digital afterlife

How to Automate your Digital Afterlife

Have you ever given thought to what happens to our online presence after we die? We will leave digital fragments of ourselves all over the internet. Think of the number of online accounts we sign up to on a weekly basis and the media we push daily to the social networks. It’s not something our forefathers had to worry about, but the internet age will continue to update us into uncharted territory. 

 

I’ve noticed the growing trend of people who post childhood pictures of themselves on Facebook. Is this a subconscious way of trying to preserve an immortal digital memory of ourselves?

 

Why does it matter?

This issue of our digital afterlife is particularly acute if you make creative content and would like your digital legacy to continue. If you sell your designs, apps or music for instance, you might want your content to be available after your death, in order to continue to gain royalties or at least give people the benefit of enjoying your work. However, the issue is that our content is being hosted by companies (such as Apple) who require a yearly membership. With all the various passwords and logins we have, one would need a friend or family member to gain access to your media, in order to keep it alive.

 

Entrust a friend or relative to manage your content

Whether the entrusted friend or family member would want this administrative burden is another thing though! The other issue I’ve thought about is the question of how long your content will even last, given the pace of technology change. Take the Apps market for example – apps need to be updated to be able to run on the latest devices. There is no way I can expect a friend of relative to be able to update one of my apps. Plus, the online portals and processes we learn are so specific and fiddly (and they constantly change), that I would rule this possibility out. Keeping my app collection ‘as is’ might give it 5 years of life, and that’s very optimistic. 

 

There are some things you can do. It’s a matter of thinking about the bigger picture, so that as an individual content creator, you are pass over your content to a bigger entity. That doesn’t mean giving away exclusive rights though. There are now many marketing platforms that can host your media for you, so that they do the selling, and you take a lesser cut. I partnered with Fingerprint Digital, a kids app platform in San Fransisco, who host duplicate versions of my apps under their brand. They recently made a deal to select app content for the US library network, and this has been great. I could resell my apps on locked down, pre-loaded devices. I also continue to share my icons on The Noun Project under a creative commons license, and receive a small royalty stream from paying members. 

 

What is the shelf life of media? 

Media formats come and go with the times – look what happened to floppy disks, Beetamax, then VHS, CDs and now DVDs. We have moved to a digital format, and let’s hope that this sticks. If your end format is an image (JPG, PNG etc) this should be good for a while. Wavs and Mp3 music files should also fare well. Video is pretty solid, but with all the different codecs and increasing resolution, your 1080P video may look great now, but is likely to look crummy in a short time, since 4K is now on the scene. Or will it have the vintage cool effect that Super 8 has now? Software and apps will have the shortest shelf life – code and operating systems are always progressing. 

 

Use an afterlife service to manage your online legacy

Even if you don’t sell creative digital content, you might want to keep your personal photos, videos and messages alive. After death, Facebook will lock your account, so that it can no longer be accessed by family members. So what can you do?

The Digital Beyond is a niche website from the UK that lists all the services you may need for securing your digital content when you pass away. For highlights, see our Automation Software page.

 

Heavenote – another British startup (why are the British so obsessed with death? Surely there are some Swedish or Danish companies doing this)

 

This article was inspired by Caroline Twigg’s very moving Guardian article What happens to my late husband’s digital life now he’s gone?

 

 

 

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Air bnb automation

How to Automate your Air BnB Business

Air_bnb_houses

 

While living on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and Kaua’i, I stayed in many Air bnb rentals, and it was a real eye opener. Some people are renting out their spare room to make a little extra cash on the side, and others are renting houses solely for the purpose of renting out the rooms – essentially running their own hotel business. People run Air bnb in many different ways, but generally fall into one of two categories: the ‘live-in’, and the ‘remote.’

The live-in Air bnb host

The Present Air bnb hosts are hands on hosts who actually live there, making you feel like you’re in a real B & B guest house. I think most travellers prefer the human touch, and being able to get tips from the host in person is priceless. I like to meet people, so I personally prefer this type of Air bnb stay. To really impress your guests, and if you want to achieve ‘Superhost’ status, you will need to pamper them by offering them more than they would expect, such as cook them a meal, spend time giving them tips on the area, driving them to the train station or any show of generosity.  

