutely. Do not exist and absolutely. Continue to exist with us that's. A paradoxical, position but I think it's built into the way we experience. The, dead. Now. Again that's a thought that in some ways comes across as almost offensive. CS. Lewis the Lion the Witch in the wardrobe author. Writes. A very slim, book which I can well remember what, was I well recommend, called, a grief observed. Basically. Detailing, his grief after the death of his wife it's, a very slimming book it's opens. With this absolute, gut punch of a lion which is nobody ever told me that grief feels so much like fear it's. A really, really sharply. Written, honest, book. At. One point there he talks about this idea that people live on in memory for instance and. He. Absolutely, tears into this he says what pitiable, can't to say she, will live on forever in my memory live. That's exactly, what she won't do you, might as well think, like the old Egyptians, that you can keep the dead by embalming them, well nothing persuade is that they're gone what's. Left a corpse, a memory, and in some versions, a ghost all, mockeries. Or horrors three, more ways of, spelling the word dead, it, was H I loved as if I wanted to fall in love with my memory, of her an image, in my own mind it, would be a sort of incest. So. That's, the absent, aspect of the dead but, there's also an. Interesting way in which dead. Persist. To us in the ways in which they're. Presented. Through various kinds of presents such, as for instance of photographs, the way the dead persist, with us through the visual representations. Of their faces, that. Goes of course all the way back into portraiture, but. It's. Particularly strong I think in the case of photographs, Walter. Benjamin in his. Famous text the, age of mechanical reproduction, talks. About the aura, persons. Now he doesn't mean them in the kind of, metaphysical. Way what he means is the sense in which you look, at an artifact, and it has a sense of the authenticity of the person about it so say that you have. Your. Your. Grandfather's. Watch there's. A sense of your grandfather, in the fact that it was his watch that this is the authentic watch his real watch and. Something even stronger is given in things. Like portrait, photography, Benjamin says it is no accident that the portrait, was the focal point of early photography, the, cult of remembrance, of loved ones absent, or dead offers, a last refuge, for. The cult value of the picture, for, the last time the, aura emanates. From early photographs, in the fleeting expression, of a human face and this is what constitutes their, melancholy. Incomparable. Beauty. Now. Interestingly. Benjamin. Thinks that aura. Doesn't. Appear in moving. Pictures. So. He thinks that the. Photograph. The portrait photograph presents, the the person in their phenomenal, presence, in how they really work but. The, movie. Doesn't, you. Might wonder why and I think part of the answer to that is, simply, that Benjamin. Is. Born, too, early to, be completely used to. The. Moving picture there's a wonderful line from the. Science fiction author Douglas. Adams where. It says something like any technology. That's in the world when you're born just seems to you to be part of the natural order of things any, technology that's invented, up until you turn about 35, is, new, and exciting and maybe you could make a living in it anything, invented after you're 35 is unnatural and against the order of things and must be destroyed so. I think there's something like that going on there's, another piece of evidence. For, that this is from AM Forster you. Know the guy that wrote all those novels, I got turned into Merchant Ivory films, remains of the day Howards, End Passage, to India all that stuff, he, writes in 1909. This. Alarmingly. Prescient, novella, called the Machine stops, which, is set in the future where everyone sits in their little rooms little, apartments, communicating. With everyone else in the world through a gigantic. Electronic. Network called the Machine and. It's. Really quite sort of all, that's unnerving and at. The start of the novella a young man called Kuno. Calls. His mother and says I want you to come and visit me and she's like why we don't need to visit each other we have the machine he. Says well I see, something, like you in this plate but, I do not see you I hear, something, like you through this telephone but, I do not hear you that.
