How to stay alive after you’re dead

Posted by Thomas Staley

“All living things seek to perpetuate themselves into the future, but humans seek to perpetuate themselves forever. This seeking – this will to ‘immortality’ – is the foundation of human achievement; it is the wellspring of religion, the muse of philosophy, the architect of our cities and the impulse behind the arts. It is embedded in our very nature” Stephen Cave

So if it is embedded in our nature, what potential do we have to perpetuate ourselves as humans in the 21st century?

In 2011 Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov employed leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems, proposing the transfer of personality to an advanced non-biological carrier at the end of an individual’s natural lifetime. The ultimate objective of this project is the development of a hologram-like avatar with an artificial brain to which human personality is transferred.

Whilst many remain sceptical, and are concerned by the ethical implications of such technological developments, our physical presence in this world remains limited, for the time being, and is set to remain indefinitely so.

This is why the emergence of online digital legacy tools, that provide us with the opportunity to record our lives online and leave an everlasting legacy, provide a meaningful solution to the aforementioned conundrum concerning ‘immortality’.

Such tools have the potential to capture every aspect of our lives, enabling future generations to obtain a complete understanding of who we truly are; including what we achieved, the values we upheld, the causes we represented, and what we held dearest during our time on this earth.

Loggacy is one such digital legacy tool; founded with the intention of connecting generations of family and friends, so that our most precious memories and experiences may be preserved perpetually.

Loggacy was very much born from a personal desire to never be forgotten, as I find it a sad reality that I am only able to remember my ancestors through snippets of physical information, such as photographs or writings that were supplemented by short narratives from living relatives. I hope that my vision now means that when I pass this won’t be the case, and that my children, grandchildren and beyond will be able to learn about everything that I embodied throughout the course of my lifetime.

I contend that this feeling extends well beyond myself, and indeed, I believe that there is an innate human desire within us all to create a personal narrative, to leave something behind, to pass something on and make a mark on this world; which is as much future-oriented as it is an immersion in the past.

As such I created a platform that is available for all to use; because it is a fundamental right to be remembered, to achieve some form of immortality.

The beauty of the tool is that the account provided by Loggacy is yours to control, manage and share; and therefore you determine exactly what people learn about you and what they are subsequently able to remember you by. Whether it be detailing a romantic getaway, your wedding or your child’s first steps, Loggacy welcomes you to create a log documenting your life from birth through to the present day and share it only with those most precious to you.

Many of us make plans for end of life, whether it be in the form of a funeral or pension plan, but little emphasis is currently placed on how we may utilise technology to record our lives, and as such, preserve our legacies. I intend to change this through the creation of a safe, secure and intuitive platform that allows users to record the most poignant moments of their life; so that future generations may truly know and understand their heritage.

Regardless of how seemingly menial our personal stories or achievements may appear to us on an individual level, we all have memories and experiences that are of interest to others and it’s important that these endure.

I therefore encourage you to consider what you might want your legacy to be, and record it with Loggacy; so that we may all stand the test of time, and satisfy man kinds perennial quest for immortality…

Psychopathic atheists and atheistic afterlifers

Two new academic studies are likely to engage the interest, and may influence the strategic planning, of undertakers and celebrants.

The first tracks the decline of religious belief in America together with the decline of those who identify as spiritual. It discovers, in spite of this, that increasing numbers of Americans believe in an afterlife. Here’s the hypothetical explanation:

“In comparison with those from earlier years and generations, American adults in recent years and generations were slightly more likely to believe in an afterlife. Combined with the decline in religious participation and belief, this might seem paradoxical. One plausible, though speculative, explanation is that this is another example of the rise in entitlement—expecting special privileges without effort. Entitlement appears in religious and spiritual domains when people see themselves as deserving spiritual rewards or blessings due to their special status.”

The second study offers an explanation as to why more men than women are atheists:

“In a series of eight experiments, the researchers found the more empathetic the person, the more likely he or she is religious. That finding offers a new explanation for past research showing women tend to hold more religious or spiritual worldviews than men. The gap may be because women have a stronger tendency toward empathetic concern than men. Atheists, the researchers found, are most closely aligned with psychopaths–not killers, but the vast majority of psychopaths classified as such due to their lack of empathy for others.”

