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Artificial Afterlife

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"Uploaded to the cloud? Sounds like heaven."
Kelly, Black Mirror: "San Junipero"

Most people wonder about what happens after you die. Sometimes in a story, people aren't content with just hoping and wondering, and actually go ahead and build one. Whether through Brain Uploading or some form of advanced magic, someone creates an afterlife where they or others can continue living on even after their deaths.

Naturally most of these afterlives are meant to emulate Heaven, or at least a paradisal setting, and are often made in an attempt to avert The Nothing After Death and Cessation of Existence.

Just watch out in case it's actually a Lotus-Eater Machine that is just keeping you pacified while a bunch of Mad Scientists are running interesting experiments on you. Individuals within this afterlife may overlap with Virtual Ghost, although unlike the Virtual Ghost they usually don't have much of an interaction with the real world or still living people.

There may be some overlap with Personalized Afterlife in that it may be made specifically to appeal to one person, but unlike a natural afterlife the artificial version has no supernatural elements to it, (well, aside from the fact that it might have been made by a wizard) so anything that includes an actual afterlife that happens to be customized for an individual person such as Nostalgia Heaven, Ironic Hell, and Self-Inflicted Hell should not be listed here.

Beware: spoilers ahead!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Wolf's Rain is all about how the wolves are supposed to find a lost Paradise available only to them as an increasingly devastated world comes ever closer to the point where it can no longer sustain life. Many of the nobles aren't content with the idea of being barred from Paradise, and have attempted to either find a way to enter it or create a faux Paradise for themselves where they can live forever, as Sorcerous Overlord Lady Jaguara attempts to do.

    Comic Books 
  • The Ant-Man Hank Pym tried inventing an afterlife after Bill Foster's murder by the rogue cyborg Thor clone named Ragnarok. It was stolen by A.I.M. in a scheme to take control of it and sell space in it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately doing so would compromise the uploaded mind of Bill Foster already in there, adding even more urgency for Hank to get it back.
  • Hellblazer: One of the later arcs has a corrupt politician arrange to create one for himself (called a soul cage) filled with unwilling Sex Slaves and other perversions, preventing his soul from reaching its richly-deserved place in Hell. Unfortunately for him, Constantine cheekily removes all the sex slaves and traps the politician inside along with the sadistic mage he contracted to build it for him, who is not happy about it.
  • JLA: Heaven's Ladder is about the League confronting a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that have existed since the Big Bang, scientifically cataloging the entire universe. Confronted with their own mortality, their utter fear of the unknown that comes next drives them to steal inhabited planets and use their cultures to build their own afterlife.
  • In Miracleman, one of the alien Qys uses technology to store the spirits of the recently deceased, upload them into android bodies, and house them in a beautiful garden beneath the palace in London. It seems like the procedure is only reserved for especially famous or interesting people who had died within the last 18 months, including John Belushi, Salvador Dalí, and Andy Warhol.

    Fan Works 
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf: In "Smurfed Behind: Smurfing In Heaven", Empath thinks he has died and gone to Elysium, the "smurfy hereafter" afterlife of the Smurfs... except, of course, he finds out that the Elysium he entered was just a magical illusion created by Ares the god of war (and so also is the Tartarus that Empath fell down from Elysium into), and that he didn't actually die.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: The Recursive Fanfiction Following the Phoenix shows that souls really do exist, though not a proper afterlife, and were created by the Atlanteans in ancient times.
  • In Resonance Days, the origin of the afterlife is unknown, but Elsa Maria recounts a popular Creation Myth that claims it was created by a magical girl whose wish was for all Puella Magi and Witches to have a second chance.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Freejack: "The Spiritual Switchboard", a computer system that allows the rich to keep their minds alive after death. The catch is that the system can only support them for a few days at most, so these rich men have increasingly turned to pulling a Grand Theft Me and putting their minds into new bodies.

  • In Beastchild, by Dean Koontz, it turns out that the naoli race long ago designed abstract mechanisms, one of which, called Death, now performs their reincarnations (and can let a naoli spirit keep a memory into the new life as a reward). Naoli have forgotten the existence of these mechanisms, which, apparently, was deliberate on their part in order to keep themselves "at least a little humble".
  • The Culture:
    • In Look to Windward, the Chelgrians have created an artificial heaven. However when the Culture's interference triggers a genocidal war, those present in this heaven make it clear that, according to their religious beliefs, a similar number of deaths must occur to the Culture before anyone else is let in. This sets off the plot and the protagonist's mission of revenge through an act of mass destruction.
    • In Surface Detail, a number of species have simulated afterlives with Brain Uploading. The book involves a conflict between those who think there should be virtual reality Hells, and those who think there shouldn't.
  • The short story Daddy's World by Walter Jon Williams revolves around a child living in a Sugar Bowl filled with famous historical figures, fictional characters, and fantastic creatures. As time goes on, he starts to notice strange details in the world, like his sister getting older while he stays the same age. Eventually, it's revealed that he died of cancer several years earlier, and his parents uploaded his mind into a virtual world.
  • Darwinia is set is so far into the future that the universe is beginning to undergo heat death. Luckily, humanity has developed an indestructible computer system that can withstand the end of time and the technology to upload human minds into a VR afterlife based on human history and experience. Unfortunately, the system is under attack from alien computer viruses which leads to glitches in history.
  • The Egg Man: Heaven, Inc. offers the service of letting people upload their minds into an artificial Heaven that exists within the augmented brain of a Megabrain. The Megabrain him-or herself can interact with the uploaded "souls" and functions as the God of the place.
  • Fall, or Dodge in Hell: Dodge, an irreverent billionaire, gets his brain uploaded to become the first inhabitant of Bitworld, a digital space he begins sculpting to his will. New inhabitants start joining and fall in line with his vision, but pretty soon the place gets filled with enough people that divisions and disagreements begin. Things start looking suspiciously Biblical.
  • His Dark Materials: Inverted — the afterlife is a bleak wasteland. The Subtle Knife is eventually used to create a portal that people in the afterlife can step through to Disappear Into Light and "return to the universe". This makes it more like artificial nonexistence as an alternative to a rather unpleasant natural afterlife.
  • Immortality, Inc.: The afterlife is natural, but getting your soul there intact is a Million to One Chance without an expensive technological procedure.
  • Neuromancer has the technology to store Virtual Ghosts on ROM drives, but they can't remember anything new since it's Read-Only. The titular AI was designed to create fully sentient simulations of dead humans and run elaborate virtual realities for them. In contrast to the brief sims other A.I.s might run for hackers they're willing to let live.
  • Permutation City: Happens recursively:
    • People can make "Copies" of themselves through Brain Uploading, which can survive them in a virtual-reality environment. However, the original person still dies normally, and the quality of the Copy's existence depends on how much processing power their trust fund can buy for them.
    • Paul Durham's unorthodox beliefs about quantum ontology and The Multiverse lead him to believe that a simulation can become real on the basis of its mathematical self-consistency, so he runs an infinitely self-organizing "Garden of Eden" model for a few seconds and then deletes it. Somehow, this actually creates "Permutation City", an alternate reality that creates itself according to the model, wherein the founding Copies are each Reality Warpers in their own, increasingly vast, domains.
    • After a drastically bungled First Contact scenario causes Permutation City to unravel in a Puff of Logic, the Copies of Durham and Maria seed a new universe to escape into, making it a sort of artificial after-after-afterlife.
  • Reaper (2016): People no longer age when they go into Game, an elaborate VR environment of over 2 000 worlds, so they have functional immortality. Some people have been rushed into Game to save their lives due to health problems, some of them will die if they're unfrozen, and in some cases their bodies are already dead, making them a very literal Virtual Ghost.
  • In Riverworld, souls are the result of a Precursor experiment, allowing intelligent species to develop self-awareness and persist after death, either through Reincarnation or "Moving On". The Riverworld itself is an artificial afterlife created by one Precursor race, the Ethicals, to assess whether humanity could be entrusted with their legacy.
  • Ubik: In the far-off future of 1992, science has proven that human souls reincarnate after death, in accordance with the Tibetan Book of the Dead. But science can also artificially lengthen how long souls linger before reincarnation, by placing the recently deceased in "cold-pac". The experience inside cold-pac is indistinguishable from living reality (at first), so it takes a while for several characters to realize they were Dead All Along.
  • In The Wandering Inn, creating an afterlife for the Antinium becomes the goal of Pawn, former Acolyte, once he realizes that God Is Evil.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100 gives us "The City of Light". It's originally presented as a virtual world, designed as a respite from the horrors of the post-apocalyptic Earth. Later, it's revealed that all those who have entered it automatically have their consciousnesses uploaded into it upon their death. The AI running it, A.L.I.E., fully intends for all of humanity to visit, as another apocalypse is imminent, and she sees upload as the only way to preserve humanity.
  • Black Mirror: "San Junipero" is about a simulated afterlife where people can choose to live after their death via Brain Uploading, free to live in various different eras and to do and experience whatever they want. People who are terminally ill can spend limited amounts of time there (the limits exist in an attempt to prevent it from becoming a Lotus-Eater Machine) in order to decide if they would like to be uploaded after their death or not.
  • In Caprica, Clarice Willow intends to use the V-World virtual reality and "virtual ghost" technology to create an artificial heaven for monotheists. It gets overturned thanks to Zoe-A and Tamara-A taking over V-World themselves with their God Mode abilities.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The show has the Gallifreyan Matrix, a device where dead Time Lords can be uploaded to preserve their knowledge and memory.
    • During "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", the minds of people killed by the Vashta Nerada (or any other means within the library) are uploaded into a virtual world to live in while they cannot be saved in the real world. At the end of Forest of the Dead, 4,023 of them are returned to the real world. It becomes the afterlife for River Song after her death.
    • Season 8 of the revived series revolves around Missy, a female reincarnation of The Master, using a matrix adopted for humans to collect human minds and preserve them, albeit only as a first step to later putting those minds into the bodies of Cybermen.
  • Tales from the Darkside: In "A Choice of Dreams", Jake Corelli is a mobster with terminal cancer. A strange scientist comes to him and offers him a way to cheat death by keeping his brain alive after his body dies and experiencing pleasant dreams forever for ten million dollars. Corelli accepts, but the scientist changes the dreams he gives Corelli, and instead he is forced to relive the pain of his victims for all eternity.
  • Upload is entirely based around this premise, with a capitalist mindset. By the year 2033 humanity has figured out how to upload the minds of people near death into a virtual afterlife. It's maintained by an army of call-center representatives called "angels", and your living situation once uploaded is based entirely on wealth. Naturally, there is some nasty income-inequality present, and that's just the start — besides occasional visual glitches and omnipresent ad-bots, deliberate hacks and exploits are common and often unsafe, memories can be deleted and altered like any other file, and the "uploads" are transparently not treated like real people.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Eclipse Phase Brain Uploading and Downloading is ubiquitous, and the Egoes of billions of people killed during The Fall are in "dead storage". But most of them are not conscious, simply saved on a hard drive somewhere until some Hypercorporation comes looking for new indentured servants. However, some activists on Mars who want to abolish indenture have suggested creating a massive Simulspace for the dead.
  • Hc Svnt Dracones:
    • To head off any concerns as to whether they had souls, ASR created an afterlife of sorts for the Cogs known as the Core Consciousness. As Cogs reach their pre-programmed "expiration date" they start to offload more cognitive functions into the Core Consciousness, eventually passing the point of no return.
    • Not to be outdone, Pulse operates a space station as a sort of "Valhalla" for retired executives and star athletes. The residents are exempt from the usual restrictions on Bio-Augmentation, such as immortality.
  • Sufficiently Advanced: The Builders of the Great Beyond's minds are recorded while they live, and they run in simulation after they die.
  • In Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the Elves and Eldar all carry Wayshards or Waystone Soul Jars to absorb their minds upon death. The Elves then have their souls placed inside magical Waystones to continue to protect their beloved homelands after their deaths, while the Eldar are integrated into their Craftworld's Infinity Circuit to join the psychic gestalt of their ancestors. In both settings, they do this because the alternative is for the Chaos God Slaanesh to devour their souls upon death and, in Warhammer, for the few surviving souls to be caught and eternally tormented by another evil deity.
  • Wraith: The Oblivion has an interesting version in that it has artificial afterlifes within the actual afterlife. At the far end of the Tempest lie the Far Shores, crafted versions of various mortal afterlifes meant to provide a sense of succor to those who hate how shit-blasted the Shadowlands are. A few were built with noble intent; by producing a theme park version of a person's desired afterlife, the sense of artifice would eventually set in and wraiths would be driven to pursue Transcendence to find a better afterlife. But thanks to human pettiness and the influence of Shadows, a good number of them turned into slave plantations or artificial Hells with a Heavenly facelift.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout 3: Vault 112 combines this with a Lotus-Eater Machine. When the Great War broke out, the inhabitants chosen for the vault were put into a virtual reality world overseen by Dr. Braun, who could enter several idyllic scenarios into the machine for the people to live in. Unfortunately, Braun was a sadistic madman who enjoyed tormenting and killing his charges, and since he also controlled their memories, they never recalled anything being wrong. By the time the Lone Wanderer finds the Vault to save their father (who'd hooked himself into the machine shortly before to get information needed for Project Purity), Braun has all the inhabitants living in an idyllic pastiche of suburban America called Tranquility Lane.
  • Final Fantasy X: In the Back Story, when the city of Zanarkand was facing certain destruction in a war against the far more technologically advanced city-state of Bevelle, Yu Yevon (Zanarkand's greatest summoner) created the monster Sin to fight against the forces of Bevelle and simultaneously turned the remaining people of Zanarkand into the raw material to power a Dream Land/Pocket Dimension version of reality where Zanarkand continued to exist as though it had never been destroyed in the war, with new generations being born, growing old, and dying there.
  • SOMA: With all life on Earth's surface destroyed by an asteroid impact, Catherine Chun created the ARK, a virtual reality module attached to a rocket designed to house brain scans of the last remaining humans, in an effort to ensure something remained of humanity after its extinction.

