Death is Not a New Beginning

In futuristic settings and sci-fi, it is a common trope for humanity to transcend mortality through various ways and means, and while the fundamental pieces are present in the Cosmic Era, there is something missing. Many sci-fi setting thumb their noses at spirituality and religion, often sneaking in a few lines about how after this event, or the advent of that technology, the world religions collapsed and everyone got on with being exemplary residents of a technological utopia/dystopia. I feel personally feel that this does a huge disservice to one of the most persistent and longest lasting elements of mankind, faith.

In the Cosmic Era, if you die, you are dead and there is no coming back from beyond the grave.

A human being is more than a combination of memories and brain patterns, flesh and blood. If a person dies, taking a copy of their mind and placing it in a new cloned body is not bringing that person back because there is an element of humanity that cannot be categorized, cannot be replicated, or copied or otherwise replaced. Placing a copy of a sentient mind into a high end robot cortex doesn't bring the deceased back as a robot, it just creates a robot, with all the limitations of synthetic intelligence and clever programming, that has the memories and mannerisms of the deceased.

The Fear of Death

The Fear of Death is strong in the Cosmic Era, and there are many things that people do to prolong their lives as long as possible. For the wealthy there are many options, including life extending genetic therapies and the radical options of having their brains removed and either placed in cloned bodies, or in the more durable shell of a robot body. These are both risky operations, and expensive in the case of the cloned bodies, but they are done on a regular basis.

Anagathics and other life extending techniques work very well at first, but suffer quickly from the law of diminishing returns. As the body continues to age, reversing the effects takes more work, more invasive treatment, and costs more. Such treatments also invariably become regular, as the body requires more and more effort to sustain. There is a non-quantifiable factor, and that is the spirit of the patient. Those who cling to life with brittle claws and watery stares take much more effort to keep alive, while those who are more vital, active, and basically find greater joy from life versus greater fear of death find their treatments more effective.

Body Transplanting is the most invasive operation currently available, and it runs the risk of severely damaging the patient. A human being is a holistic object, a person cut in half doesn't become two half people. Taking the brain from one body and putting it in a new body, even a cloned body, is breaking apart the holistic object and repairing it. Those who have undergone this radical procedure suffer from various hard to explain mental disorders. These issues can be addressed by those versed in spiritualism, and psychology. The old brain is an intruder in a new body, and this is a massive change to the intrinsic value of 'human'.

Cybernetics and cyborg augmentation have an upper limit, because as the human body is cut away, it is again altering the holistic value of what is human. As the human level decreases and the machine increases, the function of the psyche changes. The brain in the jar is functional, it works, but it is no longer human. Divorced from the flesh, the now truncated spirit withers, and a new set of needs, wants, and desires emerges, and most cyborgs, especially those who are no longer remotely human (brains in tanks in robots) no longer function morally and ethically as other humans.

Suspended Animation

In an attempt to stave off inevitable death, the terminally ill have invested in cryogenics and other technologies to preserve their bodies for the long term, until a cure is found for their illness. Some have had just their heads preserved. There are a variety of technologies based around this, and for the most part, they are all failures. Cryonics do work, but only if the meat popsicle was alive when it was put into suspended animation. Freezing a dead body only preserves it, as that vital essence that made them human has since departed.

Dissassociative Break - the frozen dead can be revived, but there is a long road to recovering their abilities, and most have long term issues that stem from their death and freezing. The curious issue is that they are a different person when they are reanimated, assuming that the reanimation worked. When the person died, as mentioned above, their spirit has departed, but the proper application of arcanotechnology and psychotronics can induce a body and mind to regenerate and repair itself, functionally growing a new spirit. This takes time, and is traumatic for all involved as the frozen person is functionally a budded off soul growing in the remains of another body. This type of break is also a not uncommon side effect of brain transplants.

Frankenstein's Dilemma

The monster of the book was reborn as it's own creature, and was not the reanimated mind of the person whose brain was used to fill the monster's skull. This event can and does frequently occur when scientists have attempted to rebuild someone from regrown tissue and copies of their memories. Cloned bodies have been implanted with the memories of a person, injected with copies of their brains, replicas of their thought patterns, and something curious happens. The person created is quite emphatically NOT a copy of the original. Appearances and memories are the same, DNA is the same, but the manifestation of the psyche, the soul, is not.