Is Why I want you to come pay. Me a visit so, that we can meet face-to-face and talk about the hopes that are in my mind now. What's. Interesting about that is Foresters. Listen. To how weird it sounds to us to say I hear. Something, like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you when. You talk someone on the phone you never think, I'm hearing something like the person's voice you never think I'm hearing a mechanical. Reproduction electronically, transmitted, of the person's voice you just hear them you hear their voice it's so good to hear your voice because. We're used to this technology we're embodied, to this technology, the telephone, is part, of the way in which we are present, now, to other people, just, as the, portrait. Photograph was a way in which the, benjamín people were present to each other what, I want to suggest you is that, the is, it social media in the Internet is now a very big part of our face it's a very big part of the way in which we are present, in the lives of other, people, and because. Of that that, means that the traces we leave our social, media artifacts, a one, of our substantial, realizes, this person's. How. Are we as persons realize we're present we, realized in our bodies we. Were also in a way realized in the minds of others we exist in other people's minds as agents they have to take into account, as. One suggests that we're actually also present, in the physical objects, that form part of our identity like our writing, for instance or other objects, we leave behind and I. Think also in social media artifacts. Just. As an aside here to social. Media artifacts, are an example of what else in Landsberg is called prosthetic, memory, now. That doesn't just mean the sort of, objects. That we use to extend, our memory in the world if you've got a notebook or an address, book that you write things in or your mobile phone in a sense that's part of an extended part of your memory right, it's an object that you use to, do offload, some of the work of your memory you don't remember all the phone numbers that you need to remember so you have a notebook or a phone. That does, that for you it's a little extension of your memory prosthetic memory is slightly different prosthetic, memory, brings, even, people who did not experience, an event, into, a collective, memory of it so I'm dr., Walter Benjamin died decades before I was born but I know what Walter Benjamin looked, like because, I've got a photo of him so. I know, what the moon-landing looked, like because I've seen, all that footage, that. If you like acts, as a prosthetic memory, that brings those of us born after the moon landing into an experience of it. And. So I want to suggest that online, resources. That we leave behind of, one of those prosthetic, memory things, that helps to preserve the face and present the face of the the dead person after, their death, nice.
Quote From Ruth McManus, there who's a Scottish, sociologist. Living in New Zealand, she, says that online resources. Reveal, the presence of the dead stored, and storied, in new digital media and Stitch. The breech that opens up between those who knew the dead person, and those who did not between, living memory and tales, of ancestors, and he, did a lot of the sociological and psychological finding. Is showing that people do continue, to interact with the digital dead, people. Keep posting. On the wall walls of Facebook users for instance often years after they died and speaking, in second person you, know I still miss you so much I can't believe it's been four years since you left us I really, wish you could have been there on Sunday, it was really wonderful all those sort of things people keep talking to the dead through these. Mechanisms. Interestingly. When, there's been surveys done a surprising. Number of people think that the dead can somehow hear them or can somehow, somehow. On the other end of that transaction and, the. Way, in which we. Persist. On social media also gives a strong sense of continuity right. Such a strong sense that, your. Social media profile looks much the same after, you die as it did before you die you can't get it memorialized. So Facebook, for instance will put, your death after. Your death if it's notified, and if the family, ask for it they can put your account, into what they call a memorialized. State they. Can also simply delete it and there's, interesting policy, questions that arise here about well what do who. Has the right to say whether it should be deleted or memorialize which family, member gets to make that call what do we do if they disagree. So. I think we can actually reconstruct a, right of non deletion, from saying something like this things, like data or memory traces aren't the sort of things that can have rights but, people are and if, we have a duty to remember the dead and. Duty to create rights and if. Social. Network system, artifacts. Or, social network artifacts. Implicated. In how we remember the dead fully by continuing, to present, the dead person's face then. It seems like we've got some, strong moral, reasons, not, to delete those artifacts, there defeasible reasons, then may well sometimes be very very good reasons to delete somebody's, artifact if for instance it's really distressing, to, living. People there might be a good reason to delete it but we at least have defeasible. Reasons. Those reasons, that can be overcome not, to delete those, artifacts. Part. Of this involves I think changing, the way we think about these. Digital. Artifacts, instead of thinking of them as property. We. Need to think of them as more. Analogous. To human. Remains. This. Is something that I think it is kind of important to understand, when. You die you, leave a whole bunch of objects, to somebody else and so the property, rights transfer, from you to whoever, you've left them to or whoever, the laws of intestacy say, it should go to but. You don't inherit, or, don't leave, your, body to someone you, can't leave your body to science but it's not as if when you dot your great-grandma. Dies you inherit, her body and it's now your property, rather, what you have is a kind of custodianship, you have a sort of a. Right, and a duty to dispose, of that. Body but you don't really have property, rights in it now. Interestingly when we talk about digital, artifacts, of the Dead it's, actually really unclear who owns them. There's. Interesting sort of questions around copyright. Law and intellectual property law around, this stuff but it's not at all clear that your Facebook page for instance is a piece of property that you own that, you can leave to somebody else insofar. As it's also part of your digital face, the way you're presented to the world I actually think it's better to think of it as a kind of digital remains. And, borrowing that term from Margaret Gibson. Part, of the fabric of the person but, of course whereas bodies have to be disposed, of because they get pretty gross pretty quickly. Your. Social, media artifact needn't necessarily be, disposed, it's taking up a little bit of electricity a little bit of space on a server somewhere but not really enough to. Make. An outrageous.
