Santa Claus & The Free Gift of Universal Basic Income

#9 | The Christmas season is upon us which means, among other things, Santa Claus will be delivering toys and gifts to all the good little boys and girls around the world. Free gifts are one of the reasons why Christmas is so deeply appreciated by the masses. Can you imagine if Christmas was more than once a year? What if it once a month and all year round people were receiving free gifts in the mail; specifically, a check for $500. Sound nice? Well, its about to happen in Stockton, CA. The free gift is called “Universal Basic Income” and I think it’s a bad idea. Tune into my podcast to find out why.  Please support my Starbucks habit (and support this podcast) by dropping a tip in my virtual jar. Thank you in advance.


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About the podcast:

The Jim Stroud Podcast explores the future of life itself by examining emerging technology,  the changing world of work, cultural trends and everything in between.

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

Subscribe now!

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

The Christmas season is upon us which means, among other things, Santa Claus will be delivering toys and gifts to all the good little boys and girls around the world. Free gifts are one of the reasons why Christmas is so deeply appreciated by the masses. Can you imagine if Christmas was more than once a year? What if it once a month and all year round people were receiving free gifts in the mail; specifically, a check for $500. Sound nice? Well, its about to happen in Stockton, CA. The free gift is called “Universal Basic Income” and I think it’s a bad idea. I’ll tell you why after this…

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Universal Basic Income is loosely defined as free money from the government without having to meet any requirements. The intent of Universal Basic Income is to help people on the verge of poverty or, to help people who are already in poverty, to get by. Its not a new idea. The concept was first explored in the 15th century by the author Thomas Moore, who after witnessing how capital punishment failed to keep people from stealing, said in his book – Utopia, the following…

“…Instead of inflicting these horrible punishments, it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse.”

Universal Basic Income has been in and out of vogue ever since. In fact, in 1969, President Nixon lobbied for a type of Universal Basic Income when he pushed the “Family Assistance Plan” which eventually died in the Senate. Now, I’m not sure, but I think President Nixon’s inspiration came from another public figure – the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have the utmost respect for the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and have a deep appreciation for his life’s work. However, on this issue, I must disagree with him. Universal Basic Income has actually been tried in Finland and it failed. Let me share with you some quotes from the Business Insider article – “Finland is killing its world-famous basic income experiment.”

Since the beginning of last year, 2000 Finns are getting money from the government each month – and they are not expected to do anything in return. The participants, aged 25–58, are all unemployed, and were selected at random by Kela, Finland’s social-security institution. Instead of unemployment benefits, the participants now receive €560, or $690, per month, tax free. Should they find a job during the two-year trial, they still get to keep the money. While the project is praised internationally for being at the cutting edge of social welfare, back in Finland, decision makers are quietly pulling the brakes, making a U-turn that is taking the project in a whole new direction.

The Universal Basic Income experiment in Finland began in 2017, ended in 2018 with results to be published in 2019. So, what spurred on this experiment in the first place? Here’s another quote from the same Business Insider article.

“The existing unemployment benefits were so high, the Finnish government argued, and the system so rigid, an unemployed person might choose not to take a job as they would risk losing money by doing so – the higher your earnings, the lower your social benefits. The basic income was meant as an incentive for people to start working.

But in December last year, the Finnish parliament passed a bill that is taking the country’s welfare system in quite the opposite direction. The new ’activation model’ law requires jobseekers to work a minimum of 18 hours for three months – if you don’t manage to find such a job, you lose some of your benefits.

The reason for the turnaround in Finland is simple, the working population of Finland did not like the idea of giving away tax money to people capable of working, without requiring people to earn it. The news of the failed experiment did not reach Stockton, CA obviously. Nor was it brought to the attention of US Senator Kamala Harris or US Senator Cory Booker, who are now considering programs along the lines of universal basic income. That being said, and just to be fair, allow me to share with you some arguments people have made over the years for, and against, universal basic income. First, some of the pros…

• Universal Basic Income would be a security net for the millions of people who will be left jobless by the tech revolution. Research shows that the longer you are unemployed, the longer it takes to find employment. If the jobless had a small source of income to help them back on their feet, they could find new jobs and start contributing to the economy sooner.

