All the Ghosts in the Machine review: Spookily brilliant
As I turned the last page of Elaine Kasket’s All the Ghosts in the Machine, I didn’t feel the satisfaction you often get finishing a book. This one left me with a million unanswered questions and a sense of unease about my own digital footprint - and that’s what makes it so brilliant. The gripping style makes it a pleasure to read, but its core message - that your digital legacy is not something that you should be taking lightly - is unsettling.
The question of who gets the rights to your little slice of cyberspace when you die is explored through powerful, sometimes heart-wrenching stories that remind us to check the terms and conditions before handing over our data. A permanent legacy in the immaterial world is hard to escape. So you’d better be sure what you’re leaving behind.
Kasket acknowledges the wonderful opportunities offered by the internet to mourn our loved ones, and shows the devastating impact a digital existence can have on families and friends. There are inspiring stories of people who knew that their death was impending and were determined to not be forgotten. But the power of your digital footprint to keep your memory alive is also disturbing. What will people say about me? Will they commodify my death? Should I change my Instagram captions? Should I care - if not for myself, for the impact on my family and friends?
This fresh perspective on ‘speaking ill of the dead’ reminds us that cyberbullying can follow the breadcrumb trail that you’ve been scattering since you were born even after you’ve died. Tarnishing a legacy in front of millions of people has become possible in an entirely new way. Now that ‘normal people’ have the potential to become famous after death, we are forced to question the lack of control we have over our online lives once we’re gone.
Digital technology allows our memories to live on online - and the impact of that on those we leave behind can be both ominous and uplifting. As Kasket points out, the internet isn’t going anywhere, which means that everything you post, like, share and search will live on for decades to come. We are forced to worry not only about who will know about us when we are alive but also after death.
All the Ghosts in the Machine is insightful, touching and, at points, incredibly sad - and it leaves you wondering exactly what aspects of yourself you want to leave for the world to pick over you when you’re gone.
Find out more about Elaine Kasket and All the Ghosts in the Machine here.