Forrest Cameranesi: Geek of all Trades

(4x11) Life in Another World: Part 1, Episode 2

Over the decades that people have been spending in virtuality – some people like Xiuying having literally no life outside it, and others like Tom only figuratively having no life – some users have started to come up against limitations on the possibilities afforded by what was supposed to be a limitless paradise. Most notably, some users, like Tom in his female alter-ego as Tamara, want to have children in Virtuality, either just because Virtuality is where they live, or because they are physically unable to do so outside of it, whether because (like Xiu) they don't exist outside of it, or because (like Tom) they are physically unable to have children outside of it.

This desire has long raised hairy questions about what minds would go into such virtual babies. One proposal long floated was to give reincarnating users the option to reincarnate into someone else's virtual baby. Everybody but a few proponents have been generally squeamish of that idea though: those who would want to become someone else's baby are widely shamed by the general populace, those who want children are seriously weirded out by the idea of their baby actually being some other adult person in a virtual baby body, and most educated people, including the Virtuality team, have raised serious ethical concerns about the implied mind-wipe and whether that would constitute real death of the "reincarnated" person.

With the growing virtual personhood movement, however, questions begin to be raised about why not to simply create new virtual people to be people's virtual babies. While that seems to exactly fit the bill of what the people seeking virtual babies want, and it brings none of the squeamishness of the other proposed solution, the Virtuality team are hesitant to implement it because of the slippery slope it creates to recognizing all of the AI characters as persons, or else the other way around, creating what are effectively real human minds not legally recognized as persons.

Instead, a third solution is devised, and begins development. They will develop a way for users to fork their own avatars as virtual children. It will be a memory-erased copy of their own mind in a virtual infant's body that they give birth to. That way, it is still just a real human mind, and avoids the slippery slope issues with virtual characters, but it's not some weird adult becoming someone else's baby. They will just be their parent's literal children of the mind.

Next: Life in Another World: Part 1, Episode 3