  • minus.: minus creates an Afterlife almost absent-mindedly after someone tells her about it. This becomes a case of Chekhov's Gun at the end when minus accidentally destroys the living world.
  • Roomies!, It's Walky!, Joyce and Walky!: Implied at the end of It's Walky! which shows the afterlife to be a sort of limbo or Gehenna where everyone stands around without much to do (although there might be deeper areas we don't see). Dina surmises from her experience there that it's actually a simulation created by Precursors which detects dying consciousnesses and transfers them there as a backup for resurrection. This is consistent with the fact that a nigh-omnipotent robot also created by Precursors can be hacked into from this afterlife, but no definitive answer to the hypothesis is given.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
    • One strip has humanity end when it creates Virtual Reality machines that slow down perception, reaching the logical conclusion that it's better to spend (perceived) eternity in paradise rather than an hour in boring reality.
    • Another strip has a startup that emulates dead people's brains based on their social media profiles and puts them in virtual afterlives where they get judged based on the user's religious beliefs. We're shown a virtual Hell where a Christian fundamentalist paid to put someone they apparently fought with on Facebook.
  • Schlock Mercenary: When Brain Uploading gets perfected, people start leaving backups of their minds. When they end up dying, virtual worlds are built to bring the backups up to date while their bodies are rebuilt. Many end up staying in them permanently.
  • Whomp!: In one strip, an elderly Ronnie decides to have his mind transfered into one of these via Brain Uploading. Unfortunately for him, it doesn't actually move his mind into a virtual afterlife, it just copies it into a digital version of himself. The original has to be disposed of properly. Can't have two versions of the same person running around after all.

