Virtual Life after Death

Hi from Munich,

A recent spam email from a dead colleague has caused me to reflect again on the awkwardness of our Internet existence (email addresses, Facebook and Linkedin profiles etc.) after our flesh and blood, biological one has ended. It is spooky when Linkedin suggests that I might want to connect to someone I know is dead. But the continuing messages to deceased friends on their Facebook page are a touching and sometimes disturbing feature of our evolving modern lives.

A long time but still young (early 40s) friend died well over a year ago at the end of what he had reported as so far very successful chemotherapy. I did not know his family and we did not share other friends who might have notified me of his death. So when he did not return my email and phone messages I eventually checked his Facebook page. As I read through the recent posts from friends it became clear that they were saying good-bye.

I checked it again today over a year later. He still lives there. Friends continue to post messages, one on Thanksgiving and several on his Birthday and one frequent poster for no particular reason at all. For most of them it is clearly a dialog with the dead and quite touching. But I am not sure about the frequent poster. Does he know that J is dead and just keeps talking to him, or does he not know and must wonder why J never replies. I could tell him, though I do not know him, but perhaps (if he doesn’t already know) he doesn’t want to know. I am not yet fully adjusted to the Internet world.

About wcoats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My most recent book is One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.
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