But even with these efforts, in the past it has been true that the deceased's identity inevitably became scattered. Without you there, your identity will slowly dissolve. Each asset becomes part of each heir's identity. In this way, your content makes it to the next generation and if it has meaning and value to the recipient, it stands a chance of being passed along into the future.
As you can imagine, identity preservation has a digital equivalent as well. Here we use digital objects in the same way we use physical objects. We attach stories and meaning to objects and pass them on. We can write memoirs and ethical wills as digital documents and pass them on. We can also add new types of content such as archives of our social accounts and conversations.
But in the new medium of digital communication, there is a greater opportunity to preserve identity -- something that has heretofore been available only to kings, pharaohs, and emperors.
THE BIRTH OF THE DIGITAL LEGACY
Your data is going to outlive you. The question is in what form and for how long.
In its simplest form, a digital legacy is a summation of the digital assets you leave behind for others. As the shift to digital continues, the digital assets left behind will become a greater part of your overall legacy.
These assets, to one degree or another, can be distributed in much the same way that physical assets are, meaning each one can be bequeathed to one or many heirs.
Assigning digital assets in this way is an important step because, as we have seen, most people aren't even doing this now. But if that's all we do, we've only dealt with our digital assets in the same way that we've dealt with our physical ones. At that point all we have is a digital equivalent of the physical world.
If your digital assets, like your physical assets, are simply passed on, they get incorporated into an heir's identity. This process still relies on another person to value them, take care of them, and pass them on in turn. But let's be honest about the effectiveness of this method: People may manage to get their digital assets passed to their children or loved ones, but this is no guarantee that those assets will live any farther into the future. The things you value may simply not be valuable to your heirs.
This brings us to a more arresting idea: Your digital identity could have a different fate. Maybe the identity you create over your lifetime can maintain cohesion after your death. Maybe the connection between the creator and creations (complete with the original meaning) can be preserved, maintaining the gestalt. In other words, your digital identity may have the opportunity to become a lasting, maybe even immortal, digital legacy -- an expression and reflection of you that will survive far into the future.
This possibility represents an opportunity that has never before existed for ordinary people. Imagine a way that your intentions, accomplishments, values, and actions could be preserved for all time. You may not be as famous as Khufu or Qin Shi Huang, but your legacy could be just as accessible.