Frankenstein's Dilemma seldom produces homicidal monsters, but instead has a greater chance of creating suicidal versions of the original. The prevalence of the Dilemma was a long time barrier to producing serial clones, until rather than using specific copies of memories to create the mind, larger looser patterns were used, defining events were placed, but the framework was left open so that during the incubation of the clone body, the mind and associated unmeasurable soul, would grow and develop. Thus, the clones have very similar dispositions and attitudes because they were given the same general environment and guidelines, but like vining plants, were allowed to follow their own course.

In the arena of artificial brains, the brain itself can be replaced bit by bit, but not in it's entirety. Replacing a brain with a robot cortex creates the horrible human robot, all the limitations and weaknesses of the purely biological body tied to the inherit limitations of the machine mind. Those who have large portions of their brains replaced with mechanical components (35% or more) have mental, and spiritual issues that are chronic and long lasting. Minor augmentations, or mechanical repair typically will offset a long term disadvantage with a minor one, such as trading blindness (replacing the optical lobe with a mechanical one) in favor mild hallucinations, or phobia of the dark.

The Replacement Robot

There is also a temptation to create robotic replicas of people, and these are much less problematic than creating organic copies of them. The biggest issue of the robot replica is the pure limitation of the robot cortex. While a small percentage of cortices do make the evolutionary step and become self aware and sentient, the vast majority do not. Placing a copy of a sentient mind in a non-sentient machine doesn't create a sentient machine. Rather it imprints a personality and set of memories and mannerisms on a machine. The surrogate is common though, until the limitations of the machine become glaringly obvious enough that those who commissioned it decide to let go of the fantasy, or accept a permanent state of denial over the issue.

Surrogates and Replicas have a long standing tradition in the Cosmic Era, with series autons having had their base persona programming built off of copies of specific people, such as construction autons being modeled off of exemplary construction workers, or law enforcement droids mimicking legendary police officers. Families that have lost loved ones often replace the loved one (frequently children, followed by spouses) with replicas. Replica children are popular, and eventually splintered off into a market for people who wanted children for the good parts, but didn't want to deal with a child growing up, biological issues, or biologically could not conceive.

Death and the CogNet

The CogNet is more than a collection of nodes and servers, and it is possible to create virtual copies of people from their mind patterns. These copies run under the same general limitations as robots, being non-sentient in nature. But there is something different, as the CogNet is built as much on not understood fundamentals. It is entirely possible for a person's spirit to escape Death by emoting into the CogNet, beyond the servers and hardware and into the unmapped Dreamlands aspects of the virtual domain. This is not a full semblance of life, as it is a spirit or soul that is divested of a body. As such, it is not grounded in a biological matrix, and is free to mutate and change as it sees fit, or is unable to resist.

The programs and safeguards of the CogNet generally either destroys or reformats these rogue patterns the same way it handles anything else that blunders into the system from outside the firewalls. Those that survive this sort of attention give rise to sentient programs, malicious sentient malware, ghosts in the machine, and so forth. The phenomenon isn't studied, as the system doesn't recognize a human spirit in the machine as anything other than a snarl of code, and as the spirit is unleavened of it's biological functions, and often dissassociated from biological memories, few attempt to contact loved ones or those left behind. To upload into the CogNet permanently, the person must be logged into the net, at a full immersion level, and they must be mentally active when their body is killed, or dies. While many would guess that the majority of ghosts are cyberhackers and online ops, the majority are actually the elderly who expire during immersion sessions, or introverts who only experience the world through the CogNet.

These beings are no longer human, or close to human.

Summary

Death exists in the Cosmic Era, and it is largely as permanent and irreversible then as it is today. There is no death insurance, no respawning in a clone tank, no reincorporation or downloading yourself into a new body. People remain afraid of death, and have extensively explored the use of bleeding edge technology to cheat the oldest of man's foes. The research will continue because these rules are not set in stone, because ever so often, one of these technologies will completely and totally work. But these are not just exceptions to the rules, they are quantum level freak events that shouldn't happen, but like miracles and magic, they do.

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