Data Doppelgangers and the Search for Immortality

Dessa Bayrock Ph.D. Student in English at Carleton University


As post-human theorist N. Katherine Hayles posits, it is now possible to consider humanity a race of cyborgs – an evolution inherent in the progress of a digital era. While something as innocuous as a pacemaker qualifies an individual as a physical cyborg, this paper focuses instead on the move toward metaphorical cyborgs and the implications posed by the crossroads of physical and digital identity. After all, much of contemporary identity construction is wrapped up in online data from shopping lists to status updates. Douglas Coupland imagines this shadowy, digital part of our identity as a “cloudgänger,” an informational doppelgänger both familiar and uncanny. This digital counterpart serves to connect us not only to those around us, but to ourselves—offering a chance to track and record our habits more thoroughly than ever before. But what are the implications of this wealth of data? Might the cloudgänger able to function as separate entity once severed from its physical counterpart? If so, does the Internet’s ability to track and mimic human individuality represent the next step in human evolution? Technological immortality is inherently problematic, even in a purely hypothetical context. Nevertheless, this migration to the digital sphere represents a series of possibilities which are both attractive and necessary to explore—no matter whether the digital doppelganger represents the next step in humanity’s evolution, or a movement away from humanity altogether.