The remote Air bnb host

Many hosts are now running the Remote method, which is more like a hotel or holiday rental. They may own or manage several rooms in properties, and make a nice business out of it. These hosts will communicate with the guests via email, clean the room on check out and arrange the check in for the next guest. Some guests like to be left alone, so this type of hosting is fine, but since you will not be able to make an impression in person, you’ll have to tick all the boxes to make sure your automated Air bnb property pleases your guests. 

Automation = Streamlining

Both types of Air bnb hosting benefits from some automation, or streamlining. You don’t have to deck your house out with high-tech gadgets, as things will inevitably break down or malfunction. That’s just life. People still need to be involved in case things go wrong. When running your Air bnb business, here is a guide to help you automate the process as much as possible. Although I’m not an Air bnb host, I’m writing this from the point of view of a guest. 

 

8 Ways to Air bnb Heaven

 

1) Print out a welcome note

airbnb welcome note

Having an information pack or letter is a no brainer, but some hosts we stayed with didn’t even have one. It will save you time to have everything about the house and area written down in one place. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t talk to your guests, but if you’re out when your guests need the info, it saves you having to repeatedly email directions and local advice each time.

 

2) Get your inventory sorted

air bnb inventory items

Air bnb Hosts take note – as a guest, this is the bare minimum I expect in a rental. (I’m not happy if I can’t make a coffee in the morning!)

The basics: unlimited fast wi-fi, fridge, microwave, filter coffee maker + filters, cups, cutlery, towels, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, hair dryer. 

 

3) Work out your key system

airbnb keys check-in

If you don’t want to hang around to physically hand over keys to each guest, there are some other methods to consider. One host in Hawaii simply left the keys under a coconut by the door, but not all places are like Hawaii! 

The ultimate in Air bnb automation these days is the use of a keypad combination door lock. If you can get one of these fitted, it means you can simply email your guest the combination, which frees up your day or evening. Remember that guests can arrive any time. It may not be possible to fit this type of lock on your front door though, as you may live in an apartment block or you might have several doors to entry. 

If you want to be really high tech, you could consider using a Smartphone activated lock such as the forthcoming Lockitron and Ring. However, it relies on your guest having mobile wi-fi, and not all international guests will have this when they arrive at your house. 

Failing this, you could buy a solid postal box with a combination code, which contain the keys inside, and install it firmly to a wall outside your house. 

You could have a local friend or family member give the keys to the guest, but if you don’t have anyone available, there are now services that handle this such as Urban Bellhop.

 

4) Have a cleaning system 

airbnb cleaning services

You can automate nearly everything in an Air bnb rental, except cleaning. So until we have robots that can wash and change the sheets, this is the one thing that needs maintenance when each guest checks out. Mosts hosts do the cleaning themselves, but some hire cleaners or use a managing agent for this. 

 

5) Use Instant book

air bnb Instant Book

If you’re a trusting person who wants to cut out the delay of screening new guests, just set up your Air bnb account for Instant book. 

 

6) Include a video package

air bnb tv netflix

Including Netflix or Amazon Prime Video is a cheap way of giving your place the edge over your competition. Just make sure you have unlimited wi-fi, and that it’s fast enough for good streaming. 

 

7) Home automation

air bnb home automation nest

Installing a smart thermostat could save you a lot money on energy bills if you not around to monitor the heating. The Nest thermostat programs itself to set optimal temperatures, saving energy for homeowners by up to 20 percent per month. There are many brands offering home automation products now, make sure you research what’s out there.

 

8) Add some complimentary gifts

air bnb complimentary gifts

A little complimentary gift for each of your new guests is a nice finishing touch, which makes you feel like you’ve arrived in a posh hotel. One host we stayed with gives his guests a box of local chocolates, potato chips and water bottles. It must have worked because we stayed a second time at his place at the end of our trip!

 

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The Future of Automated Jobs

The automation of jobs – will my skills be automated?

Will a robot take my job?

The rise of the robots and the automation of jobs is a hot topic at the moment, and countless scare stories have appeared online. The replacement of jobs involving repetitive tasks and decision making with computer algorithms has been happening for years, from data entry to automated phone systems to the stock market, but in the coming Ai revolution the question of whether there will be enough new jobs created from the lost ones is in debate. 

 

There are fears that a skills gap has emerged, in which a tech elite create a wealth disparity, with the highest paid jobs being in software. Instagram was a company with only 13 staff, and was sold for $1 billion to Facebook after only 15 months. There is something ruthlessly inevitable about the tech companies’ facilitation of our lives, and how we suck it up. Uber drivers are just a stopgap before the human driver is replaced by a driverless car within 10 years. 

