The endnote address at the PDA conference was given by Rudy Rucker, Sr., a science fiction author, who spoke about Lifebox Immortality.
We dream of achieving immortality by creating a software copy of ourselves. We don’t know how the brain stores information, so the closest thing we can do is to find a way of getting a big archive of our thoughts and memories, and put in some tags and links. It’s hardly practical to do it yourself–you need to find a way to automate the process.
Rucker’s book, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul incorporates the concept of a “Lifebox”, which is a really good personal digital archive, or a digital hyperlinked copy of a person’s memory, in which you have a lot of data. It is easy to search your Lifebox data with Google Search. People could create memoir-like structures using the Lifebox. Or you could create a chatbot where you could type in any question and get an answer. You will find that people will not usually answer your questions directly; instead, they will say something that relates to what you ask. So you must ask again and keep the conversation going. But this is not a standin for yourself. It is hard to write your life story.
One of the secrets in writing is to write like you talk. You could use a cell phone-like device and just tell stories about yourself, but the missing thing is the spark. Intelligence is mainly many evolving neural networks; there is no underlying theory about creating intelligence. The secret of the Lifebox is to save your memories. You don’t have to do much more than create the data because we are tuned to emulate other people.
E-mail archives are dangerous–there could be things in the archive that you wish you had not sent. There is no standard way of making your LifeBox. They are a way of self-expression.
I found the PDA conference fascinating and highly educational. I never realized that personal digital archiving had so many implications or applications–certainly many more than simply digitizing a box of old family photographs (although that is of course included). It’s relevant to information professionals, especially those who interact with the public, because awareness of it is growing, and the number of people doing it is growing rapidly. And it is a whole new type of information with its own issues and applications. I look forward to the next conference.
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor