h a l f b a k e r y
Not so much a thought experiment as a single neuron misfire.
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This would be service to prompt a
user at regular intervals with a
message like "Are you dead yet?"
If the the user does not respond
within a reasonable amount of
time, she would be queried a few
more times, until the assumption
would be made that the user has
At this point,
a series of
prewritten e-mails containing
heartfelt texts about how the
user feels about everyone
involved in her life would be
sent out. This could also include
links to short audio or video
messages. These messages could be
easily and frequently updated, or
could even serve as a personal
diary to those people very close
You'd obviously want to be very
paranoid about not sending this
out except in case of death, so
there should be a way to respond
with "No, I'm not dead, and I'm
going on vacation for a month,
don't ask me again until I get
back." There's also the problem
of unexpected incapacitation,
such as a lengthy hospital stay.
This is conceptually similar to
the reading of the last will and
testament, but it has the
advantage of cutting out the
proxy and legal fees associated
with updating a will. It also
separates the expression of true
feelings, unburdened by social
recourse, from the more material
concerns of who gets uncle Bob's
||Well, there was my delay.com (now deceased; a couple of autodelaying sites existed), its spin-off "future email address", and you yourself explained the e-mail dead man switch in connection with the Distributed Deceased Database (D3).
||But I think the idea of encouraging emotional testaments in connection with this is new. (Now, if only it woudn't remind me so much of all those falsely honest confessional interviews in the closets of "reality television" shows...)
||Maybe one of the best things that could happen to someone who leaves a large number of things scandalously unsaid in their lives would be a catastrophic failure of such a mechanism.
||This would be a good plot device for a detective thriller. "If you are reading this, I am dead. In all likelihood, this means that I was getting close enough to the truth to make the big boys uncomfortable. Details of my investigation follow..."
||I've seen the "deadman switch" plot device a few times. The most recent (and the only one I can recall well enough to cite specifically) was in Orson Scott Card's _Shadow of the Hegemon_.
||One other item to add to the chores to be done in case of death would be to have a group of purchases set up to max-out all your credit cards simultaneously with the other postmortem emails.
It would be a shame to go to the grave with several hundreds or thousands of dollars in unspent credit going to waste.
||"Hey ralph, did you write back to them guys that keep asking if you're dead?"
||"Oh, I'll get around to it some time."
||"Well, I just got your last will and testament, and I want a divorce!"
||"Darn, where's that stupid mailer..."