In the virtual future, reality may be the biggest casualty. Part 1. More webcomic background.

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Before we dive into this week’s discussion, I need to pull a few definitions from glossary 1 and glossary 2.

Accretion (brain) – brain accretion is quantum storage of all mental, cognitive and experiential data from a living brain for transference to a progenated being or synthetic.

Progenation – (aka genning – slang) this is the counterpart of replication in inanimate objects though the process is very different. This is under strict government control to insure that only fully enhanced, and socially beneficial humans or endangered species are progenated and to insure that population planning limits are enforced. Progenation involves “replicating” an individual’s life forms in the lab through using duplicated DNA and then transferring their brain accretion. Gifted surgeons, scientists and other “social contributors” can be genned and leased to other parts of the world where their specific skills can be utilized for maximum affect. Due to high demand, territories throughout New Asia bid on such individuals. The government has begun to designate certain promising births as potential “progens.” These children are given special governmental benefits and opportunities to help insure that they will be able to be genned upon reaching maturity.

Saming – Slang for the purchase of an identical synthetic version of one’s self for the purposes of companionship or a sexual relationship.

In 2159, determining what is real and what is virtually real can be something of a challenge. With world population figures nearly 12.7 billion, experts in the 21st century feared that there would be a catastrophic food shortage, but advances in molecular replication put those fears to rest. Essentially this level of replication enables society to “print” any inanimate object including food of all types. The ability to “print” averything from an apple (without seeds and core) to sophisticated recipes and vintage wine has all been perfected. The level of complexity is dependent on the quality of replicator device. So, while it is possible for a peasant in Guangzhou to print his own rice, a machine that prints chocolate soufflés and cabernet sauvignon is a more expensive proposition. Recipes and templates for everything are available through the Lightstream with enough credits or Yuan.

Artisan farming and making is still seen by many as a superior option and has attained a connoisseur status. Farmland for crops and livestock, however, became the most significant casualty of population growth making those who were able to retain their land some of the wealthiest members of society. Real meat and made items command top credits. Amidst this, the question arises: How do you tell the difference? If you are in the market for the real thing then you can probably afford to own a sophisticated analysis device that breaks down the molecular components of the item in question and compares it with the extensive database of templates for replicated goods. Nuance, it appears, is the difference between items that are authentic and those that are replicated. While the  majority of the population is satisfied with chicken breast that is molecularly identical to every other chicken breast, some are convinced that the missing nuance of natural process is the veritable spice of life.

Nuance, it appears, is the difference between items that are authentic and those that are replicated.

Now there is the matter of life itself. Living tissue cannot be replicated, per se; it involves a complicated process of growing tissues from duplicated DNA and knitting these tissues together into an interdependent life form. This is known as progenation (aka genning). The process is both expensive and tenuous. Many consider it to still be in the experimental stage and inhumane. Scientists believe that some of the problems with successful progenation come from the rapidity of the process. Because the genning process takes weeks rather than the decades required to form an adult human from the embryonic state, something is lost most often in the formation of the brain and it’s complex connection to the countless number of bodily and cognitive functions. Similar failures brought on by rapid cellular development were also at the core of the decision, nearly a century ago, to abandon human cloning — now thought to be barbaric.

A successfully generated adult human will have a fully developed body in every respect. The brain, however, remains an empty mass of tissue. The final phase is “brain accretion transference” (BAT), where all mental, cognitive and experiential data from the living brain, natural human donor, is transferred to a generated being. If successful, the progenation process is complete. The government reports the success rate for transference at around 50% but some leaked reports put the number as low as 1 in 20. When transference fails, the living body must be terminated. There is no way to repeat the process. Even successful progens, after years of life, can die suddenly without explanation. There are also reports, though suppressed by the government, that progens can display psychotic episodes after a number of years.

Science is working on this.

It is much easier to build a synthetic human than to grow a natural one. The booming synthetic industry is evidence of this. In a synthetic, there are separate controlling computations for processes and behaviors. There is no physical “grey matter” rather a tightly weighted and configured quantum brain for handling the countless input-output calculations. Therefore, uploading your brain into a Synth for the purpose of an identical synthetic version of yourself is commonplace. Though not at all inexpensive, many people save for years to be able to purchase their identical — those who prefer their own company to anyone else’s.

Next week, more reality challenges: Enter the V.

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