When people sign up, the service will monitor their Twitter habits and patterns to learn what types of content they like and, in the future, possibly even learn to mimic their syntax. The tool will collect data and start populating a shadow Twitter account with a daily tweet that the algorithm determines match the person's habits and interests. They can help train it with feedback and by favoriting tweets.
"It's meant to be like a twin," said Dave Bedwood, a partner at Lean Mean Fighting Machine.
In the short term, Bedwood and his team said it will serve as a nice content-recommendation engine. But eventually, in the more distant future, the goal is to have Twitter accounts that can carry on tweeting in the style and voice of the original account.
The people behind the project warn against expecting Twitter feeds fully powered by artificial intelligence, or worrying about Skynet, any time soon.
"People seem to think there's a button you can press, and we're going to raise all these people from the dead," joked Bedwood, who has seen a huge spike in interest in the project over the past week. "People have a real faith in what technology can do."
Artificial Intelligence is still a long way from being able to simulate a specific individual, but recreating the limited slice of personality reflected in a Twitter feed is an interesting place to start.
The _LivesOn service is hoping to roll out to a limited number of test users at the end of March.
As with the other services, _LivesOn will require that members choose an executor. At this point, it's as much a thought experiment as an attempt to create a usable tool.
A little bit of immortality
All these companies see the potential for technology to change how people think about death. Goodbye messages can help people left behind through the grieving process, but composing them can also be comforting to people who are uncomfortable with or afraid of death.
"We shy away from death. It reaches us before we approach it," DeadSocial's Norris said. "We're using tech to soften the impact that death has and dehumanize it. It allows us to think about death in a more logical way and detach ourselves from it."
The prospect of artificial intelligence, even in 140-character bursts, can also be comforting to people who see it as a way to live on.
"The afterlife is not a new idea, it's been around for quite a long time with all the different versions of heaven and hell," Lean Mean Fighting Machine's Bedwood said. "To me this isn't any stranger than any one of those. In fact, it might be less strange."