Virtually Immortal

February 9, 2011 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

Virtually Immortal

The Self, the Cloud, and Posterity

Edward Tenner

Historian, Technology and Culture

The Internet has become a modern repository of the soul. Social network sites authorize the continued presence of the pages of deceased members—a space for a virtual posthumous identity. Add the promise of life extension and cryonics to this electronic conservation of the self, and we veer close to the rituals of ancient Egypt, with their assurance of an afterlife like the present for those who follow procedures scrupulously. Cautionary historian of technology Edward Tenner uncovers the special anxieties that come with this new dream of an electronic afterlife.

Edward Tenner is an independent writer and speaker on the history of technology and the unintended consequences of innovation. He holds a Ph.D. in European history from the University of Chicago and was executive editor for physical science and history at Princeton University Press. A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows and John Simon Guggenheim fellow, he has been a visiting lecturer at Princeton and has held visiting research positions at the Institute for Advanced Study, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy. He is now a visiting scholar in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center, where he remains a senior research associate.