In earlier times, the remembrance we had of the dead was simple. Dead. Words upon paper, etchings on glass, easily broken or forgotten. Sure, there were also the deep subtle ways a life could wear away the world, the years of footsteps always in the same spots that could later be heard echoing in the creaking house. These memories though were so incredibly slight that they gave us the image we have so far, of ghosts: Quiet, distant, ethereal, hollow.
What we remember of the dead today (2009) is scarcely more awake: Social networking pages stand in memory, repeating words much as paper always has. They stand also ready to play the music of the dead, or they innocently continue to invite you to join the dead for a game of chess. The dead, though, never make a move. These ghosts are much as ghosts have always been: More echoes than continuations of life.
I am writing to you now because I believe that a new kind of ghost is emerging. Ghosts that are not so static, not so still, not so silent. Ghosts that continue to grasp and pull and substantially change the world, yes-- I am telling you that the dead will live.
Today somewhere someone is listening still to a music recommendation engine trained by a lost lover. Based on its own internal memory and logic it guesses at what the dead would have chosen. Calendars autonomously remind us still when the dead have an appointment, a birthday. Subscriptions and alerts continue telling the dead about how our world has rolled on.
This is an intrinsic otherside of our internet avatars: Instinctually making use of ethereal networked cloudstuff as if it were just another tool, year upon year we leave behind impressions with twice as much dance, twice as much kick, still jigging. It is hard to know what effect electronic ghosts are having already upon history; they do not, after all, even acknowledge that they are dead. They walk among us as ghosts always have, feeling death no different than life. Now, though, every day their voice is a louder storm. What's starting now with a few drops is a hurricane coming to destroy every shelter we have known.