And here is the last post dedicated to the representation of post-physical life in science fiction. In the first post I introduced the topic and gave a few examples of the so-called soft and intermediate approaches (click here to read the post), in the second post I focused on the hard approach and in particular on cyberpunk (read post here), in this third post, instead, I present two books in which, in different ways, there is also the return of the digitized consciousness seen in the hard approach towards a physical life.
The examples that I’m offering aren’t famous novels, but two books by self-publishers.
The Alpha Centauri Project (Thinking Worlds) by Marco Santini is a novel available as e-book (free). It describes a future where there is a conflict between a type of humanity in the flesh and another one which lives in the net, i.e. derived from the digitization of the consciousness of the dead. The two humanities are able to interact with each other both through the virtual reality and the physical world. The digitized, in fact, may temporarily download into androids and experience once again a physical life. This gives to the latter a greater freedom, except for the fact that they depend on the existence of a physical unit that makes the net work.
The future imagined by Santini is very intriguing and sometimes disturbing. In this regard, I invite you to read my review of the book.
Amantarra (book 1 of the trilogy entitled The Ascension of Valheel) by Richard J.
Galloway is a novel that deals with the
subject of the digitization of consciousness from a completely different point
of view: that of an alien race.
The Bruwnan existed for half the age of the universe and, after reaching the maximum possible evolution in the physical form, decide to leave their bodies back and go to a post-physical life. Their digitized consciousness lives for billions of years in a virtual city, Valheel, built inside a sphere. The process of digital copying causes the simultaneous death of the body. But Valheel is not in our space-time, it exists in a sort of alternate reality and in order to remain active it draws energy from biomass which is located in the planets where the Bruwnan have instilled life.
Some of them, Amantarra and her father Artullus, realise that for millions of years the population of Valheel is decreasing, which shouldn’t happen because the digitized consciousness does not die. Something that dwells in the virtual reality is deleting them. The search for a solution takes Amantarra to Earth at the time of primitive men, through the centuries, until the 70s of the twentieth century, where she interacts with some boys at a high school in
. Also in this story you can see the
return from post-physical to physical life with the ability to download
the consciousness into a living shell or into a real human being with special
abilities (a kind of hybrid). England
You can read my review of this book as well.
"Amantarra" is available in e-book for just 99 cents on Amazon and other retailers.
In general, post-physical life always involves a transition from living/organic matter to something that is non-material (the ascended spirit, the ghost of the Jedi, and so on) or that dwells in inorganic matter (server). Even if the digitized consciousness is a software and therefore immaterial, however, it is always something measurable and requires external energy to survive.
Speaking, however, about metaphors of the immortality of the soul, in the context of science fiction there is room for its representation without the passage above. This is observed in all those stories where consciousness moves, by means of more or less scientific methods, from living matter to other living matter, which may also be different, by means of an organic/biological process or with a digital intermediary but in which that consciousness is not active (it is only a means of transmission). In this context, you can note similarities to the spiritual/religious concept of reincarnation, but it would deserve a separate analysis.
Finally, it can be frequently seen in the stories narrating the transition from living matter to other living matter that this is shown without providing an explanation, as in a lot of science fiction concerning cloning. Each clone, like magic, seems to have all or part of the background of the original, although cloning is to all intents and purposes a copy of the body from its genome but not of the consciousness that lived in it (or memories that defined the consciousness as such) and therefore has nothing to do with the subject of the immortality of the soul. Sometimes, when they want the individual to believe to be the original, the presence of such knowledge is desired (I don’t offer examples to avoid spoilers). In other cases, however, it is even an error in the process of cloning causing troubles for those who wanted to make use of these clones for their own purposes. Oops!