The advent of the internet era has made a part of us impervious to death. What we perceive sometimes as a toy, as a method of communication, as a way to waste time when we are bored, has in its own quiet way turned us all into immortals. Its not because of the internet alone that I say this. Its because of the massive social networks promulgating the net now.
Before these came along in their present form, the internet was still a fractured place. Those using one service like AOL or a host of others, were still locked into a small part of the cyber universe. But now, organizations like Google, Yahoo and Facebook are unlocking the doors and expanding services to the point where we now have a doppelganger of our true selves living out there in cyberspace.
Consider that everything we type, every email we send, every chat we have with our most intimate companions is out there now. Sure there are protections to keep information private. But do you really think that's going to matter to someone 500 years from now? If a researcher in the future really truly wants to find out more about you. They will. And they will have a more complete picture of you than of any generation before you.
For creatives of any type (artists, writers, musicians) even before the internet we could attain a sort of immortality just in the fact that we create works that (we hope) will outlast us. But now, this is a fact for everyone in the world who has access to and uses the internet in any way or shape.
And don't think that these companies aren't saving their data. Data is big money now. And what may seem trivial to us now, like what we had for dinner last night, will become more and more crucial data to companies trying to sell products.
Consider a company wants to find out how many people eat fish at least once a week. By clever keywords it might already be possible to ascertain how many people mentioned "fish" and "evening meal" together. That might not seem very important to most of us. But to the researchers in the future it could tell them a huge amount about how we lived in this era.
But its not the data miners that will be important in the future. Its the researchers who want to know about our lifestyle, our concerns, our fears, our triumphs. They are the patient ones that will sift through all this information and put all these scattered parts of you together to form a whole. Your doppelganger is already alive and well and will far outlast you. You are immortal now, whether you like it or not.
This should not create a fear and loathing in us that our privacy has been invaded or might be someday. No more than an archaeologist of our time sifts through the trash of a city that existed a thousand years ago, the data miners of the future are looking at far broader facts about us than whether we went cruising on the internet last Sunday for a hot hookup. But it is a fact that even that hookup site has data records. A clever archaeologist 500 years from now has the ability to find out a great deal more about an individual than his counterpart in this century could tell about someone 500 years in our own past.
Consider this. Archaeologists researching the artifacts found around Hadrian's Wall in northern Great Britain have been able to find things as personal as letters written by Roman Soldiers to loved ones, personal accounts for store owners in Roman Villages and even personal keepsakes of various citizens of that village. If we can find such valuable personal information about someone that lived during the era of the Roman Emperor's, how much more can someone in the future find out about you? Letters, thoughts, ideas, biases, likes and dislikes are all out there now.
It is a fact that even while I am writing these words in my blog, they may be read by someone far in our future. What I publish as an artist now is not only potentially helping current artists, but may be helping future ones also.
What I would have given to be able to dig into the minds and thoughts of some of the great artists of the past. Some thankfully kept journals. We know more about them because they were public figures even in their own times. But consider for a moment, an artist from say the 1500's. Perhaps he is a scribe who has access to paints and was taught early on to illuminate pages that he is copying, If lucky a few of those pages still exist. But what do we know about the mans life? Was it a good life? What made him decide to take up the task of a scribe? Was it his families business passed on to him from his father? What made him tick?
The simple fact is, that we will never know. That man is lost to us forever (or at least until one of you geniuses in the future creates a way to look in on the past).
This is no longer the case now. If we want to know about someone, there is a bread crumb trail out there that even a blind man could follow.
I sit alone at our computers, chatting online, stating opinions about the days current affairs.. But the whole time, we are talking to the future. We are saying "pay attention to me damn you. I existed!" And it is my fond hope those in the future are listening, to both me and each of you. Because we all have some amazing things to share with them.
I see someday a reality show on whatever replaces cable television, that broadcasts nothing but past lives, putting together all that can be found about common folk of the past and the struggles and problems they faced. Our future selves sit down for a great evenings entertainment, hanging on their seats while the past opens up to them in the form of something akin to shows we would find every night on television right now. But rather than the participants being a part of the show live, they are unwittingly a part of something long after they are dead. Is this not immortality?
And consider, what we can do now will not even come close to what will be available to us 25 years, or 50 years from now. While only a portion of us is immortal now, there may come a time when even the personal thoughts in our minds can be stored and saved. What is still science fiction to us, is quickly approaching reality.
What does this mean for all of us creatives out there? It means that not only a few pieces of our art will survive past our deaths. It means that us "the artists, musicians, writers, etc" will survive in part after our physical deaths. A researcher in the future decides to research an artist in the months preceding and after their first major show, they can now see that. They can see personal thoughts of the artist, preparations they made, fears they had. They can see opinions others had about our work. They can see the business transactions carried on by the gallery the artist shows at. They can even see what kind of snacks were served at the show. They can see us in a clearer way than I think we can even see ourselves because they are seeing us without our own personal biases and problems of the day getting in the way.
I ask again, is this not immortality?