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While perusing a web forum, I came across a lengthy
discussion of how to prepare one's various online identities
for the user's death. Various suggestions, including a
system where the credentials are released following
several failures to check-in, and systems to actually detect
death were proposed. All these systems, though,
would have problems with false positives and negatives, as
a result of a limited scope of investigation.
A tontine is a form of life insurance, where a group of
people pay in, and the income is split among the surviving
members, with the last survivor taking the entire pool.
The concept can also be applied to a valuable object, as is
often seen in fiction, where an item, such as a bottle of
valuable wine or cache of paintings is stored and inherited
by the last survivor.
The "Password Tontine" is a form of this, where a group of
people submit their online credentials to be released by the
last survivor. It could be implemented as an informal
agreement among a small circle, or more formally where
the information would be stored by a third-party such as a
lawyer or a bank.
Here it is. Now I am getting all drooly. [bungston, Oct 01 2010]
||A tontine is named after its C17th inventor, an Italian
whose surname was Tonti, as I recall.
||I've often wondered why Tontine is also the brand
name for a range of pillows and bedding products in
some parts of the world. Possibly because the
company was founded under a tontine structure in
the 1800s? I don't know but it would be interesting
to find out.
||Silly [infidel], everyone knows that tontines were invented by the French. Just like everything else.
||Tonti was living in France at the time, so you have a point.
||What's the point of a tontine? Surely the dead would want the information released right away, instead of waiting until all but one person dies. I see no benefit over a simple will held in escrow.
||I thought a tontine was that Canadian dish involving french fries and a lot of gravy. Also cheese?
||[bungston] So-named because of the Canadian custom of
gathering weekly in small groups, to enjoy a tontine dinner.
Strokes, heart attacks, and other complications of
atherosclerosis quickly reduce each group to (however
briefly) a single survivor.
||I still don't understand the "why" of this idea.
||No I don't see how this helps either.
||Also, what happens if all members of the tontine die simultaneously? (Or at least in rapid enough succession for it to be impractical to prove who was the final survivor) Say if a bomb went off, or a crazed gunman stormed the building?
||That's where the Pillows come in! To stop the shrapnel/bullets. I've always wondered about that...
||//Also, what happens if all members of the tontine die
simultaneously// The way you handle that in a will is to
specify a notional temporal ordering of deaths to be used in
case where the deaths are simultaneous. I assume it's
done the same way with a tontine.
||// No I don't see how this helps either. //
||Mostly this came about because the discussion was
largely about maintaining security. In a mutually-
trusted group (I'm imagining that it would be done so
that all the IDs would be released together, without
being separable), no one benefits by cheating the
group. Also, I like the romanticism of it.