• There are lots and lots and lots of government organisations responsible for helping those in poverty, handing out unemployment benefits, food stamps, subsidised housing, etc. Universal Basic Income would replace all of those programs and thus, significantly cut a country’s spending.

• Universal Basic Income would discourage low wages by giving employees bargaining power. After all, why work for $7.25 an hour when you have a guaranteed monthly income paying so much more?”

• Universal Basic Income would end extreme financial poverty and enable people to stay in school longer and participate in training to improve skills or learn a trade.

Considering those reasons, it would seem that universal basic income is the way to go. If you think that, take a moment to ponder the arguments against. Here are just a few…

• A universal basic income program would likely come from programs that already fight poverty like food stamps and child assistance programs. So, in effect, UBI would be taking money from the poorest people and spreading it to all citizens (even those who don’t need it). Wouldn’t that increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them?”

• Giving people a guarantee of money, each month will not incentivize them to work or necessarily improve their lives for the long-term. President Barack Obama addressed this issue in a 2011 Townhall address. He said,   “I think we should acknowledge that some welfare programs in the past were not well designed and in some cases did encourage dependency.… As somebody who worked in low-income neighborhoods, I’ve seen it where people weren’t encouraged to work, weren’t encouraged to upgrade their skills, were just getting a check, and over time their motivation started to diminish. And I think even if you’re progressive you’ve got to acknowledge that some of these things have not been well designed.”  

• In 2016, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all. The reasons why they rejected it? Well, according to BBC News – “Critics of the measure said that disconnecting the link between work done and money earned would have been bad for society.” (For the record, I agree with that.) They also said, if you give away free Swiss money to everybody, you would have billions of people trying to move into Switzerland.” The general thought they had was, free money would make people lazy, devalue work and (most importantly) where would all this free money come from? Eventually, it would run out and people would no doubt rebel. That is, unless, Santa Claus is real. And if Santa Claus is indeed real, then, universal basic income is a great idea.

Of course, this is just one man’s opinion. I want to hear yours. Feel free to email me, my email address is… {protected]. I will read your comments over the holidays and get back to you with my response on January 6, 2019 when I return with a new podcast episode. Be sure to subscribe to my blog – JimStroud.com and do that now, so you don’t miss out on all the cool stuff being planned for 2019. Cool? Cool. So, okay, until next time, Merry Christmas! And a Happy New year.

 

Microchipping Employees is a No-good, Horrible and Terrible Idea

#7 | A Wisconsin company made it possible for their workers to throw away their employee ID cards, forget all their passwords, make copies and get food from a vending machine in a surprisingly convenient way. The magic solution? A small medical procedure actually – employees were given a choice to receive a tiny microchip under their skin. Its called “microchipping” and its a no-good, horrible and terrible idea.  I explain why, in detail, in this episode. Listen in and be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.


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About the podcast:

The Jim Stroud Podcast explores the future of life itself by examining emerging technology,  the changing world of work, cultural trends and everything in between.

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

Subscribe now!

 PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

A Wisconsin company made it possible for their workers to throw away their employee ID cards, forget all their passwords, make copies and get food from a vending machine in a surprisingly convenient way. The magic solution? A small medical procedure actually – employees were given a choice to receive a tiny microchip under their skin.

The company’s name is Three Square Market and 50 of their 80 employees volunteered to be microchipped preferring convenience over privacy concerns and so far, there have been no complaints. So, is microchipping employees a good thing? I say no! And I will list reasons why companies should avoid this practice like the plague, after this word from our sponsor.

Ring-ring.

JIM: Oh! Sorry, everyone. One second… Jim Stroud.

CALLER: Hey Jim, I have to postpone our lunch meeting. I’m searching for the perfect candidate and my ATS is not making it easy.

JIM: Well, that doesn’t sound like fun. What about your CRM?

CALLER: Don’t get me started.

JIM: How many times have you had the perfect resume in hand and wished you could find more people just like them?

CALLER: Everyday.

JIM: You know what you need, right? You need a system that learns from you and suggests the right candidates at the right time.

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JIM: Oh, yes it does, and its name is HiringSolved.

CALLER: HiringSolved?

JIM: Yes, HiringSolved. HiringSolved is a tool that uses AI and Machine Learning to automate candidate matching, increase diversity, reduce time to fill, analyze the social web, and unlock the power of your ATS, CRM, and HRIS data.