Demand To to allow it to persist by you, know keeping it on the network and. So it may be that we are in fact doing a, form, of violence even just a very little one, to. The dead by. Deleting, them. So. This means we need to frame some policy responses, now. Interestingly the, New South Wales Law Reform Commission has an inquiry going, at the moment into, the. Disposal of assets digital. Assets of the dead and incapacitated, I've. Made a couple of submissions today inquiry and in fact I've been to one of their meetings and I'm going up to another one of their meetings next. Month they're. Really grappling with this question of what do we do how do we, dispose. Of these, assets, who has the, right to say how they get disposed off what, uses, can we legitimately make, of the things that the dead leave, behind. One. Thing I've suggested is that there should be a default, presumption against, deletion, actually built into law so, there will be no doubt be cases where for instance courts, are called upon to decide, whether. An account should be deleted or preserved in those cases I think there should be a default presumption against, deletion, unless, there. Is a strong, reason to go, ahead and delete it we, also need to work out who gets to make that call who is your digital next of kin who has those rights of decisions over disposal, or memorialization, and, I've. Also suggested, that we need to have some principles built in to guide decision, makers so in, considering. Whether a particular artifact, should be deleted, how. Rich is the artifact how accessible, is it what were the privacy, settings like other, living people's privacy's. Compromised. By having that in. Fact continue to exist and be accessible who should have access to it only the people who had access while the person lived or every one these, are all I think very much live questions, that we're going to need to, grapple with. There's. One final question, so I think we really do need to grapple with and this I think is actually going to become really really serious because I think the technology is going to get to us before, we've got the ethics sawed about.
This. Is a quote from my. Collaborator. Co-editor, friend and occasional karaoke. Sparring, partner, at imbue burn Adam. Says imagine, this while. Your mother is still flourishing, and lucid. She. Makes arrangements to have her appearance, mannerisms. Voice memories. And thoughts on a wide array of topics collected. And synthesized, through advanced, recording, and motion capture techniques. With. The addition of sophisticated, voice recognition you would be able in a way that is similar to playing a video game to. Access her moving, speaking. Image and engage. It in conversation, one. Might eventually consider, holographic, projection, of the image for a more embodied, feel. So. In other words what, if we could take the things that people leave behind. And. Actually. Turn them into an ongoing interactive. Avatar of the dead. Now. If you're a fan of the TV show black mirror you, may have already seen a fictionalized, version of this there's an episode from 2014, called be right back in, which, a. Young, man dies his. Pregnant, partner signs, up for service that scrapes. His social media and. Text. Messages and other things and, uses. Those to turn to create a chat bot that she can interact with that sounds, like him that gives us sort of answers he would give then, she upgrades her subscription, feeds. In a whole bunch of audio and video sources. And. Suddenly. She, has an actor a interactive, avatar she can talk to on the phone that sounds like him then, she goes the whole hog and gets a full-blown, indistinguishable. Physical. Replica, of him she. Can interact with. It. Doesn't end well I'm not gonna tell you how it ends but. So. It's been envisaged in in. Fiction, but, it's also been. Attempted. By various startups most. Of which have been pretty bad virtual, eternity. Ended. Up closing I think they couldn't get legal. Access to the some of the technologies, they use but the the proof-of-concept stuff, they did was very unconvincing, turning. Me I think I'm not what they produced so far there, was a service called tweets on which, scanned. Your tweets and said. It would continue to send out tweets that sound like you generated, automatically by AI it, produced, gibberish unfortunately, but it did have a really good tagline which was when your heart stops beating you'll, keep tweeting. So. Anyway, that. Was all like, that for a long time but then in 2018, something else happened, in. 2015, a Russian. Tech entrepreneur, called Roman Mauser Renko was hit and killed by a car in Moscow, and his. Best friend Eugenio, kudia scanned. All of his text messages and put them into a chat bot. And. That chat bot is now available as an app that you can download in, the iTunes Store and you can download and interact with a dead man the, next step in this sort of stuff is to then link that to a neural network so it will continue to learn and so it will only get better at sounding like Roman but will also potentially, have, a, personality, that will start to change over.
