People are afraid of dying. It is just the terrifying pressure of the unknown and the aspect of being torn from something that one is comfortable with and presumably being thrust into a completely new form of existence.
Mostly, this was wrong. People just stopped when they died. The mind, which is the emergent function of the brain, deactivates and all that a person really just stopped from existing.
Thus, death had an irrevocable hold on people. Thus, the last act of any human being was always spelt with a capital ‘D’. It was never death but Death.
The last equaliser, the be all and end all of human existence. And, almost no rational human would liken death as a beginning of anything else except an eternity of ‘no longer existing’.
As Science (always capital S) gained popularity, more by dint of religions failing to explain anything remotely similar to the basic truths of the universe and people, than any effort on part of actual scientists and people having no other substitute started ‘believing’ in science.
Well, they were much more comfortable with this than expected because well… science got tangible results.
Worship, Faith and all of that… not very repeatable. A miracle by definition is something that is unique, strange, unexplainable and at the whim of something that is beyond the laws of our universe.
Humans as species were not very smart. Let us face it, whoever comes with the concept of any kind of system that is so transparently based on the desires of the people proposing it and taking it to ridiculous ends can’t be really expected to do well.
All major religions (and almost all minor ones, at least the ones that had more than one follower) had some form of middlemen (and more than just the occasional women) popularly termed as ‘priests’,’god(wo)men’, ‘Shamans’, ‘Gurus’ and any number of terms that could be found in a good thesaurus.
There was only one aim that all of these had. That was to make sure people followed them in life in return for the completely empty promise of having a better ‘life’ after ‘death’.
Irony apart, this did not bode well for us as a species and the few individuals who could think with more than 2 brain cells together realised this. They started questioning stuff. It did not make them popular with their compatriots but made them legends in the years to come.
The little good that did them notwithstanding, these were scientists. It would be a lie to call them more intelligent than the rest of humanity. Mostly because intelligence is yet to be quantified.
It would be better to call them ‘sensible’. Because, as everyone knows, ‘sense’ is not something that everyone is born with.
But certain people with sense tend to be successful in miscellaneous applications of it and can provide objective demonstrations of this.
This always leads someone with a certain bent of mind to explore this area of human endeavour and thus, science advances.
So, in the year 2276, Science won and finally, religion was relegated to the places it should have long relocated to, fantasy and history. In this year, the problem of human consciousness was solved and done so very elegantly by a large conglomerate of scientists.
They successfully recorded a human mind and housed it in a substrate that was NOT the original housing for it. i.e. the brain.
Coupled with this discovery, the development of ‘artificial’ that is, non-organic minds leapt ahead and thus, we had truly conscious minds which were definitely not the product of any sort of divinity. Imagine any god that creates a mind that disproves the existence of its creator. Among other things, that would be deeply hurtful. With the arrival of minds far more powerful than human beings at certain tasks, religion lost its power. The new minds, termed popularly as Artificial Intelligences or AIs, managed the earth. To everyone’s surprise, they were not in the least bit interested in enslaving humanity. It was not clear what they thought of us, as they were so alien to us.
Imagine trying to figure out what your dog ‘thinks’ of you. Apart from a sense of ‘here is where the food and hugs come from’ you can’t get much else in the way of postulating. Now imagine the same dog but being proficient in topology and higher dimensional geometry and THEN try to figure out what they are thinking about you.
It turned out that AIs were not that superhuman after all because they were excellent at only certain things. Creativity, Imagination and surprisingly Delusion were not on that list. So humans gave the management of their home planet ‘Earth’ over to the superbly equipped AI and thus solved the problems of, population, pollution and even governance completely.
Since AI by definition is not a human intelligence and incapable of understanding the human version of ‘dominance’, ‘control’ or ‘sovereignty’, they treated all humans as equals for application of a list of fundamental rights.
Thus politicians, religious leaders and all people of a sociological bent were rendered useless. Because everyone knows that only if someone if dissatisfied, would they turn to god, drink or in the worst cases to date, politics. Remove the dissatisfaction and well, you just have a lot of people with time on their hands thinking thoughts that would achieve them the unenviable position of being laughed at and trolled on the internet.
But, the human mind is a wonderful thing. When free of all problems, the mind strives to conjure up some more so that it has something to do. AIs were good at computation but horrible when it came to creativity ( well at least human creativity), enterprising individuals decided to use AIs for the creation of virtual environments for entertainment. It goes without saying that soon, the entertainments devolved into orgies, violent and depraved fantasies of violence and lust.
But, apart from the dark side of humanity being expressed through unbridled indulgence in the privacy of one’s mind (or in groups as and when the mood took one), full immersion games were developed which became a huge component of one’s daily entertainment.Right from working out in fantastic gyms that could only exist in the imaginations, to attending talk shows accompanied by supermodels, the variety was endless.
And, it was at this point in time, 2291 to be precise, one extremely bright young lady realised that death need not be spelt with a ‘D’ after all.