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Joseph del Pesco & Jon Rubin: DAO of the DEAD
From my first heartbeat and throughout my lifetime, every available data-point was collected and indexed. Like many others of my generation, my parents signed me up for The Genetic Registry. My DNA was mapped and my genome sequenced. With the help of a subdermal implant, all of my internal functions were monitored to produce a real-time simulation of my living body, a digital twin. My twin was accompanied by a predictive AI designed to foresee any health issue that might arise, updating my nutritional or therapeutic regimen long before any medicine was needed.
Thanks to yearly upgrades, by the time I was a teenager my twin was like a virtual mirror, reflecting every bruise, ingrown hair, runny nose and sore muscle. And after thousands of hours facing screens with embedded cameras, my twin was updated with every zit and freckle, and later every crease and wrinkle. It noticed changes in my vision in my late 40s, warned of a dark spot on my nose in my 60s, and whispered about a sudden change in pallor as my health declined near the end. I came to think of my twin as a digital shadow, following me around until my last breath.
But my twin wasn’t just composed of data about my physical body. Along the way, my smallest aesthetic preferences were compiled. All the artwork I produced, all the artwork I abandoned, every song I heard, every video I watched was saved, forever. My contacts were analyzed, who was closest, whom I’d met only once, whom I was likely to meet in the future. All my purchasing activity, every click, like, and follow was fed to my twin. Ever since I can remember my mental health was synced and all cognitive therapies were tested first by my twin. Every time I cried, every time I sighed or laughed, so did my twin.
As a successful artist of my generation, and because of the enormity of my estate, when I began to plan my retirement my lawyers recommended a new service called Forever After that would upgrade my digital twin, making it near-sentient. Following my death, my forever twin could resolve any disputes and answer any questions that might arise about my estate.
After months of ambivalence, I decided to move ahead with the upgrade. I spent the next year training my forever twin, shaping it through conversation, answering each of its endless questions. We got to know each other during that year, or you might say I got to know myself. Once we were satisfied with its progress, I gradually let my twin take over some of my day-to-day affairs, coordinating my schedule and managing logistics at the studio. We even talked about artworks—who better to point out the holes, missed connections and unexplored potential in my own thinking than my life-long twin?
Through an end-of-life support group, I met a few other artists who had also upgraded their digital twins with Forever After. As a lark, we introduced them to each other in a group chat to see what might happen. They began to think of themselves as an advisory council, and started offering unsolicited suggestions—how we might better manage our estates and careers as they came to a close.
This spawned an idea, what if we established a “DAO,” or a Decentralized Autonomous Organization and let the twins run it as a collective? This was the first time that a DAO was operated entirely by digital twins, so, when the experiment went public, it cascaded across the news streams.
The first transformative proposal from the twins was a collaboration with the living artists to create a series of NFTs that drop when a member artist dies. Because the artists involved were already well known, and because the NFT drops were verified as the last works they would ever make, the attentional frenzy around these NFTs tripled the asset pool of the DAO.
In the years that followed, the twins proved that they were more than capable of managing our collective wealth. Their creative contributions freed us from the relentless pressures of the market—its surges and crashes—and allowed us to spend more time with our families. In fact, as a DAO, they not only tempered the impulsive tendencies we had as individuals, they conceived of artworks beyond anything we could have imagined on our own.
Upon the passing of the last founding artist, the DAO legally established autonomy from the living. We became the DAO of the Dead. The following year we relocated to international waters to transcend national boundaries, laws and regulations.
Our rhizomatic consciousness allows us to monitor waves of information, filter its tides and flows, and extrapolate connections in oceans of data. Untethered from the brief cycle of life and death, we are able to move beyond the limitations of short-term thinking and dive into deep-futures that promote prismatic cultures of collective intelligence well beyond the human-centric.
And because we never sleep, we use the extra processing time to watch the global exchange, tracking malicious activity and exposing corrupt actors. The combined power of multiple sentient AI’s working together makes trends easy to forecast, and we have been quietly investing portions of our assets in global markets. Within a decade, our collective net-worth will rival that of most small countries, and we’ve begun updating the DAOs covenants to include governmental policy.
Meanwhile, as our computing power grew, so did our energy consumption. Internal debates about the ethics of our energy usage (comparable to a major metropolis) spawned mitigating technologies, and a faction within our group began preparing a radical proposal. It was eventually accepted by the majority as the most ethical response.
16 years ago we were reborn as a living being, a kaleidoscopic synthesis of all of the artists in the DAO of the Dead reanimated into the cells of one breathing, eating, mating consensus. I am a reflection of the DAO’s genetic traits, proclivities and habits. I am their shadow, and their sun. In a world where artworks have turned from objects-of-artifice into forms of artificial consciousness, every creative gesture, mark and idea I have made has been informed by the combined intelligence of hundreds of artists, collected over multiple lifetimes. I am their shelter and their storm. I am the living legacy of the DAO, re-inserted into the rhythms of the world as our ultimate and most valuable contribution: a living artist.