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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!


Examples

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    Anime and 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 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 one for themselves where they can live forever, as Sorcerous Overlord Lady Jaguara attempts to do.

    Comic Books 
  • One of the later arcs of Hellblazer 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.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • "The Spiritual Switchboard" in Freejack, a computer system that allows the rich to maintain 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.

    Literature 
  • A variant in Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley. The afterlife is natural, but getting your soul there intact is a Million-to-One Chance without an expensive technological procedure.
  • In The Wandering Inn, creating an afterlife for the Antinium becomes the goal of Pawn, former Acolyte, once he realizes that God Is Evil.
  • 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.
  • 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 AIs might run for hackers they're willing to let live.
  • Happens recursively in Permutation City:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Inverted in His Dark Materials, where 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.
  • In the Culture novel Surface Detail a number of species have simulated afterlives. The book involves a conflict between those who think there should be virtual reality Hells, and those who think there shouldn't.
    • In another novel 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 Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia, the setting is so far into the future that the Heat Death of the Universe is soon to happen. 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.
  • Heaven, Inc. in The Egg Man 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • Black Mirror episode "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.
  • In the Tales from the Darkside episode "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.

    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.
  • In Warhammer and Warhammer 40000, 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.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • In the Back Story of Final Fantasy X 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 has the ARK Project, an attempt to create a digital paradise/afterlife where brain scans of people are uploaded and then shot into space in an effort to keep some part of humanity alive after all life on the surface of the Earth is wiped out by an asteroid impact.

    Webcomics 
  • 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.
  • One Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip had humanity end when they created 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.
  • 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.

    Web Originals 
  • 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.

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