This week, Futures is delving into the world of life after death courtesy of Masques by Mike Adamson. When not writing about the future, Mike can be found lecturing about anthropology — you can find out more about his work at his website. Here, he reveals the inspiration for his latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.
Masques is a story that developed from a number of ideas. Extended life has been a fascination of mine for many, many years and has a long pedigree in science fiction — it was a favourite topic of Lester del Rey back in the 1950s, for instance, then came Robert Silverberg’s Recalled to Life and, much later, Greg Bear’s concept of ‘city memory’ as a post-mortem personality upload. The current generation of scientific work holds out all sorts of possibilities hinting at some realization of ancient dreams and hopes, so pushing affairs a couple of centuries into the future opens many doors.
Robotics are advancing fast enough to scare people, the problems of an interface between electronics and living tissue are being solved, cloning of whole organisms has been done, we can 3D print body parts — all seem to be pointing towards a revolution in both medicine and, consequently, notions of life and death. Scanning out the personality from the physical brain remains the greater imponderable, therefore the ‘fiction’ in the science, but given that element, the rest seems to be promising future tech.
It would be comforting to think an extra lease of life awaited us, beyond even radical physical destruction. Exploring this through the less-than-honourable medium of inappropriate transcription of the personality for material gain produces a familiar scenario. In itself, this gives one pause to roll the eyes and wonder if human nature really is immutable. Social evolution towards some philosophic ideal may be laudable but history teaches us we’re more interested in gadgets, in the main, than self-improvement. Extraction of the personality and download into some synthetic chassis may be the ultimate expression of the human obsession with ‘gadgetology’. This is Ghost in the Shell taken to production-line capacity, which, given automated construction and 3D printing, is hardly impossible.
But, despite the apprehension many will justifiably feel at these concepts, I can’t help seeing the good side of it. Experience a different body every day? Certainly. Access skill suites you never had before? Comes with the territory, not even an optional extra. Be impervious to the onslaught of the years as well? That’s the nature of the beast. Living in a transcribed state could theoretically open the entire corpus of human experience to each and every individual, and that has to be worth serious consideration.