Death on social media is a topic that has yet to be fully codified within society. Facebook pages become memorials to those we’ve lost, but in some cases, that’s not enough. Some are starting to put thought into what will happen to their accounts after they pass. But how many users want to be reminded of their eventual death?
Last_cakeday_bot is the product of a group of Redditors with an odd mission. Redditors u/doos Crabby-mike-aka-bloody-mike, Jinsho C* and Avinash Dwarapu worked together to create a bot that would respond to users mentioning their age in a post. The bot then gives them a number of weeks they have left to live, and a little ASCII timeline.
It’s not as morbid as it sounds. The bot isn’t psychic, it just bases its predictions on the average American life expectancy of 78 years. “A few million people will experience momentary contemplation of death and subsequently spend their time a little more wisely before the gulls come home,” Doos told the Daily Dot.
The small team may be onto something. Bots are doing some great things online, like Wikipedia’s grunt work bots, search engine crawlers that aggregate content, and Reddit itself is no stranger to bots. On r/requestabot, users regularly send requests for bots to cut down on plagiarism, to correctly categorize Reddit content, and even to respond to each “Thanks Obama” comment with “You’re welcome,” which at the very least makes the world a little more polite.
As with a lot of online bots, there are malicious sources. But those are fairly well taken care of by the r/botwatch subreddit. By and large, Internet users and Redditors use bots for fairly simple purposes. Perhaps Doos has shown us that a little piece of vigilant code can confront users with the big philosophical questions. I’d buy that for a dollar.