 

Jobs

 

These startup ideas are great for the customer, but will future generations have any work to do? And seeing the gigantic figures made by tech startups, will they expect money for nothing and their cheques for free? In 1930, English economist George Maynard Keynes predicted on-going technological advance and workers being replaced by machines.  Yet far from being a threat, Keynes viewed this as a huge opportunity.  He predicted that, by 2030, the average working week would have shrunk to 15 hours. Technology would give birth to a new “leisure class”. 

 

Figures are being predicted that as much as 80 million US jobs could be automated, and UK economic policy maker Andy Haldane recently said in a speech that maybe the Luddites “had a point after all”. Haldane cites the issue of automation being different this time, due to the “rapid emergence of smart machines, jet-propelled by modern computing.  These machines are different.  Unlike in the past, they have the potential to substitute for human brains as well as hands.” He also wonders if it would be a good thing if this utopian leisure dream was to come true:

 

“Whether that path is desirable, for individuals or societies, is less clear.  Studies show (work) really isn’t just about the money.  Work creates a sense of personal worth and social attachment.  Its loss serves as a personal and societal blight.” – Andy Haldane

 

According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the following 20 years. 

 

Which jobs are at risk of automation?

Try out BBC technology’s handy tool to find out your automation risk.

according to the tool, the most at risk jobs are Telephone salesperson, Typist, Legal secretary and Financial accounts manager, but it’s a long list. Doctors and Accountants should worry. I would welcome the automation of accountancy, because I seem to spend days each year on my paperwork, while they charge a fortune for doing the filing! 

automation_accountant

My evaluation as ‘Graphic Designer’ (although this is a very vague great description of what I do) came out at only a 5% risk. But I would disagree with this, as I’m pretty sure even creative skills are at risk too, so look out for that article! 

 

automation_designer

 

My experience of ‘Skills Shift’

As a designer working with ‘new media’ – a term that started when web design became a skill, I have seen the pace of technology change rapidly from the start of my design career. As a freelancer I’ve always been determined to be independent and to carve my own way. This has left me open, but also vulnerable to changing trends in media use. My design career took off when I learnt Flash animation, in the days when personally I found the rich media experience of the web exciting.

 

Look how robotic websites are now – most sites, including this one, are templated and grid-like, in order to satisfy the need to be responsive to both desktop and mobile devices. The iPad was the initiator of change: a device that blocked the Flash experience for its web browsers, so that web design and development was forced to change to the web standard Html5.

 

Ironically this sudden death of Flash on the iOS devices brought me a better opportunity. I had made my living from animating Flash banners for years, which I hated. I took my Flash skills, learnt basic AS3 coding, and started to develop kids apps using Flash with the Adobe Air plugin for mobile devices. I was now an app developer and publisher of my own content, selling my apps through the Appstore, Google Play, Amazon and Nook store. Flash may have died as a platform, but it’s still the most versatile creative software. It can be used for drawing vector graphics, animating, making interactive presentations which are exportable to video and html5. So when media changes, there’s still a chance to transfer our skills.

 

I had my fair share of success and failure on the Appstores, and it’s been a huge learning experience. The market was saturated when I started, and it changes exponentially, so that while one is developing an app, the market can completely change when it’s ready for launch! While it’s not a good place for indie developers to make a living, it’s a great platform for long term royalties and reaching people, even if most apps are now free.

 

And here I am now, learning new skills all the time – infographics, WordPress, Html5 animation, in the spirit of trying to keep up and reinventing myself once again… Just like everyone will be doing in most industries in the future.

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Smartphone addiction

The habit of ‘Checking’ : why do we do it?

From the anticipation of a football match to a devoted fan to a lottery ticket buyer, it appears that human beings are excited by uncertainty. Digital media is refreshed constantly, and the need to access this stream of updates becomes a compulsion for many. So why does our brain like it so much?

 

The Shallows writer Nicholas Carr’s research reveals ‘Plasticity’ is the normal state of the nervous system throughout the lifespan. “Our brains are constantly changing in response to our experiences and our behaviour, reworking their circuitry with each sensory input, motor act, association, reward signal, action plan or shift of awareness. This has the obvious negative effects, as ‘certain circuits in our brain strengthen through repetition of a physical or mental activity, they begin to transform that activity into a habit. We long to keep it activated. The brain fine tunes operations. Routine activities are carried out quickly and efficiently, while unused circuits are pruned away.” And so we find ourselves reaching for our smartphones hundreds of times a day in a mechanical reflex.

