The Five Dimensions of Digital Immortality|
(For more detail click on the dimension links.)
First, some definitions. A digital persona is a person simulated on a computer and presented for access by living persons. Digital Immortality is that digital persona accessible over a long period of time.
So far, I've mentioned three explicit dimensions of Digital Immortality: Presentation, Accessibility, and Time. The additional dimension of Data is presumed as the information necessary to create the digital persona. Finally, there is the dimension of Interaction, more of which later. But first, I need to give some idea of the extent of those dimensions.
Data can range from a sample of a person's writings to the full upload of their brain over a lifetime. Obviously, the latter is not only impractical now but also questionable for anything but the distant future. However, what is practical now given how inexpensive computer storage has become is a great deal of data about any given person. (The million of so words at my site take less than 25 Megabytes, which includes nearly a thousand pictures.)
Accessibility is the dimension of how this digital persona is made available to living persons. Right now, for example, we're using the Internet (specifically the World Wide Web). Does that make a digital persona available to everyone? Hardly. Yet, by using web pages that do not require a broadband connection, they are accessible to anyone with access to a computer, browser, modem, and an Internet connection. The obvious problem here is how the parameters of accessibility will change over time.
Presentation is how a digital persona appears to those accessing it. A bunch of web pages with collected writings is the simplest form of presentation. Complexity of presentation, however, is only limited by detail of data, the power of computer hardware and software, and bandwidth. Think of the holograms of Star Wars but in full color and high resolution.
Interaction is another dimension limited only by the power of computer hardware and software. At the low-end, there is no interaction, only a passive browsing of web pages. The high-end is something else again. As artificial intelligence advances in the simulation of humans, it will not only be possible to carry on a conversation with a digital persona but possible for that digital persona to generate new responses based on existing data. IOW, a fully simulated digital persona.
Time is the final dimension. And the least predictable. Over time, everything the Internet, computers, and society will change. How these changes will affect the accessibility of digital personas, we cannot know for sure. What we can do is plan for contingencies. And a dearth of earth-shattering meteors.