In William Gibson’s dystopian novel, “Neuromancer,” literary inspiration for “The Matrix Trilogy,” the barrier between real and virtual life disappears. Ghosts exist as digital constructs of their former flesh-and-blood selves, flitting to and fro in the limbo of cyberspace, known as The Matrix. There, these ROM encapsulated shells seemingly hold onto the personality and intelligence of their prior incarnation. And, in a prime example of poor estate planning, one of these doomed characters, Dixie Flatline, is thus trapped when what he really wants is to be entirely erased down to the last byte—to truly and finally be allowed to die. One wonders that Dixie didn’t have a well-drafted advanced directive for health care.
While the reality of Gibson’s vision might never be realized in full, in a sense, Dixie has become an actuality, as our digital lives continue past our nondigital deaths. Failing to plan for how digital assets will be managed once we’re gone already is causing grief for loved ones who find they are unable to access the various accounts of the deceased. It is reported three Facebook users die per minute.1 Allowing for the existence of multiple accounts, some estimate 30 million Facebook accounts belong to dead people.2 With some 1.06 billion active monthly users on Facebook at the end of last year, 219 billion photos uploaded in 2012, and more than a trillion likes recorded on a comparable number of status updates,3 demographics dictate that the necessity for digital estate planning will become ever more important.
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