Time, So we need to ask what the status of these replicants, is. Now. I want to suggest that. One. Of the keys to understanding this is what philosophers, call alterity, the, other nosov, the, other I won't. Read these long Derrida, quotes to you but these are really interesting jacques derrida if you may, well know some of you may have read him alternatively, you may have heard him was a sort of a boogie. Man of people, who think that post-modernism, is destroying the world. Derrida. Has a really interesting book called the work of mourning which, is basically a collection of all the eulogies, he gave all, the eulogies and death notices and things that he wrote because they, have a lot of famous friends who died in was a stick in theologies, and in, some of these he you can see him wrestling, with, what. He calls the necessity. And obscenity, of speaking, for the dead that we have to speak for the dead and yet at the same time there's, something kind of obscene about speaking, on their behalf rather than letting them speak for themselves which they cannot. He. Talked about the otherness of the dead that when we live people. Are already very radically, other to us and almost unknowable, to us and when they did this that's doubly, the case so. There's this other nurse two other people that. You. Can see in faces I think, here. Are two interesting examples, of absent, consciousness Lewis, pain on the left was. One. Of the, conspirators. In the to kill Abraham Lincoln he was involved in the attempt to kill Secretary of State William Seward that, team after has been caught he's on the brig of a confessor of sorry a Union warship, on dignity. In warship being held as a prisoner of waiting to be executed Rowland. Bart in his fantastic, book camera elusive it looks at this painting of pain and says this, image is haunted by the fact that he is going to die and has died, on. The right there you've got one of the portraits of Bronzino. The, great. One. Of the great Italian, Renaissance artists. What I love about these images is the sense of absent consciousness, the sense that there is a consciousness, behind the eyes that you can't get to alterity. That you can't get to the sense that there is consciousness going on but, that it's both visible, to us through the face and yet permanently, hidden, it's, what Vidkun Stein called the flicked in the fish dicta and and the light in the face of others, and. That. Light I think is part of what comes through in in digital media and the things that we leave behind. But. There's also the problem of course that. If we just let algorithms. Present. The dead that true alterity is gone the ability to shock us to surprise us is gone that's actually something that CS.
Lewis Is wrestling with after. His wife died that. The alt his wife's alterity, was there he was worried, that he, was covering her over with his own memories, of her with his own thoughts of her he, said I just need a minute with her even a few seconds, with her and that would blow all of my own ideas. Of her away and I would have what, she was really there but that's what's gone, he. Says, he. Says all reality, is iconoclastic. The earthly, beloved even in this life, incessantly. Triumphs, over your mere idea, of her and you, want her to you want her with all the resistances, all her faults or her unexpectedness. --is that is in her Foursquare and independent, reality, but. That's gone he says the rough sharp, cleansing. Tang of her of earnest is gone, now. What I want to suggest here is that, the worry in these. Online. Avatars. Of the Dead is that, we will come to forget that the alterity is gone we. Will allow, ourselves to, forget. That, or, that the algorithms, can't surprise us because, everything there is to. Represent the person already in there or, maybe, the algorithms will get so good that in fact they give us a simulacrum of surprise a simulacrum, of, alterity, they'll give us a false version, of the surprising. Upness of other, people and then. When that happens I think we will actually be replacing. People in a way I think's ethically troubling, so. One suggestion, I want to make here and this is the suggestion I'll end on is that. If we're going to have these technologies, I don't think we can stop them completely we, should make them deliberately a little, bit bad, right. Build deliberate. Glitches, in why because glitches remind, you that it's just a recreation, but it'll make, it stop every self and make it do something that's bad something, that reminds. You, that. What you're dealing with is, merely, an electronic, simulacrum, and not the real person itself. Hiding. Called it I'm ready to hand this you know when you you don't think about your hammer until you the head falls off the hammer and something else like oh it reminds you that's a tool it reminds it's a physical thing. We, need to have, that unready to hand as assert itself to stop us turning the dead into a mere resource. For. The living I'll, finish. Up there but I'm really keen to hear, some of your thoughts and questions thanks, for very much for listening ok. Thank. You so much Patrick there's such an insightful presentation I, think we've all got a lot to think about now and we've. Got plenty of time for questions which is great as well we had one come through from Kerry with a question sort, of more about online presence, wildlife, wondering. How, how, if we can, remove. Instances. Of information, about ourselves from. The, internet safety I have to name it to Google yeah, can we request this to be sure that's a really Justin question so that.
