Friday Five: digital dignity after death and ethical interactions with AI

Zone’s Matt Blackwell handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Preserving digital dignity after death

Here’s a creepy stat to start your Friday: in 50 years’ time there could be more dead people on Facebook than active users. Our lives are increasingly documented through a plethora of social networks, which has significantly altered our experience of bereavement and begs the question: what should happen to our digital remains?

From memorialised Facebook profiles to chatbots, it’s never been easier to socialise with the dearly departed and there’s a strong argument that our digital footprint — comprising music downloads, photos, emails and social media presence — should be treated with the same care and respect as our physical remains. Although good luck trying to convince the for-profit companies that own this data to give it up freely.

2. The ethical way to interact with AI

While the singularity may still be a fair way off, we’re apparently not a million miles away from creating AI with a level of intelligence comparable to animals. Which has led some people to question what ethical protection it will receive.

At first I dismissed the idea, but then I remembered the genuinely heartwrenching Boston Dynamics experiment from last year and suddenly it didn’t seem so crazy (“testing robustness”, they say. I call it workplace bullying). In a similar vein, Sophia the robot recently tweeted that she wanted respect and acceptance, but many were quick to point out there are groups in society still waiting for that luxury. Touché.

3. Instagram targets culture of validation

Are you sitting down? Good. Then I’ll whisper it: Instagram is getting rid of likes. Remember to breathe. OK, that’s not strictly true, but the platform is running trials to hide likes from everyone apart from the individual account owner, potentially ending the constant quest for validation among users.

A spokesman said the move is to encourage “your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get” and fair play. I think it’s commendable to try and prevent impressionable young minds from judging their self-worth against a number, especially when you consider the fact that the posts of celebrities and influencers have often been manipulated or elaborately staged.

4. Putting the robot revolution on pause

“Robots are going to steal our jobs!” the media periodically cries. Even the World Economic Forum has predicted that 75 million jobs could be displaced by 2025. But the knock-on effects of automation certainly aren’t making themselves felt just yet, with the latest study revealing there has actually been more hiring than firing.

The survey of 759 UK employers found that while nearly a third of companies had invested in automation over the past five years, just 25% said that it had led to fewer jobs, compared with 75% who said that it had either created more jobs or had no effect at all. So it looks like we’re safe, folks. For now.

5. Snap happy with gaming gambit

It began as a social media platform, then it decided it was going to become a camera company, and now Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat, has announced it will be branching out into the world of in-app gaming. It’s not entirely surprising really, and follows a path already trodden by the iPhone and Facebook.

As opposed to the App Store model, which lets third-party developers create and upload content, Snap has handpicked a small group of developers and worked with them to create multiplayer games that don’t require installation or sign-up. And while my Snapchatting days are firmly behind me, even I’ll admit that the games do look like quite good fun.

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We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.