Friday, August 6, 2021

Microstory 1685: Earthbound Before Death

After several decades of isolation—remaining physically separate from each other using small fusion-powered orbital ships—technology was approaching an inevitable step in Isoverse. When people have the ability to connect themselves to a virtual network to interact with each other, it only makes sense that many will eventually decide that they no longer require bodies in base reality. This alone would not necessarily allow a species to last and thrive. At an early enough point in technological advancement, if everyone did this, the population would stagnate. This is fine, if it’s what they want, but if they want to both do this, and propagate the species, they’re probably going to have to figure out how to make new people in the simulations. Yes, theoretically, enough of them could keep their physical substrates to accomplish this goal, but who do you ask to do that, and how long will it go on before they start feeling like nothing more than a baby-making subclass? The most sustainable model assuming no limitations in natural resources, like power and raw material, is by developing artificial intelligence. This AI will essentially replace the concept of birthing offspring, whether any given entity starts out as a blank slate, as babies once did, or is switched on with full capabilities. Such technology would allow people to upload their consciousnesses into VR permanently, and continue to live however they want there, without worrying about missing out on some basic human imperatives, like creating and raising new life. Still, not everyone in Isoverse was okay with this. Not everyone wanted to be immortal, or to only make AI children. These were the ones who would come to learn the cost of isolation, and consider the possibility that that cost was irreversible for them. When they tried to return to Earth, they found survival to be much harder than it was before.

Those who wanted to return to the surface of the planet actually weren’t returning anywhere. They were all young enough to have been born on the isolation ships, and had never once set foot outside. They were fed controlled food, and breathed filtered air. They had never gotten sick, and therefore, never developed antibodies. Experts attempted to explain this fact to them, but they would not hear of it. The government had never thought to make going back down to Earth illegal. It was only against the law to break isolation while on the ships, which wasn’t that much of a problem, because they were all too small to hold a party, or something, anyway. The best of friends have never met each other in person...ever. The reality of what would happen to their bodies by not exposing themselves to a natural environment was not lost on the Isoversals who first thought to launch themselves into space. They attempted to keep the people inoculated, but this was difficult, since a lot of research simply could not continue on the ships. They probably should have sent researchers back down on a regular basis in order to stay up to date on how to protect against the ongoing evolution of disease, but I imagine they didn’t want the public to think it was a good idea to return permanently. Not a single one of the Earth-bounders managed to survive for long in that environment. They had plenty of resources, and knew how to protect against the elements, but a single cut was pretty much all it took to get an infection that they couldn’t fight against. Had they gone right back up into space, they might have stood a chance, but their medicine reserves ran low faster than they thought, and the experiment was soon over.

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