In life there is much that we cherish, from our loved ones and friends to our passions and goals. When we pass from this world there is no guarantee of what happens next, but we can control what we leave behind. With the help of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence we can finally leave behind a digital legacy that not only preserves the work we’ve done, but continues the tasks we were unable to finish. When your time comes, will you be ready to pass your legacy on or will you remain ignorant to the changing of the times and leave this world no better than you found it?
We would like to thank the team at EverLife for their contributions to the design and implementation of the research and to the analysis of the result.
Digital Lives in a Digital Era
Before computers and the Internet, we didn’t have passwords to remember, data to manage, and countless online interactions to maintain. But with the advent of modern technology, it only makes sense that as we’ve been forced to adapt our lives to the digital world, we’d also be expected to adapt our deaths to the digital world as well.
What was once a simple process of leaving a last will and testament has now turned into a huge undertaking of preparing and transferring our digital lives onto our loved ones. As internationally bestselling author of Big Data, Bernard Marr, mentions in his piece on Forbes.com, “You might want to ensure private information remains private after your passing on, or perhaps make it possible for those left behind to benefit from digital assets with value, either tangible or sentimental. But unfortunately, the situation is somewhat muddled and confused – mainly because, as in many other areas, legislation has failed to keep pace with technological change.”
With the onset of cryptocurrencies, ICOs, and more blockchain-infused lives, we quickly find that we have more passwords, documents, and accounts that we need to pass on to those we leave behind. One blockchain-based company is looking to help us pass on more than just our finances, but first let’s look at the easiest ways to get all your crypto-ducks in a row.
You’ve spent time, money, and energy into building the perfect cryptocurrency portfolio, but what happens when you forget to give your key phrase to your loved one before tragedy strikes? Pamela Morgan points out in her article, “Because these assets are not controlled by a third party, there is no third party to comply with a court order to release the assets to your heirs. The assets will only be available to your heirs if you have made a plan. If you have instructed them, in some way, about what you have and how to access it.”
The only way to ensure that your next of kin will have access to your cryptocurrency portfolio is to go through the steps with them ahead of time; create a plan and make sure they know what to do. Morgan emphasizes a three-step program to ensure that everything goes smoothly:
- Inventory (details on how you access all of your accounts and where they are located)
- Security Self-Audit (verify backups, wallet integrity, 2-factor authentication, etc.)
- Time Machine Message (pretend you are them and follow the instructions you’ve left. Did they work?)
This type of plan is a simple-to-follow solution that will transform your crypto portfolio into an uncomplicated transferrable asset, ensuring that your loved ones are able to take over your accounts efficiently and quickly after your passing.
Investing in a great ICO is quite the accomplishment that can see a huge ROI, but oftentimes these funds are locked away in escrow for a period of time after the ICO launches; this is to enable the company to ensure the stability of their coin/token (an example case is the Polkadot ICO). If you are an avid investor you may have many different companies in line at any given time, and although you may have token release dates memorized, do your loved ones have that same knowledge?
Ensuring that you track all of this data in an easily transferable fashion is the key to passing on worthwhile investments. Follow a similar three-step program to what we recommended above for cryptocurrencies in order to put your accounts in order:
- Inventory (create a spreadsheet of all your ICO investments, how you access them, and when coin/token drops are expected)
- Self Audit (investigate company standings and record your wishes on hold vs. selling coins after they release)
- Time Machine Message (verify that your instructions make sense by going over them with someone not experienced in the crypto world)
Photos, documents, records, and other personal items fill our disk drive space at home and on our mobile devices. In reality, we all probably have more files than we think we do, spread across various clouds, drives, and social websites. Marr explains, “The amount of data we are generating as more and more of our lives are lived digitally is continuing to grow exponentially.” He continues, “Increasingly, devices such as smart phones, cameras and other Internet of Things (IoT) technology are recording, measuring and storing data as we rely on them to (hopefully) make our lives easier and more convenient.”
