I’ve been holding off writing about this one because I wanted to wait until it was published before discussing it in any depth. Today, Metaphorosis magazine published my story Angels At The Border:
This means a lot to me, in part because it’s the first thing I’ve written that someone felt willing to put money behind. However, it’s also a story I’d been meaning to tell in some form for at least five years.
I have the same problem with both transhumanism and utopianism. Well, “problem” is probably overstating it. The same question:
“What happens to the people who don’t want to go?”
In theory, uploaded consciousness is an amazing thing. It frees human minds from the dependencies of our fallible bodies (and after a week with a pulled muscle in my back, mine is feeling exceptionally fallible). It extends our horizons beyond the concerns of the flesh and makes tangible the idea that there are people alive today who will be alive in thousands of years if not more.
But we won’t all get there. In the same way that there is inequality of access to luxury and technology in today’s world, there will be inequality of access to a post-scarcity world. Peter Thiel will be uploaded long before a child soldier in Sierra Leone. It won’t be all at once, and while it’s happening there will be not only the great injustice already in the world but likely great injustice caused by our great technological singularity. The last person to starve to death or die of a preventable disease will be decades or centuries after the first person is uploaded, if it ever happens.
And, and this is the part that gets discussed a lot less, not all of us will want to get there.
There will be people who view it as an evil technology, who will view it as the death of mankind as our bodies give way to cold machinery, and they might be right. There will be those who will view uploaded humans as imperfect copies while the real person, and their soul, die on the operating table, and they might be right. There will be decreasingly few of them over time, because transhumanism lets you outlive your opponents. It’s unlikely (and potentially physically impossible) that people would go back into flash bodies from their digital forms, so the sublimation to post-humanity will be a semi-permeable membrane. Add to this the fact that there are likely ways to create digital intelligence that don’t involve uploading people, and sooner or later there are more post-humans than humans. And then a lot more. And then, eventually, very few humans left at all.
I had originally considered writing the story of the last person who hadn’t been uploaded, but that seemed too bleak and not dramatic enough, so I dialed back a few centuries to where the writing was on the wall but not everyone had read it yet. This gave me the world of my story, which starts with three angels, drifting up the road towards the Freehold of Gethsemene. I hope you enjoy it.