Has Been grappled with in. European. Law in recent years so you may have heard of this it was a case. That. Happened where there was a Spanish guys name escapes me just at the moment I'm sorry but it was a Spanish lawyer in real estate agent and. His. Problem wasn't when you googled him his, name the, first thing that came up was 10 year old news stories about a, bankruptcy. That he'd had and, he, said this is a problem here because he said well you, know this is ruining my reputation people, are googling me and the fact that I was bankrupt it's covered they said it's not relevant it was 10 years ago I'm, doing fine now so, he actually asked, the search, results. Google. Said no he, ended up taking it to one of the European courts, and they. Ended up saying that yes people have what the court called a right to be forgotten, now. The, very phrase right to be forgotten is paradoxical. A right. Creates, a duty right, if you if you have a right of free speech that means I have a duty not to interfere in your speech and so on. But. To have a duty to forget someone. It seems paradoxical, because forgetting, someone strictly speaking is not something you can choose to do right, we don't really if we could just choose to forget things you know life probably it'd be an awful lot simpler so, there's an interesting kind of question there I think. Part of the problem with it is that the. Internet. Collapses, everything into the present right so what you did 10 years ago on what you did five minutes ago are the same number of clicks away and that was the problem this chap was having in Spain. Everything. Gets crushed in this sort of eternal present we're all moments, of time are equidistant they're all the same number of clicks away I don't, really, think we're going to change that I think there there, are some mechanisms being introduced, for making the internet forget, so. Right, to be forgotten and so on but. Fundamentally. I think the longer term answer is not so much that we have to get better. At making the internet forget, so. Much as that we have to make the internet more. Forgiving, that is people need to be more prepared to figure out what people have done in the distant past look, at the way just as an aside here on this look at the way that political, campaigns. Always go right, the, last what, five years we've seen over and over and over and over and over again an election, campaign gets going and suddenly a whole bunch of candidates have to be this endorsed, because. Someone's dug up something that they posted on social media four five six years ago. This is an ongoing problem we're not going to get rid of and. So I think the the response. Were has to be to. Get be more, forgiving and not let forgetting do the work of forgiveness which I think we're very often very accustomed to doing. Thank. You very much for that great response so. Following. On from some things you talked about when you were talking about some. Recommendations, you made about how people, might be. Able to nominate. X15. For their digital remains and so, Tania was asking about that and step. Further is. This something you see as people being able to incorporate in their wills yeah. So this is actually something that is happening now people, are starting to do digital legacy, planning, and. Some services I think Google in particular will, allow you to set somebody as your sort of trusted person who. Had a kind of authority over these things. It's. Being pushed more and more that, this should happen. There's. A question, as to how you make. That happen, voluntarily. Though, I, mean, only half of people make wills a lot of people just don't ever get around to it and, to, even then you've then got to sort of make sure that every little country solicitor and whoever else is. Prepared to sit down with somebody say oh and by the way we need to work out some digital legacy planning for you and work all that stuff in so, in some ways. That's. It is a really good solution of the problem it's a good thing to do is to build that into your will but at the same time we probably do need some legislative, backup as well because not everyone's going to do it and there are going to be problems that, arise and those problems can be really heartbreaking, there was a case in Germany recently, where. A. Teenager. Unfortunately. Died by suicide and. Her. Family, tried, to get access to her emails and to her social media cuz they wanted to see what. She'd been saying and try. And get some insight into why she died and, the. Courts in the end had, to grapple with this answer and in the end they decided that there wasn't actually, a. Reason. To give the parents access and. That's a real question too because it's a in, law I'm told I'm not a lawyer but I'm told that in the law your privacy rights disappear, on death you don't actually have a right to privacy after, you die.
