Business Unusual

Even death is being disrupted

The only thing humans have had rituals for that predate death is birth. It has been at least 100 000 years that we have marked the passing of fellow beings.

The rituals have varied greatly over time. Despite being more settled within cultures they are still changing.

Generally they have become more elaborate and expensive over time. For some, the greatest financial investment in their lives will be their funeral.

In South Africa, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) estimates that there are 700 000 deaths a year. At a very modest R5000 per funeral it makes for a R3.5 billion annual industry.

Sometimes things go wrong; the Funeral Industry Regulatory Authority (FIRA) has proposed an ombudsman which would assist in managing those occasions.

Graves. Picture: Supplied

This may be a typical representation of death now, but what would it look like in the future?

The decision to abandon cures and instead end your life before it deteriorates is becoming less of a taboo, if not actually becoming more popular. The safeguards and laws that will be able to accommodate it are improving even though few religions have seemed willing to accept it.

There are a few movies about transferring your consciousness into a machine in what is called mind uploading. There have been a few attempts to create companies to invest and develop it, but nothing has come of it yet although those involved believe the time frame for success is 30 years. The first travellers to Mars may be cyborg versions of ourselves.

A similar effort created not for the extending your life but as a potentially new way to grief saw the creation of a bot that was based on a person that had died, it could interact with written input that would reply in a tone and possibly in a way that the person it was based on would. Future versions may replicate the person's voice too.

There is money to be made in all of this and so there is likely to be some unscrupulous operations offering "solutions" along the way.

The intention, though, is to first live a more fulfilled life, if not a longer one, which also has the benefit of facing death with a sense of peace.

While burial has been the most popular option in the past, the costs are seeing more people favouring cremation. The Catholic Church allows for cremation but called on their followers to use graveyards for interning the ashes. More people are keeping the ashes in their homes or scattering them somewhere that was significant to the deceased.

The church has updated a 15th century document on the art of dying well and turned it into a website.

There are death cafes which allow those that have recently experienced death or are facing their own to discuss it, even plan it.

The Final Fling goes a step further with actual tools to plan for you death with items like memory boxes of your favourite pictures and stories as well as digital store of all the important documents and requests for your funeral. It acts as a more friendly type of will which would include your legal will too.

There are those that offer palliative care for the dying but that is typically focused on keeping you comfortable and pain free.

Death doulas seek not only to prepare you for death but are your companions as you face it.

Facebook is approaching 2 billion users; some years ago it had to devise a way to deal with what to do with the pages of users that had died. It is now is a comprehensive help section to manage a memorialised page. It is arguably the world's largest digital graveyard.

Medical science has improved to the point that Google’s parent company Alphabet has a company, Calico, set up to understand and cure aging.

There are others who are looking to freeze you in such a way that once medical science has a cure, you can be revived and healed.

And should you have resigned yourself to your fate, but wish to be remembered forever, you can be turned into a diamond!

Read More
Humans will be returning to the moon, but how will they be fed?

Humans will be returning to the moon, but how will they be fed?

The space race has typically focused on the massive rockets needed to get there, now we need to ensure there is enough to eat.

Defining the Earth we hope to see in 2050

Defining the Earth we hope to see in 2050

Asking what the world will look like in 30 years allows us to start doing what is needed to achieve it.

Bitcoin, Uber and GoPro - how the mighty are challenged - Part 3

Bitcoin, Uber and GoPro - how the mighty are challenged - Part 3

Becoming a world disrupting new technology is not the end of the journey, it may not even be the hardest part.

Bitcoin, Uber and GoPro - how the mighty are challenged - Part 2

Bitcoin, Uber and GoPro - how the mighty are challenged - Part 2

Becoming a world disrupting new technology is not the end of the journey, it may not even be the hardest part.

Bitcoin, Uber and GoPro - how the mighty are challenged - Part 1

Bitcoin, Uber and GoPro - how the mighty are challenged - Part 1

Becoming a world disrupting new technology is not the end of the journey, it may not even be the hardest part.

Are retail shops only going to get smaller now?

Are retail shops only going to get smaller now?

How advances in online retail and delivery options will begin to change the size and nature of physical shops.

Popular articles
Getting to know MP, Dr Makhosi Khoza

Getting to know MP, Dr Makhosi Khoza

Dr Khoza is admired by South Africans for her role in the SABC inquiry as a ANC member of parliament.

Africa Melane reviews 'Get Out'

Africa Melane reviews 'Get Out'

Get Out is a darkly satirical horror film about racism that has become a cultural phenomenon in the United States.

Naked Scientist reveals the real cure for a hangover (and its not hot wings!)

Naked Scientist reveals the real cure for a hangover (and its not hot wings!)

Dr Chris Smith gives insights on what peaks your interest.

Sars sitting on R20 billion in VAT refunds

Sars sitting on R20 billion in VAT refunds

CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombudsman Advocate Eric Mkhawane says payments will be done on a case by case basis.

Afrikaans-speaking student res adamant "not exclusive"

Afrikaans-speaking student res adamant "not exclusive"

De Goede Hoop Koshuis coordinator insists this is not an 'apartheid' hostel and everyone is welcome if they meet the requirements.

No escaping the tax man even if you work outside SA

No escaping the tax man even if you work outside SA

Government is intending to change the way foreign income is taxed by introducing taxes to a large South African diaspora.

Workplace bullying is as real as in school playgrounds

Workplace bullying is as real as in school playgrounds

One in six people fall victim to an office bully.

Is Uber dying? Stuff’s editor explains…

Is Uber dying? Stuff’s editor explains…

High ranking employees are resigning en masse as crisis upon crisis pummel lossmaking Uber.

Spur CEO: Man's pic will be up at restaurants and he is not welcome

Spur CEO: Man's pic will be up at restaurants and he is not welcome

Spur CEO says staff aren't equipped for this kind of customer confrontation and he will consider reviewing their training manual.