Immortality? …There’s an app for that

Fancy becoming immortal? …There’s an app for that.

Eterni.me is the latest AI social networking site for people looking to escape the cold, inescapable, clutches of death. By inputting all of your personal information, the app will learn to imitate your opinions and recognise your most likely responses. Using this technology, the site aims to generate an interactive avatar that exactly mirrors your own thoughts and conversational style. As a result, when you do eventually shuffle off this mortal coil, your family will still be able to contact you through an instant message chat box. It’ll be as though you never died at all. Or – at the very least – that your death didn’t matter. And who wouldn’t want that?

Visiting the website, it’s hard not to notice some of the close similarities between Eterni.me and ‘Be Right Back’, an episode of Charlie Brooker’s darkly comic Black Mirror. In Be Right Back, a recently bereaved woman attempts to replace her husband with a simulated mobile app. Worryingly however, Black Mirror aims to provide a cautionary glimpse of a dystopian future, not an instructive road map for present day tech.

Thankfully, it’s not just me that considers Eterni.me morbid and unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, the thought of casually chatting with a simulated corpse is not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, most people seem to agree that Eterni.me has all the tact of a Jimmy Saville memorial fountain. That said however, I’m sure there will be plenty of people who can’t wait to give up their personal data, even if only to say that they were immortal “before it was cool”.

The worst part about the Eterni.me app, is that is doesn’t even deliver on what it promises. It doesn’t really make you immortal, it just changes the definition of what immortal means.

In a recent interview with the Metro, the site’s founder Marius Ursache described Eterni.me as generating “a legacy that allows your grandchildren to interact with their great grandfather”. Nice as that sounds, it is of course a blatant lie. Even if you were to create an Eterni.me profile, your great grandchildren will never actually get to interact with you. How do I know that? Because you’ll be dead. You’ll be dead, and maggots will have eaten your eyeballs.

The only thing that Eterni.me achieves is to allow your great grandchildren to interact with a machine that’s pretending to be you. A forgery. A cold emotionless clone. This lifeless imitation will do little more than replicate everything you once were, chatting to your grandkids as though they were its own. The perverted cyborg bastard!

New technology always leads to reductionism, and social networks are some of the worst offenders. By encouraging us to selectively input data, social media works to skew and simplify every aspect of our lives. First Facebook did it to friendship, then Match.com did it to love, now, thanks to Eterni.me, even our deaths are no longer our own.

That’s the problem with social media; we can’t help but portray an inaccurate picture of ourselves. Even if we do embrace sites like Eterni.me, we’ll surely just use them to spin our lives and make ourselves look better (just as we all do on Facebook). As a result, when our grandchildren look back at our profiles, they’ll just see polished posts and carefully selected skinny photographs. And you know what; they’ll feel deeply inadequate… just like we do.

Quite the legacy.

Alex Warren
Alex Warren
Miserablist, whiskey-drinker, and general tinpot shambles. Alex Warren has a weary pessimism for all things media, politics and tech.