Ethically. There's, a really interesting open. Question there about whether you do in fact have a right to privacy after you die and what. Violations, of that right might be permissible or impermissible. Another. Question from Rebecca she. Says you, mentioned interacting, on social media as a means for continuing, to interact, with the dead in. Your experience, has this been considered, instead. As an indicator of the performative, nature of our lives that we are now performing, grief for others yeah not to suggest, sorry, that Becker says that, the grief behind the act is not genuine yeah no that's. Again. Something a lot of people have talked about, when. You go onto somebody's, social media, profile. Some. Of the empirical, data that's been done on this suggests that people people. Genuinely think they're talking to the dead right they genuinely, think that. They are. Interacting. With a dead person and that the dead person can hear them in some level, but they've also got to be conscious and I think you're absolutely right about this that. Even though there's addressing the dead and they're addressing them in second person I wish you were here and so on. They've. Also got to be conscious that they're being read by living people and that they are in fact part of a community of mourners that form in these spaces are once described what happens on Facebook after somebody dies as an, open-ended. Ongoing, electronic, wake, until. A certain sentence what happened you get like a sort of wake but it's really interesting that people there don't so much address, each other as, they, address the dead person and certainly after a little while at least they stopped addressing each other all together and just address the. Dead person which I find really. Really fascinating, actually if I can just quickly say, except to say this is a really fascinating little anecdote. Not. The Internet but, you, know I think 2010, there was a Japanese artist in the town in Japan whose. Cousin died and. He. Missed talking to his cousin on the phone so. He bought an old phone, box like, an old red phone box with a disconnected, old rotary, dial telephone in it it's not connected to anything he set it up as a sort of an art installation, and. As a white place he could go and he could just talk to his cousin of course his cousin can't hear him and can't speak back. Couple. Of years later or.
A Year later actually the, town was devastated by. The, tsunami that, occurred in Japan, I. Think, 10% of the town was 10%. Of people in the town died and you know a huge chunk of the town was destroyed, and. What started happening but the the the wind phone as he called his installation the wind telephone. Is. Still there because. It's high up on the hill so, it survived and so people from the town started, coming to the wind phone and talking to their dead loved ones from the tsunami on the phone and then, people from all over Japan. Came and started talking to their loved ones on the, wind phone now. In that case the communication, is private no one else can hear it, but. It to, me it's, it's over peace it's this idea that we're so embodied, to these forms of communication. That. We. Feel like it's, the only way we can continue to communicate with, the dead is. It. Entirely. Performative, in one sense yes I'd say it's more a case of what Kendal Walton called well. Make believe and it make believe we use props so. The broomstick that, the kid rides on is what makes it true in the make-believe world the kids riding a horse the, wind phone is what makes it true in a make-believe world that I'm talking to my dead loved ones. Right. Thank, you now, we had two. Comments. / questions, come through back, to back from laurenandjack. Interestingly very, similar content they, both, reference. A quote saying. That we died two deaths, the first when our physical body dies and the second when we allow us remembered, by someone and have a similar question right sorry it's good I've gotta yeah and the question or statement they've sort of said is does. Social media provide, an. Avenue for our. Our. Memory to remain past yeah, I I I'm. So glad you brought that quote up I have a paper, called deletion a second death which, is built around that that quote the. Idea that yeah we do die twice and the. Second death is I, argued. When we deleted so though they have a good quote says where we, died a second death when the last person who loved us dies. What. I want to suggest is it actually in a way we, with. The second death is when all online, trace, of us all trace of our our presence is destroyed. Or deleted, so, yes I do think precise it out I think there is a kind of ongoing existence and, kind of continuity. That. You do achieve through. Social media but two things to be said there one we've always had, that kind, of continuity through, memory and through some of the other physical artifacts, we leave behind so, it's not, an. Entirely, new thing but there is a new degree and, form in which we can continue and secondly. It's. A, radically. Radically diminished form, so there's some comfort in it for other people, but, not much comfort and no. Comfort at all for us right, so my fear of death is not at all familiar headed by having a, social. Media account I don't think you know oh I'm, going to die one day but at least my facebook will live on there might I might think oh that's nice for everyone else but it's not going it's not going to fix, my egocentric. Fear of death but for other people the fact that we persist in this way I think is. Partly. A comfort and also partly away which we can actually you, know help, to fulfill our duty to remember the dead and to keep testifying, that this, person lived and they mattered and that who they were mattered and. Another. Comment from Lauren. She's, a paralegal, in Wills and estates she's giving us information she says her research has found that Google won't allow access, to accounts unless there has been a legacy, contact contact.
