In cobbling together my “Zaneverse” world, I’ve pondered a number of technologies that I figure should be available five centuries from now. A lot of them are pretty standard sci-fi tropes, as one would expect. Several forms of artificial gravity, AI, warp drive, hyperdrive… the usual stuff.
In a world with all this stuff, you have to wonder why everyone hasn’t just uploaded into the Matrix, abandoning the physical world. I’ve come up with an explanation for why that hasn’t happened, thus allowing for space opera. Still, I’ve utilized portions of this technology for limited applications:
1: Extreme long-range colonization. Even with hyperdrive, the galaxy is a big place and there are a limited number of ships. If a colony world is a year away and you have 10,000 people who want to go, and your ship can comfortably support fifteen people for a two-year round trip, and throw in some sizable possibility that the ship could be lost of destroyed en route, what to do? In this world, one of the solutions that is often used is to copy the colonists. They get into something akin to a futuristic CAT scanner. It does a complete scan of their bodies, genetically, epigenetically and structurally, and saves the scan as digital data. The brain is scanned with means only describable as techno-magic; the personality, memories and basic operating system is copied and stored digitally. The colonist is then put into suspended animation somewhere secure… a cavern deep under the lunar surface, say. The stored data for that colonist and his 10,000 fellows is put on a portable hard drive, transported to the distant location, a new body for the colonist is printed off and the “brain” uploaded into it. If the colonist is successfully recreated at the far end, an FTL message is sent back to the storage facility, and the original is instantly evaporated. The colonist then goes on with life.
2: Long-range limited term contract jobs. Let’s say that the person isn’t a colonist, but instead someone whose career is setting up colonies, then coming home. Perhaps they are responsible for the construction of terraformation atmosphere processing plants for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. OK, so the same process of copying, transport and recreation of the person is followed. However, the original is kept under suspended animation. At the end of the contract term, the copies mind is scanned and stored and shipped home. As soon as the hip departs for home, the copy is evaporated. When the ship returns home, the copy is uploaded into the original, basically just adding memories. The original wakes up; from his point of view, he went to sleep on Luna, woke up on the distant colony world, worked for six months, then woke up back on Luna.
There would be a few advantages to a system like this. First is the ease of transport; just an inert computer storage system, rather than a whole lot of people who either need tending or suspended animation systems jam-packing the ship. Second: if the ship explodes or gets lost, the original can be awoken. Third, security: if someone tries to tamper with or kidnap the computer system, it can simply self destruct, destroying the data. The original is safe at home.
Note that in this system, there is only one copy of the person walking around at a time. If the copy at the far end is to be made permanent, the original is destroyed. This is due to social and legal strictures against having multiple copies of an individual… it’s easy to see how that could quickly become seriously problematic. There is an authority in the Zaneverse that’s very zealous about this, and very good at keeping control over this.
I was discussing this system with a friend, and she expressed… well, dismay. There is an obvious philosophical issue with this system, the same problem that has plagued the “transporter” from Star Trek: is the copy *you?* The argument was… who would volunteer for a colonization mission like this if, from one point of view, you are simply committing suicide so that someone a whole lot like you, but not really you, gets to colonize a distant world? The counter-argument: in Star Trek, the vast majority of folks don’t seem to have an issue with transporters. For every McCoy or Barclay, there are several starships full of folks who merrily beam up and down. So long as the “colonist-copy” technology is decades or even centuries old, reliable and the tales of the copies being noticeably different from the originals, I would expect that people would generally accept it.
So my question: assume the colonist-copy system exists, and to all appearances works as advertised. There is, however, zero scientific evidence regarding whether or not your “soul,” if such a thing exists, is copied or transmitted. If you, dear blog reader, wanted to colonize some distant world and was offered the opportunity, but the *only* way was this way… would you do it?