CALLER: Interesting. Can you tell me more?

JIM: I would like to but, I’m about to do a podcast. I tell you what, check out their website at www.hiringsolved.com

CALLER: www.h-i-r-i-n-g-s-o-l-v-e-d.com

JIM: That’s right! www.HiringSolved.com. Go look at it now and I’ll call you back after the podcast.

CALLER: Okay, bye.

Sorry about that guys. Now, where was I?

Three Square Market is not the only company to use microchips on its employees; Epicenter which provides workspace for more than 300 digital companies in Stockholm, Sweden, has been implanting its employees and people who use its workspaces for years. A UK-based company called BioTeq has already given 150 UK workers implants and Biohax, a Sweden-based company is in discussion with several British legal and financial firms to get them on the cyborg bandwagon.

Obviously with this type of technology there are concerns but, some people who have been microchipped have dismissed them. Here are 2 quotes from a CNBC article.

QUOTE #1: – “The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door by merely waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.” END QUOTE #1

And this is quote #2…

QUOTE: Sandra Haglof, 25, who works for Eventomatic, an events company that works with Epicenter, has had three piercings before, and her left hand barely shakes as Osterlund injects the small chip. “I want to be part of the future,” she laughs. END QUOTE

I could quote from several articles but the basic argument for microchipping employees is “convenience” and I’m sorry, that is not compelling enough for my endorsement of this procedure. I think the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits.  Let me count the ways…

  1. technology designed for one purpose may later be used for another. A microchip implanted today to allow for easy building access and payments could, in theory, be used later in more invasive ways: to track the length of employees’ bathroom or lunch breaks, for instance, without their consent or even their knowledge.
  2. …it opens the door to potential complications that could lead to lawsuits for the company. Think about personal privacy complaints; security lapses; workers’ compensation claims should the chips cause medical issues. Would employers be financially responsible if the chip affected an employee’s health? And what if that employee goes to another company that requires a microchip and that person gets sick some time later. Who is responsible for that health issue? The first company who microchipped them or the current one? And while that is tied up in court, will the employee recover or suffer until their demise?
  3. …religious accommodations should a company require chipping. Some Christians may see chipping as the “mark of the beast” discussed in the book of revelation and may reject the idea of working for your company on that basis alone.  Christianity is a major religion so, requiring microchipping could severely hamper your recruiting efforts.
  4. …what happens to the chip when an employee leaves? Who owns the data then? If it belongs to the company, what about any personal information that may have been collected during its use?  Would the employee have the right to restrict access to it once gone? Could that data be sold to a third party? …and of course, there are security concerns. Gary Davis is the Chief Consumer Security Evangelist for McAfee, is a computer security company based in Santa Clara, Calif. He said in a SHRM Online interview, QUOTE “I could see bad actors trying several techniques to attack the chip itself or the data that is transmitted to and from the chip.” END QUOTE He goes on to say…  QUOTE “The biggest risks [with RFID] are … eavesdropping, data corruption or modification, and interception attacks.” END QUOTE All of that to say, at present, its too easy to hack those things.

And even as I make my case against microchipping employees, I know there are still some who will do it anyway. Perhaps they will call me a luddite, someone who fears new and disruptive technologies. Trust me, I’m not. I can just see the big picture on this and it doesn’t bode well for a person’s individual privacy. The chance of exploitation is just too great and the argument of its more convenient is just not convincing. I mean, I could see someone arguing for microchipping employees the same way people have argued for driverless cars: the adoption of the technology could reduce accidents by minimising human error. Well, if microchipping employees can be shown to have substantial safety benefits, and the process of implanting (and removing) microchips can be undertaken in a safe, quick, painless and unobtrusive way – with proper measures to protect privacy – then I imagine a legal path to requiring the microchipping of employees being made.

Of course, all of this could be a moot issue because of State Senator Becky Harris who introduced Senate Bill 109 would make it a Class C felony to require someone to be implanted with a radio frequency identifier aka microchip. Its not a law yet. We’ll see how it goes.