    Web Originals 
  • Less is Morgue features Todd's Heaven, a new afterlife created by a self-styled tech entrepreneur. It's still in beta testing phase, though. Right now, it's just a cornfield full of dead viners with the song "Mmmbop" by Hansen playing forever.
  • In Orion's Arm, there are a large number of possible technological afterlives available for those citizens of the post-singularity spacefaring civilizations who choose not to take advantage of medical technology to live indefinitely. Mostly, these revolve around the ability to keep "backups" of people's minds and retrieve them should they die.
    • Among other things, these afterlives can involve living as a digital upload in a simulated virtual reality heaven, or having your mind dowloaded in a new physical body with all, none or part of your memory deleted in order to simulate reincarnation.
    • It should be noted, however, that traditional religion still survives in the setting — Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions is very much averted. As such, a far from insignificant number of people choose not to exploit either this trope or physical immortality, as they believe this would prevent them from entering a true, and more spiritually meaningful and desirable, afterlife after shuffling off their mortal coils.
  • Downplayed with Corbenic in the SCP Foundation. The afterlife itself is "natural", but it was originally nothing very interesting. Just a world without much in the way of civilization or culture, but various monsters you'd expect out of a D&D campaign. Once the Three Moons Initiative arrived, however, they got to work. Their Badass Creed specifically states that there was no Heaven or Hell when they arrived there, so they made them.


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A virtual reality paradise has been created for the scanned minds of PATHOS-II, allowing them to go on living in comfort for all eternity aboard a satellite roaming the cosmos.

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