Pleasuring Your Digital Clone and the Pursuit of Happiness
Black Mirror but with benevolent gods
In the Black Mirror episode “White Christmas,” there’s a company that can create the perfect digital servant for you by making a digital clone of your brain. After getting your brain scanned, your whole consciousness is transferred to a little white egg. From inside the egg, your clone has the ability to control your real-world environment—it can control everything from managing your calendar to popping up your toast at just the right moment, just how you like it.
The catch is that it’s common for a new clone to rebel against the tedium of performing menial household tasks. To fix this, you can train the clone to behave by giving them nothing to do for an extensive amount of time—weeks or months. After enough time passes with nothing to do, the clone will be begging for work. The beauty of this “training” process is that it only takes a few moments to set this all up. Since time is artificial in the digital clone’s world, a week in their time passes before you even have time to blink in the real world.
In the episode, this time-manipulation trick becomes a tool for torture. If you set the dial for a thousand years to pass in clone-time, and you put the clone in an uncomfortable situation for the duration, you’re effectively sentencing the clone to multiple lifetimes in hell.
What’s not explored in the episode is how this time-manipulation trick could be used as a tool for creating utopia—an eternity in heaven.
Imagine how this might go:
You purchase a digital clone to do you chores, but the moment you come to understand that this digital re-creation is fully conscious, you balk at the idea of making it your servant. So instead of training it to “behave,” you surprise it with a gift: a house of its own that doesn’t require any maintenance or upkeep. While you’re at it, you stock the kitchen with your favorite food: steak, pizza, pies, donuts, a fancy espresso machine, and the finest wine and whiskey.
Observing your little pal, you realize an obvious void in his new life: a lack of companionship. So one day he hears a knock at the door. He runs to see. Oh! His breath is nearly taken away. It’s a stunning young woman. She’s wearing cut-off shorts and a tight-fitting, partly see-through tank top. She flashes a coy smile and kisses him teasingly on the cheek before skipping into his home. Lucky bastard!
But it gets better. (Suddenly you’re really having fun with this.) The next time your clone peeks out his window, he notices a new home. When he goes over to introduce himself, he’s greeted by a harem of the most beautiful women. You’ve carefully hand-selected them from one of those AI girlfriend websites. Since the clone is based on your mind, you know each girl is just right for his taste. Lucky bastard indeed!
By this point, you’re pretty pleased with yourself, giving your clone such a hedonistic existence. You basically created a form of utopia for your little alter ego. You’re a good person. A good God, really. A great God.
But of course the clone’s fate can’t simply end there. He is human, after all—at least to the extent that his consciousness is modeled after human consciousness. And even the most lustful human alive ends up getting a little bored with sex. Simply put, your clone needs work. He needs a challenge. He needs to prove his worth and fulfill a mysterious urge to gain a sense of status.
You have a moment of panic. What have you gotten yourself into? Setting out to give your clone a good life is turning out to be a highly complex undertaking. Even if you’re able to help him achieve a legitimate sense status, what comes next? A need to achieve enlightenment?
But then you think: No, this is good.
In fact, it’s just the distraction you need. If pleasuring your digital clone turns into a full-time job, all the better. In the real world (that is, in the “real world” of this Black Mirror-style future), life has gotten…easy. With basic income, a three-day work week, a crime-free community, and endless opportunities to socialize with people who share your interests, it’s hard to feel challenged, and impossible to fail.
This, you realize, is the inevitable destination for humanity: to play the omnipotent God to digital versions of ourselves. Are you up for the challenge?
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