In the year 2064 Jim and Emily Lawson were enjoying the third year of their marriage, which seemed to be going well, even though Emily was worried that her husband might be having an affair with a holographic mistress. On one evening Jim asked Emily to sit down on the couch with him, so they could have a serious talk.
“So you want a serious talk?” said Emily. “Oh God, don't tell me – are you fooling around with a holographic mistress?”
“No, it's not that at all,” said Jim.
“Is it a real flesh-and-blood mistress?” asked Emily.
“No, it's not that either,” said Jim. “It's something deeper. I'm dissatisfied with our marriage.”
“How have I failed you?” asked Emily, crying.
“You haven't,” said Jim. “It's just that I'm dissatisfied with a physical existence in general.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Emily, baffled.
“Haven't you heard about the new thing that's so fashionable?” asked Jim. “It's mind uploading. They connect your brain to some scanner, and then they upload your mind to a big supercomputer. The scanning ruins your brain, but you live inside the computer which received your mind upload. You can then enjoy a wonderful virtual reality better than real life. And it lasts forever.”
“So who's stopping you?” said Emily. “You can wait until you have terminal cancer, and then do that.”
“No, I want to do it now,” said Jim. “Why be stuck in this run-of-the-mill physical existence, when you can have so much fun living in a computer-generated reality in which your every fantasy comes true instantly?”
Emily was shocked by her husband's decision. Jim arranged for a quickie divorce, taking advantage of the laws passed in the 2030's, laws which allowed you to divorce in only a month. Later Jim told Emily that he had arranged for his mind to be uploaded into a computer. The work would be done by a company called Silicon Paradises, Inc.
The company sent Emily a holographic telegram telling her that the mind upload had been done successfully, and that Jim had progressed to a life of eternal computer-generated pleasure. The company told Emily she could even talk to her ex-husband, by visiting the offices of Silicon Paradises, Inc.
A month later, Emily decided to take advantage of the offer. She visited the impressive offices of the mind upload company.
Entering the offices, Emily was taken into an office with a large screen. On the screen she saw Jim's face. Behind him was some strange computer-generated landscape.
“Jim, is that you?” asked Emily.
“You bet it is!” said the smiling face on the screen. “I sure am glad I had my mind uploaded into a computer. I'm having such fun. It's like being in Disney World every day. But there's one thing missing. You aren't here.”
“So you miss me?” asked Emily.
“I miss you like crazy,” said the face on the screen. “Why don't you sign a contract with the mind upload company, the same company you're at now. They can upload your mind into the same computer as mine. Then we can enjoy eternity together.”
Emily had mixed feelings about the offer. It sounded exciting, but it seemed dangerous. But she finally reasoned that if Jim was so happy, she would be happy too. So she went back to the company and signed a contract, choosing April 17 as the day of her mind upload. The contract specified that all of Emily's money would go to the mind upload company.
The fateful day arrived, and Emily nervously went to the Upload Center at the mind upload company. People at the company had her lie on a bed, and told her to relax. While she was lying on a bed, they used some fancy cameras to photograph her. It was almost like having X-rays taken. Emily was puzzled by why the people asked her to smile while the fancy camera was photographing her.
While lying on the bed, alone in the room, Emily got cold feet. She began to feel afraid, unsettled by the thought of the coming end of her physical existence. So she walked out of the room. She walked down the hall, and was startled by what she saw in one of the nearby rooms.
Inside the room was a man. The room had a large screen, and on it she could see a body that looked just like hers. The body was talking.
“I sure am glad I had my mind uploaded into a computer,” the body said. “I'm having such fun. It's like being in Disney World every day.”
Emily was startled. It was just what Jim had said. But now it was coming from a face that looked just like hers. And they hadn't even uploaded her mind yet.
“What the hell is going on?” said Emily. “How can you have a video of me saying that? I never said that.”
The man in the room had a kind of “caught red-handed” look. He then confessed the truth.
“Looks like you're on to us, so I'll spill the beans,” the man said. “The truth is: we don't really upload minds to computers. We just kill the people who pay for mind uploads.”
Emily put her hand over her mouth.
“You see it works like this,” explained the man. “Before we kill one of the persons who paid for a mind upload, we do a photographic scan that allows us to create a 3D CGI image replication of that person. We have that 3D image thing hooked up to some chat-bot software. So it's easy to create a computer-generated 3D image that looks just like the person who requested the mind upload. After we've got that person's money and killed him, we use the chat-bot 3D image to lure in new customers. That way it's easy to lure in relatives and friends of the poor slob who paid for a mind upload, but only got a bullet in the head and a cremation. Those relatives and friends are our next victims.”
“So my Jim is really just dead?” sobbed Emily.
“Just like you'll be soon,” said the man, calling in some co-workers.
They were about to kill Emily until she stopped them cold by telling them she was wearing a necklace miniature video camera, and that she had been live-streaming on the Internet everything that had happened since she entered the office.
A manager at the mind upload company put on a fake smile, and tried to pretend it was all just a misunderstanding.
“My colleague was just joking when he told you that we don't really upload minds,” said the manager. “I'll have to fire him for making such stupid jokes. Come back tomorrow, and we'll get this all straightened out, so that you're a happy customer.”
Emily came back to the company the next day, but she came with two police officers and a detective. But the policemen were unable to make any arrest. When they reached the offices of the mind upload company, they found the offices had been hastily vacated. All of the files and the computers had vanished. All that was left lying around was some office furniture, and a company sign that proclaimed:
Don't worry about your eternity ending – our company will be around forever.