Monday, November 18, 2013

322: Soulless

ENTRY 322: Soulless

"What am I now?"
- Harold Meson, after resleeving

Every transhuman believes in something that they can't see. Atoms, distant stars, the shadows on the cave, there is always something that they accept as existing, even if they haven't personally experienced it, or if they have seen it than not able to trust their senses. Even people who believe in scientific research and evidence have limited educations and perspectives; even the most critical have to accept some things, if not on faith, than as a matter of convenience. The true test of a transhuman's adherence to their beliefs is how they react when those beliefs are challenged. Some slip into denial, others try to rationalize it away, a few re-examine their beliefs and may even change them. Yet it is an individual process for every transhuman, something that everyone has to deal with on their own, in their own way.

Millions of transhumans still believe in the soul. Some attribute this to the core teachings and dogmas of religions old and new, others have a more vague notion of a spiritual self. The "invisible you" has gotten complicated in a time of resleeving, forking, and AGIs, and viewpoints on what these developments mean with regards to the concept of the soul have been multifarious and often divisive. Pseudoscience-cultists claim that the self is a form of meta-data, carried and copied and split between forks; most Catholics claim that the soul is tied to the physical body, and disapprove of resleeving and ego-manipulation; some Hindus and Buddhists claim resleeving is a form of realized reincarnation, though opinions are divided on the effects of this on karma. Yet it is one thing to espouse or study these beliefs and something else again to internalize and live them, to act on their certainty. So what happens when you resleeve a devout Catholic who believes the soul does not continue on past the death of their physical body?

The soulless are those transhumans who held - or sometimes, still hold - belief in the existence of the soul, and that it does not continue when an ego resleeves or forks. They are faced then with an intimate test of self and faith: what are they, that continues to think and feel and exist? Some adapt their beliefs to their new situation, and there are no shortage of sects of those in like situations willing to accept them. Others reject their old beliefs, and become rather lost in themselves and what to do as they explore outside their old paradigms. Some accept their status in stranger ways; the Jovian Republic is said to have a hospital with an entire ward of "living corpses" - transhumans that believe so firmly that they are dead, that they do not move or talk in any way. Most transhumans are unlikely to encounter those comatose victims of their own beliefs, but are likely to encounter the "walking corpses" - those individuals that think of themselves as just digital echoes, unnatural soulless things that continue to move and think and influence the world. Some rage at their status, the heaven or reincarnation they believe was denied to them; others accept that this is the only world they will know, and work to make of it a heaven. A few commit suicide, erasing themselves, unwilling to face existence without a soul.

Socially, soulless must deal with the relations with their old communities, families, and friends, many of whom probably held the same beliefs that they did before resleeving or forking. Some find acceptance, most face rejection, epecially in habitats and legal systems that do not recognize them as the same person - in an instance, the soulless lose their property, family, and social support network. New soulless often fall into the outskirts of their societies, where there exist predators designed for them - agents, career managers, and headhunters eager to guide them into indentured contract employment; communal property sects that seek to see to their emotional needs, but are little better in terms of not exploiting the talents of their members. A few manage to access enough old accounts to sustain themselves, or find their feet and build new lives for themselves.

Using Soulless

Science fiction is not about technology; sci fi is about the questions that arise from science, how new developments impact the human story. Eclipse Phase as a science fiction setting where these questions can be played out - and maybe your table finds the answers that work for them, or maybe they do not. The Soulless are a concept for players and gamemasters to employ if they want to explore elements of belief and transhuman ego technology. There is no right or correct way to play a Soulless, whether as a PC or NPC; the details of any character's beliefs regarding the ego and the soul are often unique to them. Most transhumans get along fine without asking those questions; materialists think the concept of the immaterial soul is ridiculous, or at least unprovable. Whatever the players or gamemasters personal beliefs, Soulless characters can be a great way to introduce these philosophical concepts to their game - although in both cases, GMs and players should beware of preaching their personal beliefs at the table. Remember, the point is to have fun, not to convert anybody.

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