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The Broken Promise of Synthetic Transcendence

by Aiden Haefer | Banks Media Productions | 01.15.2035

There’s nothing special about the Plummer Tower on the corner of Fountain and Gardner in Hollywood, California. It has a modern design of black windows on a gray grid and stands fifty stories tall. From the outside, you wouldn’t be able to tell it houses one of the biggest lies of the twenty-first century.

Since the technology was developed twenty years ago by Perion Synthetics, more than 78,000 Americans have bought into the slick marketing campaigns of companies like Vitra Synth.

Their message isn’t subtle: by transferring to a synthetic body, you can live forever.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Prospective clients are told their consciousnesses are moved to a synthetic body, but how is that even possible? A synthetic body doesn’t have an organic brain. Just because you read out of one book and write to another doesn’t mean it’s the same book.

This is hardly a new question:

In Reasons and Persons, [Derek] Parfit asks the reader to imagine entering a “teletransporter”, a machine that puts you to sleep, then destroys you, breaking you down into atoms, copying the information and relaying it to Mars at the speed of light. On Mars, another machine re-creates you (from local stores of carbon, hydrogen, and so on), each atom in exactly the same relative position. Parfit poses the question of whether or not the teletransporter is a method of travel — is the person on Mars the same person as the person who entered the teletransporter on Earth? Certainly, when waking up on Mars, you would feel like being you, you would remember entering the teletransporter in order to travel to Mars, you would even feel the cut on your upper lip from shaving this morning.

Then the teleporter is upgraded. The teletransporter on Earth is modified to not destroy the person who enters it, but instead it can simply make infinite replicas, all of whom would claim to remember entering the teletransporter on Earth in the first place.

Using thought experiments such as these, Parfit argues that any criteria we attempt to use to determine sameness of person will be lacking, because there is no further fact. What matters, to Parfit, is simply “Relation R”, psychological connectedness, including memory, personality, and so on. [source]

The method of transcendence offered by Vitra Synth is similar to Parfit’s teletransporter idea. A wealthy subject’s brain is copied bit-for-bit into a synthetic chassis. According to VS representatives, the process is “destructive” and leaves the subject’s brain non-viable. Thus, the original human dies while the synthetic human lives on.

But, as Parfit points out, is the new synthetic you really you?

More to the point, by electing to undergo a procedure that renders our brains non-viable, thereby resulting in our own deaths, are we not committing some form of suicide?

For the rich and powerful, the prospect of immortality likely outshines any philosophical questions of self, but for the rest of us, we have to ask ourselves: who are these synthetic humans? Do they share our goals, values, and beliefs?

Is the process of transcendence truly destructive? Or does it simply need to be to prevent Parfit’s paradox (or more likely, uncomfortable questions)? There won’t be any risk of waking up on the wrong table if the original human is killed, right?

* * *

It’s not hard to understand why First Humans groups like Tru Organa and Stop Synthetic Proliferation were created. By allowing companies like Vitra Synth to offer Personhood-as-a-Service, we are setting a precedent that devalues human life and raises synthetic life to a level matching our own.

The kicker? None of it would be possible if customers were more informed.

2015 gave us the dawn of synthetic humans. In 2025, Joseph Perion championed a synthetics rights campaign started by his father, resulting in the granting of personhood to fifteen hundred synthetics. Today, there are almost 80,000 synthetic humans walking around as if they are just like us.

They’re not.

If you’re considering synthetic transcendence, consider this:

  • Your organic body will die, thus you will die
  • A copy (screw what the marketing says) of your consciousness will awake in a synthetic body. You will not be human. You will not be you.

Pottery Barn? More Like Desperate Barn.

All I wanted to do was buy Dom a skeleton. It seemed simple enough. She saw it in the store and really liked it. I thought, huh, maybe I’ll order that online and surprise her? So I did just that. But, in order to get a 15% percent coupon, I had to enter my email address.

I know. You’re thinking: you brought this on yourself, Daniel. And sure, I wouldn’t have minded an email every week from Desperate Barn (not their real name, but lots of people are saying they’re desperate, lots of smart people. I don’t know, someone should probably look into that), but what I got instead was just… disappointing.

That’s just way too many emails. And a lot of them were the same damn email about 15% off my first order.

So yeah, I know what the solution is, but did it have to come to this? Did I really have to write a blog post about it?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that Por Vida work has dried up until the book comes back from the proofer, so I’m really, really bored. So this is what is has come to.

TL;DR

You’re doing email marketing wrong, Pottery Barn.

Page 340

Today, I finished what will be my final proofing read-through for Por Vida. I still have to go back and accept the changes (making sure everything I added or deleted needed adding or deleting), but the last of the readthroughs is done. In a few days, I’ll send the manuscript off to a professional to make 100% sure there are no grammar / spelling / stupid errors. 

So close to the end. It’s amazing. 

On the cover front, my graphic designer friend Lauren has started working on turning my cookie cutter Canva idea (the Por Vida cover on the front page) into a unique, kickass cover. Why even bother? Good question. First, I don’t own the copyright for that photo of Sarah Shahi, though I wish I did. Luckily, I’ve got a friend who is going to step in and play the part of Sepideh Ahmadi. Second, as Canva grows in popularity, we’ll probably see hundreds of the same covers polluting the Kindle waters.

It’s always better to have something that stands out in the crowd.

While Por Vida is out of my hands, I’ll be working on the million other things that go into publishing a book, things like descriptions, synopsiseses, blurbs, ads, marketing strategies, rear cover art, witty Facebook posts, and the like.

Or, you know, stupid stuff like this:

 Kodi Smit-McPhee did not give me permission to use his likeness but I'm sure he'd be a total dude about it.

Kodi Smit-McPhee did not give me permission to use his likeness but I’m sure he’d be a total dude about it.

 Same thing goes for Chris Pine, though I imagine he'd be less of a dude and more of a bro.

Same thing goes for Chris Pine, though I imagine he’d be less of a dude and more of a bro.

It passes the time. What do you do to pass the time between my books?

Xronixle Reloaded

Por Vida is currently in the proofing stage, which means I open the Word doc, place a cursor, and hit PLAY on the text-to-speech program. Then I watch and listen to my story. It catches a lot of errors, but it is a slow process, and there’s only so much of it you can take each day.

To pass the time and still feel like I’m writing, I’ve started a rewrite of Xronixle. I hope to have a new version ready by the end of 2017 to coincide with the 10 year anniversary. I’ve always thought Xronixle was an awesome story, but I was not an awesome writer when I published it. Ten years have taught me a few things, so I’d like to beef up that story, add some punctuation, fix the blatant errors, and generally just tone down the nonsense.

Today was a good example of that. Consider the passage:

His fingers moved in small circles around her warm skin, twisting and winding their way higher and higher. X’s hands went flat against her flesh, moved up the sides of her breasts, came together in the middle, and then back down again. He moved his head next to hers and watched the side of her mouth, listening for the quickened breathing that he knew would never come.

And the rewrite

His fingers moved in small circles around her warm skin, twisting and winding their way up her body. He cupped her breasts, squeezed.

No acknowledgement from C.

No quickened breathing.

2004 Daniel had a bad habit of not being direct, and it permeates throughout the story. Cleaning it up just feels like something that needs to be done.

 Less an actual cover and more an example of my lacking graphic design skills.

Less an actual cover and more an example of my lacking graphic design skills.