Hello: Is There Anybody In There? Just Nod If You Can Hear Me

Photo courtesy wikipedia
Hair Balls has an exercise for you: close your eyes for a moment, and list all of the passwords you have for all your online accounts -- from your bank to your e-mail to your porn. (No -- all your porn. No holding back now). Now think about yourself unexpectedly shuffling off this mortal coil -- with much of your finances and past personal communication locked up in cyberspace, how are your friends and family know which parts of your estate to fight over at the funeral?

Fortunately, Baylor neuroscience professor David Eagleman has come up with an easy solution: deathswitch.com.

Eagleman likens his extremely practical, if not freakin' morbid, site as a natural extension of traditional post-mortem instructions -- namely, the Envelope of Death, which would be stuffed with account info and other personal matters, and only opened after the stuffee's death. With Deathswitch, you can have all this info sent to relevant parties upon your expiration. Just let the site know how often you want it to check in on you (by sending a sort of "hey, dude, you still breathing?" e-mail) and then go about your hopefully long and productive life.

"It's sort of a natural idea," Eagleman tells Hair Balls. "...If you die, whole industries can grind to a halt, or families can have a hard time" figuring out how to tie up the loose ends."

Deathswitch offers basic (free) and premium packages. Eagleman says he hopes to make enough just enough money to sustain the site -- he didn't patent the process, so now there are a few clones out there. And don't worry -- Eagleman has no idea what kind of stuff Deathswitch subscribers are putting in their accounts, as everything's encrypted. But he says a few people have told him how it's been a big help, like one old man who has a fear of dying alone in his apartment. Deathswitch checks in on him every day. And the day he dies and doesn't respond, Deathswitch will notify his landlord. And, hopefully, his landlord won't be on vacation.

Hair Balls finds the whole thing intriguing -- and Eagleman himself riffed on the idea in the story "A Brief History of Deathswitches," which appears in his short story collection Sum. (Which, by the way, is getting some kick-ass reviews. Hair Balls plans on checking it out once we finish uploading our video will, where we finally tell our freeloading cousins what we really think of them).

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