Are You Ready for the Deathtech Revolution?
Deathcare’s mainstream impact manifests strongly now in its technology. Sure, some of it’s humble, blue-collar tech: in-house networks, electronic communication, websites, webcams, whatever else. Livestreaming and digital memorials may be as deviant as that sort of thing gets.
But out in the field, big-thinking scientist-types jigger together grandiose, sexier stuff in clever feats of engineering, ultimately resulting in such tricks of the trade as extreme embalming; diamonds and silky stones crafted from mortal remains; mushroom suits; promession; plastination; and alkaline hydrolysis.
Tech this, tech that
We have mechanical tech (fire cremation retorts, alkaline hydrolysis vessels), electronic tech (livestreaming software and hardware, cameras and cybersecurity), and chemical tech (embalming fluid, regular and extreme; certain restoration materials, the alkaline hydrolysis solvent).
Not an underachiever in the lot, honestly, though in the typical American manner, when presented with such a glut of choice we tend to reserve our amazement, even criticize our options.
Hard to believe that not long ago there was still a gap between the technological sophistication of this industry and that of many others in this country; we were still finding our way to an easier alliance with our own mortality. And though it may now be a bit delayed in its onset, the tide of death tech startups swelling since about the year 2000 or so is the predictable result of the spreading influence of the death positive movement.
Virtual reality & robots
Research on virtual reality environments used to help prepare dying or very ill patients for the sense of leaving their own bodies resulted in lessened fear of death, and in some cases inspired belief in an afterlife.
We’re still waiting, however, on VR funerals that allow the deceased to participate in proceedings. Perhaps offering his own eulogy, and hosting a receiving line afterward for goodbyes (maybe with a video attendees can take home?).
And then there’s Pepper the robot, from Japan. Pepper has actually been employed/assigned to conduct tasks/fill a role during Buddhist funeral services. Japan’s growing population of elderly citizens in need of care inspired Pepper’s creation; and while Peppers have been purchased around the world, somehow the robots haven’t taken off quite as expected, even in Japan.
Maybe Pepper could be trained to perform embalmings.
And given the age of the internet, it was probably predictable that we’d eventually see this emerging subculture of virtual cemeteries and the phenomenon of the restless dead still “interacting” (not really) across social media accounts. (“Legacy” accounts left behind deceased individuals which are allowed to remain in place, to be visited by friends and loved ones who continue to post and interact with the accounts, even addressing the dead directly through them.)
The practice certainly must provide some comfort to those loved ones whose accounts remain connected; the same idea exists in specialty websites created for similar purposes (such as Legacy.com), an internet location dedicated to the memory of those lost.
New options will continue to roll out, as technologies do … these just scratch the surface of what’s available. Our job now is to be curious and always open to the possibilities.