The importance of our memories when we are no longer in this world

Originally published at The SU Global Community-Singularity University https://app.su.org on May 4, 2021.

By Francisco Ríos

Image: Courtesy of Financial Times

Last week, I was working in my office during the morning, when I received a call from one of my old friends. He told me the gentleman, who had been my mentor when I was a trainee, had died at the age of 88 years old.

A lot of years ago, when I began to work as engineer in a Copper mining company, my mentor was an experienced engineer. His name was Don Julio and he was 65 years old when I was a trainee. I remember I spent a lot of hour with him learning and talking about the life and work, while we drank red wine in his house during the cold winter. He used to live with his family in Chuquicamata, a mining town, which was located in the middle of the Atacama desert. Today this town doesn’t exist. It disappeared in the year 2007 because of the mining Company decided to use this land to extract copper.

I have good memories of my friendship with Don Julio, but after 20 years of working in other city and more than 3.000 km of distance, unfortunately I had lost contact with him.

Don Julio was a very nice person, a great storyteller and very cultured about different topics. However, he was also very introverted. After 20 years I had forgot his face and It was difficult for me to find a photo of him, but after 2 hour looking for in my library I only found one old picture in a book he gifted me 20 years ago.

Don Julio didn’t have social networking sites such as facebook, linkedin etc. and he did’t use WhatsApp. In this way, Don Julio didn’t have a digital footprint and the things and stories I remember about him are saved in my memory.

What Is Our Digital Footprint

Everyone who uses the Internet has a digital footprint. In this way, according to TechTerms (1) digital footprint is a trail of data we create while using the Internet. It includes our credit card transactions, our Instagram pictures or videos, the websites we visit, emails we send, and information we submit to online services.

An “active digital footprint” includes data that we intentionally submit online. Sending an email contributes to our active digital footprint, since we expect the data be seen and/or saved by another person.

Publishing a blog and posting social media updates are another popular ways to expand our digital footprint. Every tweet we post on Twitter, every status update we publish on Facebook, and every photo we share on Instagram contributes to our digital footprint.

In this way, the more we spend time on social networking websites, the larger our digital footprint will be. But what implications could our digital footprints have in the long term?.

Figure N°1. Concept of our digital footprint.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Our Digital Footprints

It is very important to understand digital footprints could have implications — both good and bad. In this way some of the pros of digital footprints:

  • Fraudulent activities can be tracked down using digital footprints.
  • Companies can recommend items to users based on the customers’ preferences.
  • Personalization.
  • The convenience of stored information that can be retrieved quickly.
  • Recruiters can find the right candidates for job positions using digital footprints.
  • You can remember your close friends and family when they are no longer in this world as my friend Don Julio.

However, it is wise to consider what trail of data we are leaving behind, since this might remain online forever. It may also lead us to be more discerning in what we publish on social media websites. While we can often delete content from social media sites, once digital data has been shared online, there is no guarantee we will ever be able to remove it from the Internet.

In this way some of the cons of digital footprints are:

  • Can potentially lead to identity or data thefts.
  • Digital footprints often cannot be deleted and are permanent.
  • Loss of privacy.
  • Unwanted solicitations.

Don Julio didn’t have a digital footprint and the things I remember about him are in my memory, but what would happen if he had had one?

What Happens to Our Data After Our Death?

According to an article published by the website www.tecfuture.com (2) the online content we generate will be left behind after we die. The emails we sent, text messages, pictures, dating profiles and social media accounts; all of them come without an expiry date.

Everyone now knows that Google builds a digital profile of every single user on the internet. The data is stored somewhere on Google’s server. After our demise, Google owns this data. The digital footprint will remain on this Earth. On the similar grounds, Facebook stores our data. It creates our digital autobiography. However, Don Julio’s footprint will not remain on this Earth. His life will be only remembered by his beloved family and close friends.

Figure N°2. Our digital footprint will remain in the cyberspace for ever.

My Reflections

Unfortunately, we are in Covid times and it wasn’t possible for me to travel 3.000 km to say the Last goodbye to Don Julio. Because of this, during this weekend I was thinking too much about how important our digital footprint is.

I understand digital footprint has advantages and disadvantages and our choice could have positive or negative consequences in the long term. However, and after this experience, I think one important thing we can do is the leave a footprint of our life. It will remain on this Earth for ever and our friends, family and descendents will remember us when we are no longer in this world as my friend Don Julio.


Santiago, Chile · Updated Today, May 4

Originally published at https://app.su.org on May 4, 2021.



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