Hey there, folks! As the title of this entry would suggest, I’ve made some serious progress on my latest book, The Jovian Incident. After a few months of writing, I’ve finished all nine chapters of the first installment – aka. Part I: “Hermians”. These chapters cover the part of the story that takes place on Mercury, where the main character is introduced, some details of his background are revealed, and he is eventually recruited to go do a job.
This part was also a chance to preview the universe I went about building for the story. This included not only using Mercury as the setting for a prison planet, but descriptions about what Earth, Mars, Venus looked like in this day and age. And there was the matter of how people lived in a post-Singularity universe, when a whole range of amazing technologies were at their disposal. Today, I thought I’d focus on one in particular. The subject of…
To be clear, clinical immortality in this context does not refer to cryogenics or frozen heads waiting to be stitched onto bodies once they find a cure for… whatever. In this context, clinical immortality refers to what is possible through advances in biotechnology, robotics and cybernetics, to the point where human beings can artificially prolong their lives for centuries. At the same time, it refers to knowledge of the brain and computing advancing to the point where people can back up their neurology, living on indefinitely as a digital “ghost in the machine”.
In short, those who have access to this kind of technology in my story have a lot of options for staying alive. One of the more popular (but more complicated) ways is to create clones of oneself, which are then be equipped with the host’s memories backed up to the point of their death. These “facsimiles” are able to carry on in the place of the original, creating an unbroken chain of lineage. The reason why this means is complicated is because if two versions of the same person are alive at the same time, it creates some sticky legal issues.
To put it in perspective, here’s a fragment from the story, where the MC (Jeremiah Ward) is reminiscing about a case he once had to deal with aboard an LEO Hab called Ri-La. Basically, LEO Habs are habitats that exist in Low-Earth Orbit. The owner in question was a former magnate named Xian, a man who lived in the early 21st century before “dying”:
“I went there as part of a case back in 23’. The whole place had been built by some old Terran magnate named Xian. Some Jom-gua gentleman, born in the previous century who made his fortune running bio, shipping and software. Before he died, he had a Hab commissioned in orbit for his wife and family, and then invited his extended family to move there so they could have their own orbital estate all to themselves.”
“Died?” said Guernsey, noting the one word that seemed out of place in the story. “This guy, he was an Extro. And he died? Like… for real?”
“No, no…” Ward replied, waving his hand dismissively. “Though he did forego the whole facsimile thing, the old man uploaded himself like anybody else before he got too old, suffered brain death. That way, his children, nieces and nephews had the run of the place and could summon him whenever they wanted.”
“Descendants calling up their great ancestor,” said Burton. “Fucking vain, if you ask me. But makes sense if you’re one of them Core types, all rich and shit.”
“Well and he was the traditional sort, that guy. Not a lot of people back home who were like him anymore. Most people take the idea of post-mortality too literally.”
As he goes on with the story, he explains how he was on the habitat to investigate a murder case. At the heart of the case was an inhabitant who got into a struggle with their facsimile:
“Turns out some of the Xian clan were not as traditional as their forebear. Some of them went about creating facsimiles of themselves, even woke them up before they died. I don’t know, all that time in orbit, they must have feared they’d die out unless they started cloning themselves.”
“It didn’t occur to them to get some new blood in the place? Or even someone’s DNA?”
Ward shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe they couldn’t find anyone they thought worthy. Point is, having more than one version of yourself around can get ugly, especially when there’s inheritance on the line. And in this case, one kid was killed by another version of himself.”
“Wow…” Jordon whispered. “Was it hard to figure out who did it?”
“Not even a little bit,” said Ward, shaking his head. “Forensics took all of five minutes. The trickier part was trying to deduce if the victim was an original or not. As you know, the penalty for a facsimile killing their original is way higher than the reverse.”
A little later, Ward is confronted with the man who comes to Mercury to offer him a job. His task, he learns, is to venture to the Outer Solar System and find a colleague who has gone missing. Given that the man he is tasked with finding is clearly of the Extro (Extropian) faction, he naturally feels the need to ask the obvious:
“This man, there’s a record of his DNA, yes?”
“Of course,” Chandrasekhar replied simply.
“And his neurology is on file as well, I take it?”
“Backed up directly before his departure, yes.”
“So why not just reproduce him and cut your losses?”
“Well, three reasons.” Chandrasekhar raised three fingers and began listing them off. “For one, the man in question was a conservative soul. He would not approve of being resurrected unless it was absolutely necessary. Second, if he were still alive and turned up after we produced his facsimile, there would be some sticky issues of legality to contend with. Lastly, there is the matter of what he learned while conducting our business in the Outer Worlds. We need to make every effort to retrieve the version of him that knows all of these things, if at all possible.”
I wanted to include all this stuff in the story for two reasons. On the one hand, as a way of commenting on some of the issues that are likely to come up if and when such things are possible. And two, to address the fundamental question: if people are capable of uploading themselves, and creating facsimiles of themselves, what will it mean for issues of identity, legality, and even mortality?
If death is no longer an inevitable fact of life, will death cease to have meaning? And by extension, will life cease to be valued? If someone can just recreate themselves, then what harm is there in murdering them? And if the only real loss is memory that hasn’t been backed up, will the information they carry in their minds be more valuable than the person themselves?
But this of course is all background stuff, something that is meant to frame the main story, which I am still working on. But I feel at this point that it’s off and running. So as I get into Part II: “Martians”, I hope to be getting away from some of that stuff, and more into the issues of timelines, plot, and more character development. Stay tuned!