For millennia, mankind has dreamed of living forever. While the Greek gods supped on ambrosia to gain immortality, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, died from the mercury he consumed chasing it. Today, though, technology has changed our sense of what is possible. It’s commonplace to see vast amounts of data stored on portable hard drives or in the cloud. So what if a human brain — its memories and its consciousness — could be converted into digital bytes and stored? What would that technological version of the afterlife look like?
Nathan is about to find out in Upload, a new show from Amazon Prime Video and veteran TV showrunner Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks & Rec). Set in the near future of 2033 (where yeah, people still wear blue jeans), mind uploading technology has given people a chance to live on in a digital afterlife. If someone chooses to upload — and can pay the hefty bill for the service — the contents of their mind are collected and then placed within a huge network of other uploaded people in a digital continuation of life. This digital afterlife sounds like Qin Shi Huang’s kind of place!
But on the show and in reality, mind uploading technology raises a host of difficult ethical questions. Should access to a luxurious digital afterlife only be available to people who can afford brain uploading technology? And what cost limits that access? After all, it’s difficult to say what the market value is for avoiding slipping into the void, but thousands of years of human pursuit seems like a good indicator. Money aside, what about the relationship between the living and the uploaded — what do they owe to each other?
In the world of Upload, a post-body Nathan has to confront all these questions and more with the help of a beautiful (but live-bodied) girlfriend, a fellow uploadee with some serious reality issues, and a unique kind of customer service representative. Watch the show on Amazon Prime Video on May 1st to get a glimpse of (one version of) heaven.