All the Ghosts in the Machine
Illusions of Immortality in the Digital Age
By Elaine Kasket
A fascinating and thought-provoking journey into the problematic world of our digital afterlife.
'As charming and touching as it is astute and insightful'
Adam Alter, New York Times bestselling author of Irresistable and Drunk Tank Pink
Seen any ghosts on your smartphone lately?
As we're compelled to capture, store and share more and more of our personal information, there's something we often forget. All that data doesn't just disappear when our physical bodies shuffle off this mortal coil. If the concept of remaining socially active after you're no longer breathing sounds crazy, you might want to get used to the idea. Digital afterlives are a natural consequence of the information age, a reality that barely anyone has prepared for - and that 'anyone' probably includes you.
In All the Ghosts in the Machine, psychologist Elaine Kasket sounds a clarion call to everyone who's never thought about death in the digital age. When someone's hyperconnected, hyperpersonal digital footprint is transformed into their lasting legacy, she asks, who is helped, who is hurt, and who's in charge? And why is now such a critical moment to take our heads out of the sand?
Weaving together personal, moving true stories and scientific research, All the Ghosts in the Machine takes you on a fascinating tour through the valley of the shadow of digital death. In the process, it will transform how you think about your life and your legacy, in a time when our technologies are tantalising us with fantasies of immortality.
Elaine Kasket is a digital immigrant masquerading as a digital native, an American masquerading as a Brit, and a committed urbanite masquerading as a chicken farmer, but she is a genuine psychologist, writer, and public intellectual. A former principal lecturer in counselling psychology, she left formal academia behind to spend more time communicating to general audiences about the topics that most fascinate her. When she isn't writing or speaking about the murky and weirdly compelling junctures where life, death and the digital meet, she provides psychological therapy, is a producer for the Mortified live storytelling project, tells tales on stage, and makes unsuccessful attempts at learning the banjo. She has appeared in various print, broadcast and online media, to include BBC television, ITN Channel 4, Radio 4 and the Mortified podcast. She lives in East London with her husband, daughter and a revolving cast of troublesome bantams.
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- Publication date:
25 Apr 2019
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'All the Ghosts in the Machine is as charming and touching as it is astute and insightful. Kasket observes that, until recently, fame was the only way to guarantee that your identity would outlast your lifespan; today, however, billions of lives are preserved as digital remnants after death. Kasket explores how this mass preservation of life shapes our collective well-being, and whether we should attempt to control the data that capture our digital lives' - Adam Alter, New York Times bestselling author of Irresistible and Drunk Tank Pink, professor of marketing and psychology at New York University's Stern School of Business
'Engagingly written and thoroughly researched, there is no better guide to how social media re-shape our experience of death and loss. Digital natives and digital immigrants alike will love this book' - Professor Tony Walter, University of Bath
'Elaine Kasket offers a compelling deep dive into the complexities of the digital age and what happens to a person's online life after their death - the impact which can often be devastating for bereaved families. All the Ghosts in the Machine makes you stop and think about how you would want your online assets to be managed after you die and what steps you might need to take to do so' - Sue Morris, Director of Bereavement Services, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston
The constant use of technology - particularly digital and social media - has drastically changed the options that are available to document a person's life, mourn someone's death and preserve one's 'digital legacy'. Through the sharing of personal experiences and interviews with individuals dealing with life-limiting illness and grief, visionaries who have created mechanisms to achieve digital immortality and scholars who have studied these new phenomena, Elaine Kasket has written a thought-provoking book that will help digital immigrants and digital natives alike to contemplate the psychosocial, legal, ethical and practical implications of being mortal in the digital age. In addition to expanding their vocabulary (e.g., learning about 'boundary turbulence') and gaining information about user policies that dictate access to their digital assets after their death, readers will benefit from Kasket's ten general principles to guide their decision-making about going 'old school' and/or 'digital' in the quest for immortality. - Carla Sofka, co-editor of Dying, Death, and Grief in an Online Universe