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For BitHeaven’s Sake

A satirical short story on the transhumanist quest (and failure) to achieve immortality

Bob and Sue were on their way to church one morning. On their way they ran into their friend Fred. Fred was very wealthy, a billionaire in fact. Fred waved hi. Bob and Sue waved back. They asked Fred to come with them to church.  Fred said no, he had more important things to do.

“What is so important,” asked Sue.

“I’m off to the real deal,” beamed Fred.

Bob looked confused. “Real deal about what?”

“You have a fake promise of eternal life. I’m about to get the real thing.”

“You can’t be serious. Start talking some sense.”

“Seriously. Here’s my voucher, see it right here.”

Sue grabbed the piece of paper from Fred and read it aloud.

“Good for one digital immortalization from BitHeaven.”

Bob guffawed.

“Great joke Fred! You had me worried for a second.”

Fred didn’t laugh. He looked quite serious.

“No really, friends, this is real. I’m about to go live forever. This time tomorrow my brain will be uploaded into the BitHeaven cloud and I’ll get to do whatever I wish. I’d invite you to join me, but it is a very select club. Billionaires only.”

With that Fred jumped into his sports car and drove off.

Bob and Sue watched him leave. Bob was no longer laughing. Both looked downright sad.

Fred screeched to a halt in front of the BitHeaven office. He rubbed his hands in anticipation, a big smile wrapped around his face. On his way through the door, Fred handed the voucher to a ticket master.

The ticket master waved him on through.

Inside BitHeaven was bland. A big board flashed the logo, and then cycled through some instructions for ticket holders. A few other people stood waiting like Fred. Fred didn’t talk with any of them.

No point. He was about to leave the world of people behind forever.

Good riddance, he thought. No more awkward conversations. No more pretending to like their kids. No more annoying pets. Especially no pesky evangelists trying to save his soul.

Fred knew his soul didn’t need saving because souls didn’t exist. Or rather, they didn’t exist like the evangelists thought they existed.

Souls were the software that ran on the body’s computer: the brain.

And just like software could be copied from one computer to another, the soul could be copied from the brain to a computer.

This is the reason Fred was at BitHeaven. BitHeaven promised to copy the contents of his brain to one of their computers in the cloud, and they guaranteed the cloud would exist forever with Fred’s soul merrily frolicking around. However, there was a catch.

The process of uploading the brain was, shall we say, a bit messy.

The brain was very dense, and it was impossible to copy everything from outside Fred’s head. So, the technicians had to get inside his head. Furthermore, they had to slice the brain into extremely thin slices in order to accurately capture all the information in the brain. Suffice to say, the ticket to digital immortality was a one-way trip for Fred.

This was a big pill to swallow for many. A bit too big. To ease the pill down their customers’ throat, BitHeaven offered a foretaste of immortality. While the brain stored a person’s soul, their behavior also provided the same information. So, just in the way that hackers can reverse engineer parts of software based on their behavior, Bitheaven could reverse engineer aspects of the soul through a person’s behaviors. One of the largest sources of behavior was social media.

Prospective customers gave BitHeaven their entire social media collection, and BitHeaven in turn trained an AI on everything they received. The result was very impressive. Fred was able to interact with something like his ghost, whom he asked many questions about life in the beyond. It was a very surreal experience. And it made Fred absolutely certain this is what he wanted with all his heart.

A sudden metallic bell broke Fred out of his reverie. It was time. A white coated lab technician waved the waiting group through a door into an antiseptic white hallway, gleaming with an unreal light.

Fred stepped in without a look back.

A few days later his mother received a note in the mail. She was very old, but still had her wits about her. The note said her son was in a special facility called BitHeaven, and wanted to speak with her. A car would pick her up in the evening.

When she arrived, the BitHeaven escort directed her to a small room.

At one end of the room was what appeared to be glassed in space. In the space was a table and chair, with a matching set on her side of the glass. She took a seat and waited.

In a few minutes, she saw Fred walk through the door. He was beaming radiantly, although something was uncanny about his movements and facial expression. He looked better than she ever remembered him looking.

“How is everything?” she asked.

“Fantastic!” grinned Fred. “Best few days of my entire life, each better than the last.”

They talked awhile longer, and Fred explained he had a new body and a new life in BitHeaven. Everything, even the faintest, most difficult to imagine desire was satisfied in BitHeaven. His mother looked at Fred quizzically. He did seem happy, and she was happy for him, but there was something she just couldn’t put her finger on. She wondered what it could be.

One thing about Fred didn’t change. He was, as always, interested in her will. But now he offered to bring her into BitHeaven with him.

All she had to do was sign her will over to BitHeaven. Well, she wouldn’t need the money once she was dead, and who knows, maybe this BitHeaven thing was the real deal.

The back door of BitHeaven swung open as a technician and actor walked out chatting.

“Gee, this is too easy, man.”

“Yeah, it’s literally taking candy from a baby. A baby with a billion dollars, that is!”

“All you have to do is train some AI models with all their social media, pics, and vids. Then I waltz through that door and the systems project a hologram of the stiff on me. I’m amazed by the tech. It even matches their voice and manner of speaking. All I gotta do is wander around, take a seat, and wait there while the AI does the talking.  I know that behind the scenes you fiddle with the AI so it can respond coherently. The tech isn’t quite there yet to do things on its own, but soon!”

“True! Sometimes we can crack them in 10 minutes, and there you go, another rich bozo’s assets in our bank account, the body in the morgue, and everything is legally signed under our euthanasia laws.

No one can sue, the customer is long gone, and nobody is the wiser thanks to my whiz bang AI special effects making everyone believe their dear friends are still alive on our servers and inviting them to join. Viral marketing at its finest!”

“Indeed bro, we truly have the perfect scam. All because the elite know the brain is all they are. Now those religious folk who believe in an immaterial soul, they are a problem, but they won’t be around too much longer.  Everyone is getting wise these days, and they know religion is a bunch of lies and make believe for people who can’t face reality. More money for us, that’s what!”

“You know, sometimes I almost feel guilty, like there might actually be a standard of right and wrong I’m violating.  But, we give them the best feel goods before they go under, and with all this cash flow we’ve freed up, one day down the line it’ll be the real deal, and we’ll make good on all our promises to our dead customers. They’ll then truly be immortal. But until then, you know what they say…”

“Fake it till you make it!” the two shouted together, and laughing, walked into the dusk.

Eric Holloway

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Eric Holloway is a Senior Fellow with the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, and holds a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Baylor University. A Captain in the United States Air Force, he served in the US and Afghanistan. He is the co-editor of Naturalism and Its Alternatives in Scientific Methodologies.

For BitHeaven’s Sake