If you love what you heard, hate what you heard or, don’t know what you just heard, I want to know about it. You can reach me at my website – www.JimStroud.com. In addition to finding source material and related information for this podcast episode, you’ll find other goodies that I hope will make you smile. Oh, before I go, please financially support this podcast with a little somethin’-somethin’ in my virtual tip jar. (There’s a link in the podcast description.) Your generosity encourages me to keep this podcast train chugging down the track. Whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot, whoot-whoot…

How Emerging Technology is Disrupting the Training and Development Industry

#6 | Attention Human Resources department, instead of spending so much time and money developing an onboarding program and/or a series of training initiatives, why not simply plug your workers into a matrix-like system and have that information uploaded into their brain? Easy-peasy. Now, if you think that sounds crazy, even impossible, you will be intrigued by what I share in this episode. (wink-wink) Listen in and be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.


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About the podcast:

The Jim Stroud Podcast explores the future of life itself by examining emerging technology,  the changing world of work, cultural trends and everything in between.

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

Subscribe now!

 PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast

Attention Human Resources department, instead of spending so much time and money developing an onboarding program and/or a series of training initiatives, why not simply plug your workers into a matrix-like system and have that information uploaded into their brain? Easy-peasy.  Now, if you think that sounds crazy, even impossible, you will be intrigued by what I share after this special message.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a prime time for cybercrime. While you chase the best deals, hackers and criminals chase you with phishing campaigns, malware attacks, scammy banners, or fake e-commerce sites. Cybersecurity may seem very complex, but NordVPN makes it as easy as it gets. NordVPN’s cutting-edge technologies shield your Internet activity from hackers and malware, protect you on public Wi-Fi networks, and even block annoying ads. Go to JimStroud.com/secure to get NordVPN at 75% off. This is a limited time offer for listeners of The Jim Stroud podcast so, act NOW! Again, go to JimStroud.com/secure to get NordVPN and secure your online shopping and internet browsing today.

In the famous movie trilogy – The Matrix,  the main protagonist – Neo learns Kung Fu by  plugging his brain into a computer and uploading the knowledge. Well, today we are one step closer to science fiction becoming science fact.  Recent research shows that it may be possible to enhance a human’s existing ability to learn new skills and rewrite someone’s memories. If you would indulge me, this is research example number one (of two research examples).

Lead by Matthew Phillips, the HRL Labs research team (which does R&D for the Boeing Company and General Motors) has made use of a neuro-stimulation technique called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) – a noninvasive, painless shock that makes use of a constant, small electric current to excite specific brain regions. Using tDCS technique, the researchers excited certain areas in the human brain that are responsible for learning and skill retention. Translation? A little shock here, a jolt of lightning there and you will be able to learn things quicker than you have ever leaned things before.

In an experiment, HRL Labs tracked the brain data of six military and commercially trained pilots. Through transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), they inserted the same pattern in a novice while s/he learned how to pilot in a flight simulator. With this strategy, as published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal, the novice pilot learned 33% faster than the group that didn’t use this strategy.

Here’s another brain experiment bringing us closer to the Matrix. Neuroscientists Stéphanie Trouche (troo-shay) and David Dupret (DU-PRAY)  from Oxford’s MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit trained mice to prefer a particular location using cocaine. Then they altered those positive associations using optogenetics—a genetic technique in which living brain cells can be manipulated or controlled with light (typically via fiber optic cables). As a result of this brain manipulation technique, the mice lost their preference for the cocaine-associated environment, suggesting to all concerned that their memory had been rewritten. What makes this experiment so significant, it that it affirmed the longstanding notion that memories are physically resident in the brain, and that they’re subject to… manipulation.

If you are in the corporate training industry then, the thought of people instantly learning new skills must have you feeling a bit uneasy; it may even have you considering other career options. Well, when it comes to uploading knowledge directly into the brain just like in the movie – The Matrix, you can relax. However, don’t get too comfortable because there are at least 2 technological advances that should concern you and they are: augmented reality and “see what I see” glasses.

If you have ever played “Pokemon Go” or opened up an iPhone app that made it look like you were breathing fire or had bunny ears, then you know exactly what augmented reality is. Now that technology is fun for you and your friends but, how does that help you at work?