What the hell?

“Belief in life after death is as common in Britain as it was 30 years ago in spite of a sharp decline in church attendance” according to researchers at the University of Leicester. The story is in today’s Times. The stats in the Leicester report don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, probably; not if you work in the funerals business, anyway. But it’s fascinating to read the numbers all the same. 

44% believe in an afterlife. Belief in Hell has risen from 26.2% in 1981 to 28.6% today. Almost a third of the population of Britain believe in all 5 Christian tenets: 1) God 2) life after death 3) Heaven 4) Hell and 5) sin. Almost a third! 

Older people are less  likely to believe in an afterlife than the young. 

All the while the C of E carries on shedding churchgoers at a steady 1% a year. Spare a wince, too, for the atheists who supposed that people would cast aside superstition and come over to them. As for the institutional religions, the growth of spirituality shows they are clearly missing out on a growing market and have only themselves to blame. 

In its leader, The Times quotes the philosopher AJ Ayer, who died in 1989, and who “recorded towards the end of his life an experience in hospital when his heart appeared to stop beating. What he “saw”, in that state, he later wrote, had “slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be”.”

The Times also paraphrases the political philosopher Edmund Burke, who described society as a partnership of the dead and the unborn as well as of the living

Where angels care to tread

Do you believe in angels?

According to research by the think tank Theos in 2012, around a quarter of the population do. If you’ve not seen the Theos report, do have a look: it’s a fascinating survey of the faith of the faithless generally.

Belief in angels is, of course, as old as time itself and is shared by many religions including all 3 Abrahamic ones. In classical Christian belief angels encircle the Godhead and sing alleluias and suchlike worshipful greatest hits, arranged concentrically in choral hierarchy: Seraphim,  Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels. God employs them as messengers, and we note that it’s a pretty plebby sort he dispatches to planet Earth — mere Archangels, for heaven’s sake.

Today’s angels — perhaps we should call them post-New Age angels — are often evoked by unchurched people when someone dies:

So go and run free with the angels
As they sing so tenderly
And please be sure to tell them
To take good care of you for me

Children who die are often fondly supposed to have grown angel wings and flown to heaven. As a proportion of the population, females are probably more likely to transition to angelhood than males. Old people are seldom reckoned to have been the beneficiaries of this celestial makeover, probably because they don’t conform to the aesthetic. A nan with wings really isn’t a very likely look. 

Just how thought-through and developed this modern belief in angels is I have no idea, so I hope you can come in with some info and points of view. Belief in guardian angels is widespread, as in: “One day, when my son was a baby, I tripped while I was holding him, and he went flying headlong toward a brick wall. There was nothing I could do to protect him, but I watched as he inexplicably stopped an inch from the wall and fell gently to the carpet. I knew immediately that an angel’s hand had been his bumper pad.” Source. People pool their experiences at Angels Online.

Angels are part of the modern iconography of death, which includes other winged creatures — eg, doves and butterflies — together with rainbows, as in:

Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.

It would be interesting to hear the reflections of celebrants on funerary angels. Are they part of a Disneyfication of afterlife beliefs generally? Do they play an influential part in people’s grief journeys?

Mourning the machine

Posted by our technology correspondent, Richard Rawlinson

Congratulations to Sir Jonathan Ive, creative head of Apple, for his knighthood this week. The Brit behind the superb styling of iPod, iPhone and iPad is perhaps the world’s most influential designer. Part of his brilliance in making his gadgets so alluring is the way he virtually anthropomorphises them: the MacBook laptop has a status light that pulsates gently when the computer is sleeping, mimicking the rhythm of breathing. Dell tried to copy this psychologically appealing characteristic but its result was closer to heavy breathing during exercise, not so calming.

No wonder we feel loss when our MacBooks breathe their last. It’s more than the inconvenience of being denied our instant online fix. It’s more than the expense of buying a new one. Are we indignant that the product of such a hallowed brand is mortal?