Using Technology to Connect with the Dead
Before we had YouTube and home video recorders, prior to social media and voice recordings that could be stored online, there were few ways to connect on a personal level with the deceased. You might be able to look through old photos or visit the cemetery to help you in your grief. Personal belongings might also contain memories and—if it hasn’t been too long—may even retain sensory impressions, like the lingering scent of a favorite cologne.
These sorts of tenuous connections to the past are important in the grieving process and go a long way in helping people cope with their losses. However, technology is taking things to new levels, allowing you a more interactive way to connect with the deceased. Whether or not this is beneficial in the long run has yet to be determined, but if you’re part of the growing trend toward tech-heavy daily life, you may be able to fuse technology and mourning.
Living Headstones provide a way to turn a grave into a sort of Facebook page or archive website where users access “information you and friends add about your loved one, such as: an obituary, family heritage and history, photos, comments by friends and relatives and even links to share content on popular social sites.” The technology is literally built into the headstone (and maintained through solar powered panels) so that it is accessible on a public level.
In this way, it’s possible to glean more information about the deceased than the typical date of birth. Those who may not have known the deceased can get to know his or her personal history, while friends and family members can share their mourning across distances.
Other options include installing QR codes on the backs of headstone monuments, which allows users with smartphones to access a memorial website while visiting a loved one at the cemetery.
Although Living Headstones are available now, other hi-tech mourning platforms may take some time to develop. Eterni.me is one such option. This burgeoning technology takes interactive graves to the next level by creating an actual artificial intelligence platform that inputs all the information you have about the deceased and creating a way for him or her to come to “life” for conversations.
Because of how complex this process is (inputting an entire life of photos, events, and recordings is quite an undertaking), it may be some years before it becomes a mainstream option—especially since developers are still working on the idea. And even then, there are ethical questions that will be raised. Like the act of holding a séance to connect with the dead, this kind of personalized contact might not be right for everyone.
Technology and Funerals
Of course, you don’t have to go to extremes to use technology to mourn the loss of a loved one. YouTube channels can share videos of the deceased. Photo slide shows are a great way to memorialize a loved one at a funeral. And memorial websites that anyone can access from home provide plenty of interaction for the average user.
Technology allows you to stay connected long after the funeral ends—and for many people, this is a connection that is desperately needed during the long, lonely stages of grief. How far that technology will go and how it will be received, however, is a question none of us are quite ready to answer yet.