Well, imagine people wearing special augmented reality glasses or safety helmets with visors on them and being able to help  those in the field by being able to recognize equipment and therefore assist co-workers with diagnostics, or system upgrades or even simple repairs; again, all thanks to the augmented reality graphics projected on their visors or special glasses.  If you want to see this in action, look up a company called Daqri. (spelled, D-A-Q-R-I) They are doing some Very cool stuff over there. Another technology, somewhat along those lines, is See-What-I-See Glasses.

If you are a fan of the Mission Impossible movies, then no doubt you have witnessed Tom Cruise (as the master spy – Ethan Hunt) put on a pair of glasses (or hi-tech contact lenses) and somewhere in a van, his workmate is seeing everything from Tom Cruise’s perspective. Well, the concept of having spy glasses is a reality today that brings a lot of benefit to the workplace. For example, when out-of-the-ordinary problems occur in the field, all-too-often a second team needs to be dispatched, costing the company both time and money. Rather than rolling a second truck with more senior technicians when an unfamiliar problem is discovered, top talent can now work from a central location and literally see what the field service teams are seeing from their “See what I see” glasses. A construction crane operator, for example, could remotely operate cranes at construction sites around the globe. The most experienced workers will be available to transport their skills across time and space—without ever leaving their desks.

Now, I love this super tech stuff! I love it when science fiction and emerging technology from movies hit workplace reality. However, as cool as it all is, I feel compelled to consider the whole picture. What are the pros and the cons?

On the one hand…

  • People learn by doing so, augmented reality can increase productivity by decreasing training time.
  • If you have several employees immersed in an augmented reality experience, at the same time, they can learn things together; improving workplace dynamics, and quite possibly, the efficiency of the overall team.
  • Augmented Reality in training is still a fresh concept so, if your company adopts it now you will have a strategic advantage over your competitors.
  • And… you save money by not having to print off so many training manuals.

And then, there is the other hand…

I can’t quote you exact pricing on what augmented reality hardware and software will cost your company but, I know some of the Virtual Reality hardware can run you around $3,000 for one user. So, for now, the cost of entry is pretty high.

That being said, I believe the price will come down eventually, as it always does and improve with each generation; especially when you have a lot of competition in the space. For instance, Facebook and Samsung recently partnered to deliver a VR system for consumers. Microsoft released its HoloLens, an Augmented Reality device that can bring computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing diagrams to life to help engineers boost their productivity. And Google has announced a reboot of its Augmented Reality Glass product, now renamed “Project Aura.” And Google also announced an inexpensive VR system — Google Cardboard — with all that activity, it’s clear the costs of producing and purchasing virtual reality and augmented reality will soon drop dramatically. {/music}

Something else to keep in mind too is Virtual Reality sickness, which (I think) would likely affect users of Augmented Reality tools. (Again, I am totally speculating.) For those who don’t know, many virtual reality devices sometimes leave users disoriented if used for more than an hour at a time. Developers are already working toward a solution, and, again, that is virtual reality; but, I imagine the same thing happens to those passionate about Pokemon Go and other augmented reality games. But, I’m not a Pokemon Go player so I can only guess. If you know for sure, let me know?

If you like what you just heard, hate what you just heard or don’t know what you just heard, I want to know about it. You can contact me via my website www.JimStroud.com or you can message me on LinkedIn, Twitter… I’m everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. Oh, oh, if you want to support my Starbucks habit by dropping a little somethin’-somethin’ in the virtual tip jar I will not be mad at that, at all. There is a donation link in the podcast description. Thank you in advance.

Is Immortality the Best Employee Benefit?

#5 | What would happen if companies offered their employees immortality as an employee benefit? In this burgeoning age of digital afterlife services, such an offering is closer than you might imagine. If you have never heard of this new niche in the tech industry, prepared to be amazed when you tune into my latest episode.


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Special thanks to our sponsor:

About the podcast:

The Jim Stroud Podcast explores the future of life itself by examining emerging technology,  the changing world of work, cultural trends and everything in between.

About the host:

Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

Subscribe now!

 PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Hi! I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

In my book, “Retention is the New Recruiting,” I discuss perks and privileges companies dole out to keep their employees happy and on the payroll. One perk that did not make the book, because I just discovered it, is immortality. Yes, now, it is quite possible for companies to offer their employees life after death. And, I’m not kidding. Find out more after this message.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a prime time for cybercrime. While you chase the best deals, hackers and criminals chase you with phishing campaigns, malware attacks, scammy banners, or fake e-commerce sites. Cybersecurity may seem very complex, but NordVPN makes it as easy as it gets. NordVPN’s cutting-edge technologies shield your Internet activity from hackers and malware, protect you on public Wi-Fi networks, and even block annoying ads. Go to JimStroud.com/secure to get NordVPN at 75% off. This is a limited time offer for listeners of The Jim Stroud podcast so, act NOW! Again, go to JimStroud.com/secure to get NordVPN and secure your online shopping and internet browsing today.

I think for as long as there has been life humanity has been obsessed with death. Religion, myth and legends filled that void for centuries but now, we are in a digital age and people are looking at technology as an escape from what eventually comes for us all. Did you know that there is an industry dedicated to virtual immortality? Some call it the “digital death industry,” or the “afterlife online services industry” or “digital afterlife services” or “death tech” industry.  Whatever the nomenclature, here are just a few of a growing list of companies who are now selling (or will one day sell) everlasting life at an affordable price.

Tech firm Eter-ni-me is beta testing an app that will allow users to create a digital “avatar” of themselves after they die. How? Well… Eternime’s app collects data about you by harvesting your smartphone data, and by asking you questions through a chatbot.  The goal is to collect enough data about you so that when the technology catches up, it will be able to create a chatbot “avatar” of you after you die, which your loved ones can then interact with.

When Eugenia Kuy-da lost her close friend Roman Ma-zu-ren-ko to a car accident in 2015, Kuyda missed him so much that she created a chatbot of him.  Eugenia said QUOTE “I wanted to tell a story about him and tell him some things I hadn’t been able to. I put together around 10,000 of his text messages and together with a brilliant AI engineer on our team, Artem, we made a bot that could replicate the way Roman used to speak.” END QUOTE From that experience Replika was born. Replika is an app in which you confide in an AI-powered chatbot that learns about you as you chat to it. And as of now, the app has more than 200,000 monthly active users.

Ever-days” is a company which creates pop-up social networks when a person dies. These networks are used to notify people of that person’s death, and thus far have been set up via funeral homes, although Everdays has recently launched a consumer app.

Eter9, created by Portuguese software developer Henrique Jorge, is a social network that uses artificial intelligence to learn from its users and create a virtual self, called a “counterpart”, that mimics the user and lives on after he or she dies.

Hossein Rah-na-ma, An entrepreneur and researcher based at Ryerson University in Toronto, and a visiting faculty member at MIT’s Media Lab, is building an application called Augmented Eternity; it lets you create a digital persona that can interact with people on your behalf after you’re dead.

I imagine that any company offering these types of perks would no doubt get the attention of the press and a bit of buzz in their respective industries. I also think that it would help shape the culture of the company as a bit quirky, innovative and/or pragmatic; depending on how the offering is spun.  However, I admit to being split on whether or not I would recommend that companies offer these types of services as benefits to their employees. On one hand, I have the testimony of Marius Ur-sa-che, CEO and Co-Founder of E-ter-ni-me, who said his service was beneficial because people can use it to reflect. QUOTE “We had people from the beta programmes who said it’s like having an imaginary friend and it’s providing some comfort.” END QUOTE

But, I remain a bit skeptical.

At a gut level, I have to wonder if its healthy for people to interact with a digital alter-ego of their deceased loved ones. I mean, some might use it as a form of therapy but others might isolate themselves with the digital alter ego and not be able to move forward with their life. If you want to see an example of that, check out the Netflix show – Black Mirror. (I love that show!) There is an episode called “Be Right Back” that depicts a woman who used technology to create a duplicate of her dead husband. (It is thought-provoking to say the least.)

I’m also wondering, what if hackers get into the machines and cause these digital alter egos to say profane things; as a joke. (How horrible would that be?)

Or, finally, what if some company manipulates the grief of love ones to sell their products. “Buy Juicy Cola! Because its what nana would’ve wanted.” Now that may sound ludicrous at best, cruel at the worse but as of now, there are no regulations in place to police this industry. So, who’s to say what could happen?

Of course, these are just my random thoughts. I would love to hear yours. Leave a comment on my blog at www.JimStroud.com. Do it now or, have your digital alter ego do it for you later.

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