The Rise of Death Tech
Death Tech is a growing industry with new and innovative digital solutions that help those who are facing a death in the family to arrange funerals and cope with grief. People can now make end-of-life decisions comfortably at home, bereaved loved ones can grieve together and support each other emotionally even when they are physically apart.
Funeral Live streaming
The pandemic caused restrictions in social gatherings and events, spurring the growth of live-streaming services, and making funeral live-streaming a popular service amongst bigger families. Funeral Live-streaming allows family and friends to attend the wake wherever they may be and this is especially significant for loved ones who live in other parts of the world or are unable to attend the funeral on short notice. Witnessing the funeral in real-time gives loved ones an opportunity to say their farewells, share important moments together, and be there for one another.
Online end-of-life planning
People who may be considering planning their funerals in advance can now do so in private and in the comfort of their own homes. With abundant information and resources available on the internet, individuals can sign up for online consultations with funeral homes and learn more about the funeral process and what their preferences are.
Like funeral live-streaming, you can now hold virtual memorial services to honour the dearly departed on anniversaries or religious observance days. Viral avatar social platforms and the metaverse are some avenues that people can use to organise memorial services online and personalise them however they want.
Although these services may not be able to replicate the exact sentiments when you attend a wake in person or offer guidance in planning for one; they help families who are living apart bridge the distance and provide individuals with a safe and comfortable space to discuss end-of-life needs.
Loved ones may now publish digital obituaries and send condolences to their dearly departed on online forums. Unlike print media, where time and advert space is limited, an online obituary makes it easy and fast to share news of the passing of a loved one, simply with a link to the digital obit.
There is no timeline for grief and the healing journey, and because online obituaries are permanent, they allow loved ones to remember and honour the dearly departed at any time. Friends and family can also leave behind words of support and comfort for the bereaved.
Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram lets you report the account of a deceased loved one that needs to be memorialised. Memorialised accounts are for loved ones to post and share fond memories of the dearly departed on the memorialised timeline. These accounts will also no longer be suggested to other accounts as “People You May Know” or appear in reminders and notifications. Legacy accounts aid in the healing journey of loved ones in the digital space and incur no costs.
AI in death
What is Digital Immortality?
A more advanced extension in the death tech industry is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the funeral process. AI has brought about possibilities that may change the fate of the funeral industry, in particular, digital immortality.
Achieved by AI, Digital Immortality is the concept of creating and storing one’s identity and personality in the cyber world, allowing people the opportunity to preserve their stories and legacy for generations to come.
Eternity in the Metaverse
The metaverse is a 3D digital space where people can create their own virtual avatars, socialise and interact with other users, and create a brand-new reality. On platforms such as Uhive and Second Life, you can create digital avatars, meet new people, and create new experiences for yourself while other software like The Sandbox, built on blockchain technology, allows you to buy, trade and sell virtual lands.
Online multiplayer virtual world: Second Life
Metaverse software: Uhive
Somnium Space, one of the top metaverse companies has taken social networking platforms to the next level, they are in the midst of designing “Live Now”, a feature that allows users to be in “Live Forever” mode even after they have passed on. With the help of the latest AI software ‘ChatGPT’, they are able to escalate the developing process of its up-and-coming new feature.
The “Live Now” feature allows your friends and family to interact with the digitised version of you even after your passing. The AI-powered avatar will use personal data and information you provide, to mirror how you would carry a conversation and movements when you were alive, creating a “Legacy Avatar” that your loved ones can access and connect with.
(Never) Rest in Peace
In recent years, late music legends and icons return to the stage in hologram forms to hold concerts, giving fans a chance to see their favourite stars perform live once more. These virtual reality experiences are often marketed to celebrate and remember the artists’ legacies, honouring their art and passing down their work to new generations.
As some of the posthumous works that were produced were still in the making before the artists died, it was unclear if they would have consented to the publication when they were alive. Netizens have debated over legal and ethical considerations that are being abused in the posthumous industry, especially for older celebrity icons, who would have thunk this was the technology we would achieved today?
Ethics and Considerations
Digital tech has brought convenience and transformed the way we grieve and view death, but it also comes with ethical discussions and possible violations of data privacy. In the case of virtual memorials, online obituaries and memorialised accounts, while they are helpful in connecting friends and relatives and honouring the departed in a unique and personalised matter, personal data and information stay on the internet forever. Can this private information be manipulated and reused by online scammers as phishing? What are companies currently doing to protect the details of the dead?
Dead Men Can’t Talk
Death sells – As far as posthumous careers go, it may not have considered respect and the feelings of the families of the artists who have passed. In fact, would the artists consent to holographic programs of themselves? Managing posthumous careers and maintaining the image of the departed artist is especially difficult if the artist did not have any wills or estates that explicitly state the ownership of their work. Who profits and benefits from the rights and royalties of the music?
Living in the digital era comes with new and exciting perks and discoveries. Mourning and grieving over death no longer have to be tied to traditional means, there is new meaning in what we do to remember and honour our departed loved ones.
As technology continues to advance and change industry processes and also the way humans perceive the afterlife, what could this mean for the future of the funeral industry?