Nominated, So. She thinks depending, on the platform they will automatically, protect access to your profiles yeah, I think that's I think that is the case I, mean this is part of the problem and Lauren, will know this working in this space too is that there's this real patchwork of different. You. Know different, policy responses, from different companies and at the moment it's more or less up to individual companies what they do courts. Are though increasingly, being asked, to. To. Adjudicate. Some of these cases when real disputes, come up there. Is an. Attempt, in the u.s. at the moment actually to introduce some uniform legislation, there's. This uniform legislation it's big draft and there's been attempts to promulgate that, to. Try and sort of work out who has access to this stuff it's stuff that as I say I'm, actually really really pleased that New South Wales is trying to grapple. With this I'm. Very, much hopeful, that we can convince other jurisdictions, as well to, to, get on board and to start trying to think about this stuff but, at the same time and. I'm sure I'm not speaking out of turn by saying this the. Mood. In the room when I was up at the meeting in Sydney recently, was kind of like this is so big and complicated, we barely know where to begin. It's such a mess in so many respects, it's very hard to know exactly how, how. To put together a, coherent. Policy response, to it. I'm. Gonna sneak a question in here I hope well you were talking about the, chatbots, I know this seems like murky. Sort of territory but um so, what extent do you think we should be pursuing. This. Area particularly for example with. Thought. Leaders, and if. They pass away but, situations. That might arise in the future that you know we would want to know what they might, have thought about yeah. I mean it gets, very murky, very quickly right so I mean first of all, do. We have a right to user material, in that way what, would they want it used, in that way. Related. To this actual has chatted lists of students yesterday actually I mean I teach LIUNA called love sex and death here at Deakin and we're into the death component, now I, was chatting about this yesterday with some students and. They. Actually raised the. Star Wars movie rogue one where they used the, image of. Peter. Cushing who was long dead and of. Carrie Fisher who at the time was still alive and they. Use CGI versions, of them and. It. Was and but then with the next movie they've ruled out ever using. Cgi footage of Carrie Fisher even though she is now dead and, it's interesting it's like okay is that because she died more recently, or yeah you feel like ethically to be wrong to do that give him the cheese recently, then whereas Peter Cushing has been dead for you, know the better part of 30 years, is. That making the difference there is distance doing some of the work that's. One question, who. Gets to make their call who has the right of disposal, who actually gets to say yeah I think we it's, okay to do this or this person wants to do this and. Then. What uses. Would. You make of that right, so if it's a complete free-for-all, then there are going to be users that are going to be appalling right. You. Know we've now entered a period where we can where, it's. Possible to produce what I call deep fakes which are really, convincing. Video. Footage, that appears to be of a real person, produced. By taking two bits of footage and just digitally, adding some of these face to it immediately. This was used for porn all right this is the Internet so it's the first thing audacity that turns everything into porn and, so that's a question there about in terms of do them did have a right not to be used in that way or in similar ways it might offend what, the dead person would want.