 

The brain fine tunes operations. Routine activities are carried out quickly and efficiently, while unused circuits are pruned away. – Nicholas Carr

 

What I learnt from taking a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat, was that our bodies are having sensations all the time. We then react to those sensations instinctively with either craving or aversion – in other words we like something and want more of it, or we dislike it and push away the unwanted thing that comes into contact with our senses. By going cold turkey for that extremely difficult period (no speech, no distractions such as paper and pen, reading or phones) I realised that the cravings disappeared, and that I didn’t miss them. I’m a big meat eater, but the vegetarian food with delicious, and I found that I didn’t miss meat. However, the tricky part is what to do when you leave the retreat, as I gradually returned to my normal habits and behaviour.

 

In the novel The Dice Man, Luke Reinhart is a bored psychiatrist who comes to his own conclusion that psychoanalysis may have little consequence, a colleague, Dr. Mann thunders back at him: “Each of our lives is a finite series of errors which tend to become rigid and repetitious and necessary… You take away all his habits, compulsions and channelled drives, and you take away ‘him.’ “ In his article The joy of doing the same thing over and over again, Will Self sees repetition as a comfort, ‘because that’s what makes life liveable, isn’t it, knowing what the hell’s going to happen next? And this entails establishing behavioural patterns – what we call at the societal level customs, and at the individual one, habits.’

 

As an app developer I finally managed to stop checking my daily app sales, which used to give me a dopamine rush as the browser loaded, which then without fail gave me a feeling of disappointment as an indie app developer’s sales are rarely much to write home about. Yet I was compelled to do this to myself every day! So I used the analytics site App Annie to automate the process. Now the reports are emailed to me and I can take it or leave it – it’s kind of like half checking 🙂

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We are automated Intro

WE ARE AUTOMATED : introduction

Auto_Complete

Welcome to weareautomed.com – the site that aims to be the number one resource for all things automated. Automation, in terms of the software revolution currently happening, is both useful and detrimental to humans. We will debate this on a case by case, unbiased basis.

 

This project started from conversations we’d had about the prevalence of artificial intelligence in sci-fi films, the automation of jobs that are occurring from computer programming, and a philosophical question that both of us had been interested in for many years: to what degree are we humans automatons? And with the web linking us all together, are we becoming a merged consciousness? How much of this blog are ‘our’ ideas anyway? What does an opinion mean now, if a person is interlinked with billions of similar minds receiving the same information?



The mobile phone revolution and the social media boom that followed have captured us all, leaving many hopelessly addicted to their smartphones. The way we use this media is clearly changing our brains and how we learn and communicate. It’s bound to, because as The Shallows writer Nicholas Carr notes: “media not only alters perception, but works on the nervous system itself.”



We are becoming machine-like in the way we take in data. Does anyone else feel that life has become robotic? The technology race feels relentless: never to pause, only to increase in speed and processing power. The coders are in the driving seat, and a steady flow of startups aim to make things ‘easier, simpler, automated’ for us. But it is our lives that are now automated in repetitive processes created by this electronic media. The habit of ‘checking’ is the most addictive, mentally damaging affliction of our time. 

 

Checking email, Facebook likes, Instagram follows, and frantic Google searches for a quick data hit.. the list goes on. Like digital lab rats, we now need get these habits under control so that we push the buttons out of free will, and not by stimulus.

 

Our experiences in meditation have taught us how wild and chaotic our stream of thoughts are, and the benefits of remaining in the present moment. How much of our thoughts are repetitive echoes of our past and speculating on our future? How do we break out from this stream of thought and live free and focused lives? After the determinism laid down in our genes and our relentless social conditioning, what’s left? Are we automated beings, or is there really free will? These age old questions never fail to fascinate us. 

 

This site aims to curate and debate the best of the web articles on the topic of automation with no bias in either direction. Automation is causing widespread changes to jobs and the way we live: for better or for worse we are now all enmeshed in the digital revolution. Automation can free us from repetitive tasks only if we can remain the masters of our minds and not slaves to computer code.


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