Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is out of the office.
Systems fail. Hardware, software, networks - they all fail. Hence the importance of backups. Backups may not be perfect, and they may not be up to the very last millisecond. But for anything important enough that is susceptible to loss, there is an appropriate backup given the resources at hand: money, technical ability, tolerance for failure etc. The intention is to minimize the impact of the failing piece on the rest of the system.
As software professionals, we diligently create backups for the systems in our charge. But do we also apply this approach to ourselves? Aren't we as individuals parts of larger systems (family, friends, workplace)? And aren't we also susceptible to failure (loss of health, accidents, death)? And if we care about these systems, shouldn't we work towards minimizing the impact of the loss of ourselves on these systems?
Of course you can't back yourself up to restore into another body, science fiction notwithstanding. But given the resources at hand, what is the best you can do to minimize the loss? Let's consider a few aspects of this potential loss.
Your Presence: Unfortunately, there isn't much I know of that will help mitigate this. As little as it is, perhaps make the effort to create great memories with the ones you love. When they look back, maybe the first things that come to mind are those happy memories, which may offer some comfort. This is a difficult one to think about and write about, because there aren't very many good answers.
Logistical: Think of the things you do, and the knowledge you possess about those things, that nobody else does. To minimize loss impact, a good place to start is to document everything important you do. For instance, if you take care of all the banking and financial operations in your home, it might be a good idea to write down the details of these for your spouse: websites, userids, account numbers, passwords, locations of important documents, summaries of important transactions, etc. Also tell them where to find this document in your absence, and go over it with them so you can answer any questions or clarify things that might have seemed obvious to you. Ideally, you would have them do these functions themselves periodically so they don't even need the document. But as my own experience shows, this is easier said than done. Hence the document.
Financial: if you are a primary or considerable income earner for your family, what happens when that income stream disappears? Can your dependents carry on without much financial setback? Will they be able to maintain their current lifestyles, assets, education, housing, food, transportation etc? Short term, a life insurance policy might help minimize these setbacks. Ideally, it would provide enough coverage that your income stream could be replaced with little impact. Long term, perhaps converting active income to passive income or portfolio income might be an option to look into. These types of income streams do not require you to actively work to generate them.
To summarize, the closest semblance of a backup of "you", given the resources at hand, will not be perfect and will not replace you. It will, however, help mitigate the loss. If you care about the systems that depend on you, it is a worthwhile investment.