Monthly Archives: November 2018

Digital Immortality

In this week’s Sunday NYT Magazine, a discussion was recorded about the future of technology. One of my favorite writers, Sid Mukerjee, discussed chronic disease. In that discussion, he touched on a notion of immortality that I have been pondering for some time.

Here is what he said, and after is what I say in response.

MUKHERJEE: “In terms of longevity, the diseases that are most likely to kill us are neurological diseases and heart disease and cancer. In some other countries, there is tuberculosis and malaria and other infectious diseases, but here it’s the chronic diseases that dominate. There are three ways to think about these chronic diseases. One is the disease-specific way. So, you attack Alzheimer’s as Alzheimer’s; you attack cancer as cancer. The second one is that you forget about the disease-specific manners of attacking diseases and you attack longevity or aging reversal in general. You change diet, change genes, change whatever else — we might call them “trans factors,” which would simply override the “cis factors” that existed for individual diseases. And the third option is some combination of that and some digital form of immortality, which is that you record yourself forever, that you clone yourself and somehow pass along that recording. Which is to say that the body is just a repository of memories, images, times. And as a repository, there’s nothing special about it. The body per se, the mortal coil, is just a coil.

This is the first time I have heard a major thinker put immortality into this context. And yet – its so obvious to do so!

For example:

– wouldn’t it be fair to say that every autobiography ever written would be a sincere attempt by the writer to achieve some form of immortality?

– in like manner, isn’t the task of the biographer, in part, to immortalize their subject?

– more broadly, how do societies around the world remember their ancestors? Their memories are their attempts to allow ancestors to live forever!

This point is nicely illustrated by the Irish culture. In my work on the History of Ireland, the centrality of “oral tradition” was crystal clear. I came continually across how the Irish told stories to revere their ancestors. The Irish would distill their ancestors into a wide variety of stories that helped the present generation understand the past.

So, by extrapolation from this point (which is obvious), can this be asked: “Can I be immortalized digitally?

Digital storage costs have plummeted. Methods of organizing and tagging video and audio recordings are now commonplace. Search engines are commonplace. Pattern recognition combined with search is exploding.

So what will prevent me in the future from immortalizing myself digitally? What prevents me from storing who I am, what I did, what I learned, where I have been, what I have experienced, who I knew, who my ancestors were, who my children and grandchildren were, etc etc?

Perhaps the answer is: nothing. Nothing prevents me from being digitally immortal.

User Pays is Trending

“User pays” is trending.

….because convenient methods of paying are trending.

This new trend is making the economics of capitalization and payback MUCH easier. Markets will be built for investment capital where payback rates can be credibly estimated.


New apps, GPS technology, iPhones, Internet technologies, credit card apps and sensors make it simpler for the user to pay for the services they use.

An example of app-based technologies is MobilePass – an app for conveniently paying for parking instead of “feeding the meter”. Its popularity is making it possible for paid parking to work.

A second example of app-based is Uber. Uber users summon their ride using an app, which charges in advance to a pre-assigned credit card – thereby allowing a ride to be summoned based on the destination sought and the pick-up location. GPS technology effortlessly allows the app to calculate the price of the ride and to scan for nearby free Uber cars.

An example os sensor-based technologies is EZ Pass and technologies like it. EZ Pass reads license plates at bridges and on toll roads. It replaces the “toll booth”, where vehicles needed to stop, wait in line, and then pay their toll to a toll worker.

E‑ZPass enjoys tremendous brand recognition and high levels of customer satisfaction, and is the world leader in toll interoperability, with over 35 million E‑ZPass devices in circulation. It operates in all of New England, except VT and Conn, and goes west to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and South to North Carolina.

But EZ Pass is one of many. Here is a rundown of the apps chosen:

Simple Example of User Pays

ParkMobile (app that allows users to pay for parking)
Uber (app that allows users to pay for taxi service)
Meters (meter readers are being replaced by smart meters)
Toll roads (with EZ Pass and similar technologies)
Train, Bus, Boat and Plane Tickets
Concert Tickets and Ticketmaster
Hotel Rooms and Expedia and Hotels.Com
Rent and AirBnB
Electricity Service and smart meters




District of Columbia











New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina





Puerto Rico


Rhode Island

San Francisco







West Virginia

PlatePass makes all of this happen for rental cars

The 6 Best Payment Apps to Get in 2018
PayPal. Courtesy of PayPal. PayPal is the granddaddy of payment companies, with a history going back to 1998. …
Venmo. Courtesy of Venmo. …
Square Cash. Courtesy of Square Cash. …
Zelle. Courtesy of Zelle. …
Google Wallet. Courtesy of Google Wallet. …
Facebook Messenger. Courtesy of Facebook.
Sep 20, 2018
The 6 Best Payment Apps to Get in 2018 – The Balance