But. Then they you get to these other questions as well is what happens when these, these. Avatars are connected to neural, networks and they keep learning what, happens when the personality starts, to change and develop across time and response a new information, do, we view that as an. Extension in the life of the person that, person died, but, then lived on electronically, and they personality, continue to change and you know Uncle. Dave was you, know a bit of a jerk while he was alive but he really mellowed in his old age after. He moved onto a computer you know is that where we going to end up, what. Happens when these pots start interacting with each other yeah, point, that actually the, team of Melbourne Uni who work on this Michael Arnold Martin. Gives beyond, Nelson tomorrow, Cohen, and others that. They work they've got a research, team they're on a. Digital memorialization, and one of the questions they asked in their book is why, would we assume that these avatars, are gonna want to talk to us and they could just talk to other avatars, what's going to go on then so. There. Are huge huge problems I think associated, with every step of that development, and. We. Haven't even really begun to grapple with the ethics of that and again, I think, it's going to be one of those cases where the technology, is going to be here before, we're ethically ready for it. I did. Want to mention before we go any further you know we've covered some pretty heavy. Territory, in this, webinar. So, just, to note you know if this has raised any issues, for you please to. Get. In. Contact with lifeline. Or beyondblue, and so, just write about that at this point, we, had another question that came in from Michael, who asks, what, is your opinion of other people using a dead person's account to post status, updates ie Stanley. Hmm, yeah that's really interesting. Sometimes. That. Can be done in a. Really. Lovely way actually I think. The. Intent does actually matter when. Mark Colvin, the Australian journalist died a couple of years ago the. News that he died broke I think about 11 o'clock and then around one o'clock his Twitter accounts and out a tweet saying it's, all been bloody marvelous. Now. At. The time I was like oh hang on how to do that I, know, how he did that and it's not necessarily, a secret because he's widow told me you know I've been Twitter so to speak but I'm. Not going to say because, I want to spoil it, but. Things like that I think can be quite beautiful sometimes but, they can also be. Potentially, problematic again. I think one of the important things here is to make sure that whoever has access to that account for, instance if it's memorialized, whoever's going to have access to login and change things is. Somebody you want to do that. So. That is a real that. Is a real issue, but. There's also going to be interesting times whether again, wishes are going to clash between people, I. Spoke. To somebody a, couple of years ago who, works. In this space and the reason she got into it was that her brother died under pretty horrible circumstances. And. Suddenly. She said there was this real tension that, she. And her siblings wanted, his Facebook profile to be left alone because. It to, them it gave a sense it was still there okay a sense of presence, and there was something comforting in it whereas, their, parents. Were, freaked out by it that was creeped out this thing continued, and continued to be active and they didn't want that they didn't want to be active in that way and, then there was a question of you know his. Partner. Getting, upset because like you know old girlfriends, and stuff with post messages and things on there so there's that there are these questions around what I referred to earlier its grief enfranchisement, as well that, all come into play so I. Don't. Think there's a hard, and fast no no one else should post on somebody's account or yes, it's perfectly fine go for it, it's.
Something That requires I think a great deal of judgment, and wisdom and sensitivity, and there are going to be problem. Cases. All. Right well, thank, you so much I think that's that's all the questions we've had nothing that's really nice point. To show and on so, thank you for your time, associate. Professor Patrick, Stokes really appreciate it and thanks. Whoever in whose chain in sorry did you have 100 thank you very much again for the questions and everything they're really great and as, I said everyone's got experience at this applied or increasingly, people do so my, contact details are there if you've had some experience, with it or anything that you wanted to rise about. Having. Had experience here, feel. Free to get in touch any time so I'm working on a book on this and I'm always really keen to hear what. People's lived. Experience, of these issues is because it's, all it's, it's all new to all of us basically so we're all still just sort of mucking our way through all. Right thank, you again I've just got a few more slides to get through please, don't. Forget to follow us on social media so Deakin has a Facebook, and LinkedIn account, and we'd love to hear from you. And. Also a reminder that they. Can alumni in their direct families are eligible for 15%, off postgraduate, course fees so. Find out more information about this great offer at the Deakin alumni website. And. You can submit any feedback, about today's webinar, to Deakin alumni at Deakin, edu. A you and a recording of the presentation, will be made available on, the website within, the next few weeks so. Thanks again to associate, professor Patrick, Stokes and thanks to you for tuning in a reminder. That if this, webinar did, raise any issues for you please do, get in touch with lifeline. Or beyondblue, or, go to their websites and I. Hope, you have a great rest of your day and I hope you can join us again next time thanks, very much.