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[cancer|personal] Digital ghosts and virtual me - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-04-25 05:33
Subject: [cancer|personal] Digital ghosts and virtual me
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, cool, health, personal, science, tech
Yesterday I saw my therapist. We talked about a number of issues. My life moves very fast these days in more than one sense. One subject was the whole question of me having both a documentarist and an archivist. As I said to them, this is the water I swim in. I don't think about it much. But those are in fact both very weird things.

That got us onto the question of digital archiving, pace [info]rarelylynne (the aforementioned archivist). I was explaining to my therapist that Lynne and I were talking through a number of issues around post-mortem disposition of my social media and other online assets. Which led in turn to the concept of being a digital ghost.

Years after I am gone, I will still be receiving emails for everything from breast enlargement to tech upgrades. This is especially true if my heirs, my literary trust or the archives maintain my email address on an active basis. (Right now I have no idea what direction this will go in, that being one of many outstanding issues.) My blogging, my Facebook and Twitter posts, the references to me on review sites and SF news sites and so on — it will all persist. Trailing off to a long tail of course, but I suspect even decades after my death you will still find traces of me in whatever future equivalent we have to the online world.

Which is both kind of cool and kind of weird.

At that point, my therapist commented that there is enough of me recorded electronically that someone could re-create me someday. I pointed out to them that my entire genome exists in data form now and I could be recreated in more than one sense. In point of fact, I am in discussions with my computational biologist friends about publishing my entire genome as open source data. Why not? Human genome data isn't terribly easy to come by still, and it might do some good, especially for small dollar and hobbyist researchers. And, well, it's another form of digital immortality, right? I could be the electronic equivalent of Henrietta Lacks. And my open source genome helps lead to any kind of useful discoveries, then my cancer and your fundraising generosity will simply have done a little more good in the world. It's already been done here, so I have a template from which to model this effort.

The conversation also made me think about my digital corpus. I am an incredibly well documented person at this point. I have approximately 3,000,000 words of published fiction. My blogging and other public comments (interviews and whatnot) amount to at least that many words again, possibly more. Call it 6,000,000 words available from publicly accessible sources. (And I suspect that number is conservative.) Tap the past almost twenty years of my email archives and that amount goes up by another 50-100%. One could get really crazy and dive into my 6,000 pages of medical records and Waterloo Productions' hundreds of hours of film for additional resources.

That's a hell of a lot of words. I can imagine a coding project to create virtual Jay — vJay? — a version of ELIZA who would converse in my words and with (some of) my thoughts after I am gone.

I wish I knew someone who had the right skills and resources to take that on, so I could collaborate to whatever degree possible before cancer claims my life. I think it would be intensely cool. Combine a vJay with open sourcing my genome and I would indeed be a digital ghost.

Would you support a vJay project? How would you go about getting it done?

And what do you think of my genome being open source?

Post A Comment | 12 Comments | | Link

wyld_dandelyon: Cookies
User: wyld_dandelyon
Date: 2013-04-25 12:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Physically, they could create a time-delayed identical twin, I suppose. Having naturally-cloned nephews, I can assure you that is not the same as recreating you. The boys have always had distinct personalities, even growing in the same womb and growing up in identical circumstances.
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User: msconduct
Date: 2013-04-25 13:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think your genome being open source would be fantastic. It's depressing watching people lock up more and more genes under patents and I'm sure an entire genome would be of immense use to researchers.
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User: chris_gerrib
Date: 2013-04-25 13:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay - you are the most open person I know, so why not open up your genome?

That's actually a serious question. I mean, there's no downside to you and yours.
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User: cathshaffer
Date: 2013-04-25 13:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
vJay is such a cool idea. People could donate emails, too. (not to be read but as a source of dialogue) I know I have a collection of them.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: a_cubed
Date: 2013-04-25 14:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fred is inherent in the corpus of published work, though :-) (and unpublished fiction)
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User: a_cubed
Date: 2013-04-25 14:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think you should check with the people who share your DNA whether they're happy with it being open sourced. It's a great idea, though I'd want to see if there was a way you could slap a share-alike/copyleft principle on it rather than public domaining it. Specifically putting a rider in that no gene identified through the use of the data may be patented (though so far human genes aren't patentable, IIRC).
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Perdix: Buffy
User: perdix
Date: 2013-04-25 14:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can't help reading vJay as Victory over Japan. ;-)

Edited at 2013-04-25 02:48 pm (UTC)
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User: swan_tower
Date: 2013-04-25 18:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I read it as . . . something else. (Vajayjay being slang for ladyparts.) And, er, would not recommend using that as the name for such a thing -- but the idea itself is cool. And definitely publish the genome!
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2013-04-26 13:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
...and I immediately thought of the MTV reference! ;)
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User: voidampersand
Date: 2013-04-25 15:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm assuming that the sequencing was work for hire and you own the data. In that case it's easy. I like the Creative Commons licenses. Pick the one with the terms that you want to use. Slap it on.

You might also want to put in your will that you are donating this valuable data to the public under certain terms.
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User: asakiyume
Date: 2013-04-25 21:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I like the idea of making your genetic data available; I like the idea that people might be able to make advances that would help others--it's kind of like organ donation.

I'd support the project.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2013-04-27 01:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Why am I reminded of Miles Vorkosigan's clone? And we all know how that turned out...
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