TCS Daily

Techno Heaven...and Hell

By Peter C. Glover - June 1, 2006 12:00 AM

Increasing numbers of us are asking to be buried, even cremated, with our mobile phones and other techno paraphernalia. Martin Raymond, director of the international trend-spotting think-tank, The Future Laboratory, claims that what began life "in the realm of the urban myth" is now becoming a reality for more and more people. The trend is particularly strong in Ireland, Australia, Ghana, the US and South Africa, where it originated when some South Africans, afraid of witchcraft practitioners, might be "put under a spell, put to sleep and actually be buried".

Now you might have thought that the problems in getting a signal in deepest Africa would lead the ultra-paranoid to prefer putting in a landline (and perhaps cable TV). A mobile phone may be more flexible but, ask Aussie actor Russell Crowe, a landline handset is always more reliable -- and yet can easily be adapted for "mobile" use if absolutely necessary.

Research reveals that reasons for wanting to be buried with a mobile phone or other techno gadget varied greatly around the world. For Australians it is more about a reflection of affluence. "People want to be buried with the totems that they felt represented their lifestyle," says Raymond. "We came across one guy who asked to be buried with his mobile phone and his Blackberry, and also with his laptop." Raymond terms such burials "limelight funerals" -- people wanting to be buried like celebrities.

But even in Ireland it seems some people fear being buried alive. "This is despite the fact that there is more chance of them being taken up into space by aliens than waking up," comments Irish funeral director, Keith Massey. He adds, "Some people are superstitious and insist the phone is turned off so that if they do wake up they will have battery power when the phone is turned on again."

In America some have taken to being cremated with their mobile phones. "We came across this in places like South Carolina in the US. People were being burned but unknown to the crematorium, they had left the phones in their jackets," says Raymond. He explains, "If you heat a mobile battery, it tends to explode, and the first reports were about explosions, that's how we first noticed the trend."

All of which of course reminds us how our ancestors took their precious personal items to the grave with them either to overcome the failings of an inadequate medical diagnosis or for use in the after-life. Whichever it is for, premature burial or the after-life, living without our latest techno goods seems to offer no real hope, only fears.

In a thousand years time grave robbers and archaeologists alike will no doubt be awed and fascinated by our modern grave goods. Not least the remnants of multi-buttoned "little gods" we "worshiped" and carried around with us. They will no doubt mentally tune to the memory chip injected at birth to reveal the identity of the ancient god "Motorola" and the apparently Norse god "Ericsson".

Maybe we can't take our money with us when we go but some of us appear determined to take our techno goods along for practical and sentimental reasons. It seems to me there is one real downside to this modern burial trend: no real respite from the ubiquitous mobile phone ring-tones. Just when you thought you could rest in peace, suddenly (from the next grave plot - and in a very loud voice): "Hello, it's, no I 'm not... Where...oh I think we are just going through a tunnel." I don't know about you but that is my idea of techno hell.

Here are the top five gadgets to take to the grave:

  1. The latest 'Q' smart phone mobile - including David Blaine's telephone number.
  2. Your new 60GB iPod which plays 15,000 songs - in case you have a long wait (and have you heard the dirges they play at funerals)?
  3. Your electronic Sony Reader - so you can enjoy some good books while you await International Rescue or get fed up playing harps.
  4. A mini-generator - something has to keep all this techno electronic gear working.
  5. A pick and shovel - sure I know it's not high tech. But once the battery gives out they will be a helluva lot more useful than a cellphone.

Peter C Glover is a media analyst & freelance writer. He is the author of The Politics of Faith: Essays on the morality of key current affairs and also writes



Who you gonna call?
If you wake up in your grave, ten years afters, still uncorrupted, and find your mobile still in your pocket, who's you gonna call?

Ghostbusters, of course!

People STILL get buried or cremated in the 21st Century?
That sounds shockingly primitive compared with the alternative of cryonic suspension, which might save your life by transporting you to the far superior trauma and anti-aging medicine of the future. Letting worms or flames consume people's bodies when current medicine give up on them, sounds about as wrong-headed as using modern surgical techniques to mutilate 12-year-old girls' genitals to protect their "chastity."

Not a bad idea, but...
Is the current cryonic suspension technique good enough? I mean, I have read about the risks of damages at the molecular level due to ice crystals. On the other hand, are there enough freezers for all of us? :) And what about electric power? Mr. Burns would aprove the idea, sure...

You seem to pretty concerned about death
Hey advancedathiest,

Once dead, as far as I can tell, the physical body is irrelevant. Worms need to eat too.

Besides, why bother if the universe we see is all there is? At some point, we all gotta go. From nothing to something irrelevant back to nothing. It's all fruitless.



Growing up
[Quote: Once dead, as far as I can tell, the physical body is irrelevant.]

:) Sure. You're absolutely right on this.

[Quote: Worms need to eat too.]

Quite right. If they didn't, they'd never grow up to became liberals.


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