“Well it finally happened, they’re giving the vote to the fucking uploads.” A deep sigh and another drag on the vaporizer later, “That’s it, that’s the end of humanity” said Jean-Baptiste. The tall black man passed the mouthpiece to his companion.
“Oh, don’t be so melodramatic, the uploads are as human as we are. You sound like an old-timey racist.” She, much shorter and not quite so dark skinned, inhaled a hit of her own and went on “Besides, there would have been a revolution otherwise. There are what, a thousand of them for every real human these days-”
“Ha! Real human? Now who sounds like a racist!” JB cut in.
“Ha. Ha. Very clever. Now as I was saying, 10 billion biological humans just don’t have the ability to rule over 10 trillion uploads. It’s crazy we’ve been able to hold out this long. Remember it seems like this all happened suddenly, but even 5 years ago there were already 100 billion uploads.” Lucinda set down the vaporizer mouthpiece “I’m done with this, you?”
JB waved her off and Lucinda willed the vape into non-existence, disintegrating it into rapidly vanishing pixelated shards, an artifact of the era when VR software still had to take processing limitations into account. “It is different now. Five years ago most of the world’s wealth was still held by biologicals, and half the world still didn’t even recognize uploads as people. These days uploads are still a lot poorer per capita of course, but they’re 99.9% of the population, and weighted towards either people with the resources to produce a lot of copies or people with useful enough skills to keeping getting replicated.”
“Well so yeah, exactly” replied Lucinda, “How can you justify not giving them the vote?”
“Because that’s the only power biologicals had left! From now on we’re just going to be an increasingly unimportant minority. And how long do you think we’ll keep getting a so much higher citizen’s dividend?” Getting excited now, JB continued “And how can we justify it really? If everyone’s equally human like you say, why should we get 50 times more of a share of the public wealth than our fellow humans who just happen to be instantiated in silicon rather than carbon?”
Lucinda smiled and raised her eyebrows slightly, “Well, how can you justify it?”
“Because we’ll die otherwise! You can keep an upload going in the absolute lap of virtual luxury for the amount of electricity it costs to simulate their brain. Now admittedly VR means things are pretty cheap for us too, but it’s still orders of magnitude more. The population’s growing exponentially these days, pretty much as fast as they can manufacture more computers for uploads to live on. What’s going to happen when they’ve eaten everything in the solar system? It won’t take as long as you think. And once they hit that ceiling it’s Malthus all over again. The upload population will be at a subsistence level, which will be fine for them since it’s not any more expensive to give them luxury if they’re going to be alive at all, but it won’t be enough to keep one of us biologicals alive. Pretty soon it’s going to start being tough to justify spending all these resources subsidizing our whole ‘living in these big squishy bodies’ hobby. It’ll be upload or die. Or, y’know, upload and die, since the whole point is you’re not keeping the original.”
“Let’s not get into that again” said Lucinda.
“Okay, fine, fine, but let me just point out that you didn’t kill yourself the first – or last – time that you made an upload.” said JB.
“I’m just keeping my options open” said Lucinda. “It’s quite the privilege to have a biological body, I’m not going to just throw it away, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think the uploaded versions of me aren’t equally valid forks of myself. If I’d only taken that pathway rather than both, I don’t see how you could argue that I’d be dead. Just less than I am now. So maybe your nightmare scenario will come someday, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
With a shake of the head and a roll of the eyes JB responded “That’s pretty quick that you accepted the possible deaths of every one of our kind to support your current politics.”
“I guess I have a genocidal mind, what can I say? Anyway, I’ve got to get out of here – I’ve got a celebration to go to. Have fun moping about how civil rights victories are going to destroy humanity!”
JB’s responding chuckle was only beginning when an effort of Lucinda’s will caused the room they sat in to vanish around her, replaced in an instant by a jubilant crowd filling a vast simulacrum of a Roman patrician’s villa, ten times larger than the largest version of such a place ever constructed in what we’re pleased to call the real world. Roman VR settings were in this week, after some new interactive story set in the 2nd century AD blew up. Minds artificial and organic were piped in from across the world, distance having gone the way of death and human uniqueness.
Spotting a cluster of friends around an over-ornamented fountain, including one of her own uploads, Lucinda skipped over and dove into their conversation, all thoughts of humanity’s ultimate fate forgotten. The virtual sunlight was bright, the wine flavored more exquisitely than any made from grapes, and the party welcoming. At least some branches of her personality would remember this moment for eons, and remember fondly this moment of human equality long after they had ceased to be human.