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Upload Is the Latest Show Treating the Afterlife as Simulation – Observer

Posted: May 31, 2020 at 11:49 am

Greg Daniels new Amazon Prime Video series Uploadturns the afterlife into a very familiar place. In the show, Nathan (Robbie Amell) is uploaded to a sort of Four Seasons deluxe V.R. estate after he suffers a fatal car crash. He can still call and chat with his living friends and family, but can never leave the digital afterlife program that serves as his version of heaven.

Upload presents a less than perfect take of the afterlife. Aside from being unable to go back to a physical body, Nathans seemingly perfect, high-end resort ends up playingmore like a freemium game, complete with DLCs for food, clothing and loot boxes. Its basically The Good Place by way of Parasite.

Though Upload is far from the first TV show to take place in the afterlifethat was The Good Places bread and butter after allthe Greg Daniels comedy is also part of a recent wave of TV shows using computer simulations to give us a glimpse into heavenand they usually end up about as scary and bad as youd expect.

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The dark comedy, sci-fi show Black Mirror first explored the idea of the afterlife as a simulated reality in San Junipero which ends with a shot of a massive warehouse filled with thousands upon thousands of blinking hard drives, presumably housing all the residents of San Junipero. Though this afterlife is full of 80s nostalgia and endless parties, the show does ask the question of whether a simulated reality version of you is really you, which is a question that always comes up in this type of story. Similarly, before he explored what the robot uprising could look like in Westworld, Jonathan Nolan showed us what it could look like if a machine knew enough about us to make a copy of our minds in Person of Interest.

Though not a big part of the show, after one of the main characters in Person of Interest dies, the artificial intelligence at the center of the show starts speaking with the voice of the dead character, and takes on part of their personality. The shows explanation is that the machine remembers all the main characters and knows everything about them, so it can replicate them as perfect simulations, essentially letting them live forever.

Upload doesnt try to hide the fact that its afterlife, and its inhabitants, are at best a computer interpretation of what humans are. In the first episode of the show, a customer service representative named Nora (Andy Allo) builds Nathans virtual avatar as she downloads all his memories into the virtual afterlife. The problem comes when some of the memories seem to be corrupted, however, which becomes a big part of the shows plot. Similarly, it seems like you cant ever alter your avatar, as Nathan tries across a few episodes to change the weird haircut Nora chose for him, unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, one of the resorts residents died as a kid, but never grows up in the afterlife, even if his siblings and friends kept getting old in the outside world. The people inside Uploads afterlife turns people into essentially pieces of data, which can be paused, altered and completely erased at the push of a button.

Season 2 of Westworld spent some time exploring the flaws and futility of using technology to achieve immortality. The show reveals that the purpose of the titular park was to gather data on guests in order to copy the consciousness of billionaire guests and build them robot bodies so they could live forever. The season 2 episode The Riddle of the Sphinx introduces a host version of the parks owner, James Delos (Peter Mullan), but only its faulty, barely capable of speech and incapable of going off-script orthinking like an actual person.

The shows version of the afterlife, The Forge, takes 18 million virtual versions of Delos before it found a copy faithful enough to recreate the decisions the real Delos made in the park, and then even after 149 host versions were produced, it was still far from a perfect simulation. Even if Westworld argues that even if human beings are so simple beings that we amount to just about 10,000 lines of code, the Delos project is still never able to produce a host copy thats true to the original human.

Alex Garland imagines a similar nightmarish afterlife for his sci-fi drama Devs, which involves a plan to have people, more specifically just one rich Silicon Valley guy, live forever in a simulation. In the show, Forest (Nick Offerman) builds a quantum computer to create a fully simulated universe where his loved ones dont die and his consciousness can be transferred to before dying. In the final episode, Forest rejoins his wife and daughter in his version of heaven, but while he seems very happy with his situation, Forest confesses that his original plan to create a single reality was a failure.

Instead, the quantum computer created countless multiverses, the one we see allows the characters to live happily ever after, but Forest knows there are countless versions of him existing in the countless other simulations, many of which look more like hell. Though the show doesnt spend a lot of time with the specifics of how the consciousness transfer works, it is heavily implied that this also is the machines interpretation of the characters consciousness via countless calculations, rather than an actual uploading process.

We dont yet know when or if well be able to upload our minds into a computer, or what the results might be. But if it looks anything like TV,eternal life will probably look a hell of a lot like regular life, including all its existential questions and economic problems.

Observation Pointsis a semi-regular discussion of key details in our culture.

Upload is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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Upload Is the Latest Show Treating the Afterlife as Simulation - Observer

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith