The Digital Beyond
Now that we’re living digital, there’s a new perspective for the “afterlife” and regardless of what’s on the other side, part of us will continue to survive for generations on the Net. So what’s your electronic legacy?

That’s the question several startups are pondering. From post-mortem greetings to managing your digital content, we now have a lot to think about – at least while we’re still able to type.

A name on a granite marker leaves so much to the imagination for the organic eternal rest. Walking through a cemetery always conjures up questions about the lives of those before us, but the next generations will have a searchable database of our views, conversations, photos and video footage. Perhaps one could think of this new perspective as a new network – The Personal History Channel (PHC).

That’s easy to imagine too with recent estimates suggesting that Americans spend 60 hours month online and of that total, people are contributing more content to web.

Facebook and Flickr now report over 20 billion photos and counting. YouTube has over 200,000 videos uploaded each day and the number of comments, journals and blogs continue to accelerate with each generation. Pair that with the fact that Facebook has over 280,000 people checking out each year – for good.

Now this information may be a privacy concern for some and not for others, but the seriousness of digital data gets even more interesting when you talk about credit cards, bank accounts and the continued migration of online personal services.

As it turns out, the terms of services agreed upon when we sign up for free Internet service can render up some difficulties for your loved ones.

Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat,” describes the red tape the parents of Justin Ellsworth, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action in Iraq. His parents wanted to get to know more about his son by gaining access to his Yahoo email accounts. Their terms of service prevented the transfer of this information and they had to eventually go to court to retrieve the information.

Google has some detailed steps for your Gmail account, but a little planning will ease the burden on your loved ones.

If you’re interested in preparing for your post-organic presence, here are a few places to start.

Forbes has a great reader on what to do first when it comes to your digital assets. Liv Davidson advices that, “The first step in disposing of your digital assets is to inventory them. Start with the obvious: e-mail accounts, social media or networking accounts and information stored on employer intranets or computers.”

Beyond the seriousness of your personal information there are several other startups that offer a variety of services.

Entrustet is a resource which offers free services for up to ten heirs and one executor who makes the transfers. There’s some interesting insights about your photos, transferring advertising revenues from blogs to children and there’s a product titled “Incinerator” to destroy personal information you may not want to publish for the web to come.

Legacy Locker
Legacy Locker has similar services as Entrustet and uses a verification method to deliver your online assets to beneficiaries including goodbye letters emailed on the notification of your passing. They focus more on valuable assets with credible levels of security to handle PayPal accounts, banking, credit card statements and passwords. It only takes 60 seconds to sign up and prices range from free to a $299 one time fee for unlimited services.

Great Goodbye
Great Goodbye has a cheeky website and they take the final email to a new level. Sign up for their services at $119 for one time and you can prepare multiple emails to send upon your departure. You can spend some time, create your final farewells and trust the service to deliver your salutations (provided email addresses stay the same).

You’ll find an ever-increasing community of Digital Asset companies ready to stage your exit strategy and you should spend some time researching the integrity of these companies. My own research revealed some questionable websites who don’t offer any secure transaction services and it’s always wise to pay attention to a companies credibility when it comes to your money and your final wishes.

For a thorough list of available services, you can explore The Digital Beyond that compares services for your exit strategy.

The Final Cut
The Final Cut with Robin Williams
As with most technologies, it’s hard to imagine what new technologies will arrive in the coming years. I’d like to suggest a movie I saw recently to expand this concept.

Robin Williams most notable for his zany schizofrenic routines is also an excellent dramatic actor. Williams plays Alan Hakman in the 2004 sci-fi thriller “The Final Cut.” In this not-so-distant future, children are born with implants that record their every experience. Hakman works for the “Eye Tech Corporation” and his job involves a process called “Rememory” where he edits your life story. A fascinating movie to watch and perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.

In the meantime, you have the tools now to be your own executor, but who knows, maybe the future holds a new promise for budding film-makers and editors?

Click here for the trailer for The Final Cut and enjoy!

See you on the other side.