A lot of this data is unfortunately out of our hands, and in the United States the Uniform Law Commission is trying to sort out exactly what happens to social media and website data when we die – unfortunately, this gives a lot of control to companies instead of users. The data we do control can be stored locally (and in danger of being lost) or on decentralized storage options (which guarantee third parties do not have access to it) through companies like IPFS (Filecoin), Storj, etc. Decentralized storage options are great, but only if you are able to pass on access to the files stored there. Because there is no centralized database, your loved ones can request passwords, so keeping a password ledger is key (perhaps even written on a piece of paper and kept in a secure location), because although you may only think you have 10 accounts, you may start to realize that that number is far larger.
The personal data that we use for verification is sometimes easily acquired by nefarious parties, and although we can prevent this while we are alive (sometimes), it can be abused heavily when we are no longer on this mortal coil. Some companies, like Civic, are trying to create blockchain-based user identity verification. Since this data is stored immutably on blockchains, will it forever be available for misuse by bad actors in the future? Roberta Filippone, a consultant in the privacy and data protection field, wrote in her master’s thesis for Tilburg University that “The main blockchain’s controversial aspects with regard to the GDPR encompass:
- the principle of accountability
- the principle of data minimization;
- the principle of storage limitation;
- the right to erasure;
- the principles of privacy-by-design and by-default.”
The erasure of this personal data on a blockchain has been challenged under the GDPR in the case of Manni v. Camera di Commercio Lecce. Unfortunately for Mr. Manni, given the immutability of a blockchain the courts ruled it impossible to alter the data. Filippone goes on to propose that “The implementation of the right to reduction of data processing as an alternative to the deletion of data may therefore still be highly controversial due to the lack of a central actor able to fulfill such requests. As an alternative to the deletion of data, anonymization techniques could be implemented, although full anonymization is highly controversial as the debate over the possibility of re-identification of individuals from anonymized data reveals.”
It is unclear at this time how laws will change in order to protect users in a decentralized data atmosphere, especially for companies designed only to serve the living. Data anonymization may be key, but creating an on-chain program to guard the data may be a more viable option.
With your files all sorted out, your cryptocurrencies safely transferred, and your verification data as safe as it can possibly be, you’re all done, right? Not quite. What’s left is the most important part – you. It may sound like science fiction, but with the advancements in artificial intelligence and the decentralized nature of the blockchain, a company known as EverLife is working to help to preserve your legacy in the form of an avatar.
Everlife is simple. Through the intuitive interface you can create a personal Avatar that you can converse with, teach, and help grow with a variety of new skills. This avatar will be the key to preserving your legacy as it discovers real life opportunities through communications with other avatars and even completes jobs for you to earn EVER tokens. These tokens can be spent at the EverLife marketplace (to buy new skills for your avatar) or traded for fiat currencies on a variety of exchanges. Is it starting to click yet? Your EverLife avatar can carry on the work that you’ve begun; it can be taught your crypto trading habits, your speech patterns, etc. One such usage could be to have your avatar interview you during the various stages of your life and then pass on those stories to your grandchildren whenever they ask.
No matter what you choose to use your avatar for, it will benefit from being able to create its own network of other avatars through the EverChain (using its own immutable DAG that only it can write to). It can be a source for potential work, new skills, and various information from the EverChain, all at your command.
Ensuring your legacy carries on long after you die isn’t guaranteed, but if you curate the right skills in your avatar you may even be able to increase the worth of your portfolio posthumously by infusing your trading knowledge into your avatar’s code – this is a far better option than adding to the 2.5 million BTC that have been physically lost or forgotten about since 2009. Who wouldn’t want to continually help their family financially, even after they’ve died?
We’ve created an infographic to better explain this idea to you:
When Death Comes Knocking…
Will you answer full of regrets, anxiety, and fear over what you are (or aren’t) leaving behind? Or will you be prepared, have your accounts in order, and your family educated in the processes of accessing your cryptocurrency portfolios? Leaving behind a legacy is the perfect ending to a great life, and building an avatar to continue and build upon the work you’ve started is a potentially self-perpetuating way to ensure your family continues to live a healthy, worry-free life. We all must pass on from this life, and one of the best ways we can depart is to leave those we love thinking fondly over the last gift we were able to provide: our blockchain-infused legacy.