Are You Backed Up?

I have often been struck by the parallel between religious terminology about salvation and the ways we talk about digital data: in terms of being “saved. And there are those who hope to achieve longer life, if not ultimately eternal life, by making a backup copy of their mind that can be transferred to a computer, or better still an artificial body. It’s a staple of science fiction, and even gets a mention in an episode of Friends.

Could you see conservative Christians of the future asking people “Are you backed up?” instead of “Are you saved?” – adopting a newer metaphor? Would you consider a backup copy of yourself as eternal life for you, or merely a copy of you? And if there are an infinite number of universes, would the fact that somewhere a version of you always exists provide the same comfort?

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  • Gary

    I think I need a good defragging. That’s got to be in Leviticus someplace.

  • TrevorN

    Donna Noble has been saved.

    • James Walker

      easily one of the creepiest episodes. EVER. =)

  • $41348855

    If there are infinitely many universes then there are infinitely many copies of each of us. This may be a comforting thought for Richard Carrier but it isn’t for me.

    There seems to be a problem here for any Christian theology that rejects dualism but looks forward to eternal life through a physical resurrection. If there is a resurrection of the body then the new body will just be a copy, and if there can be one copy then there can be more copies. In what sense is the individual preserved? The only way round this would be to postulate some sort of soul that can preserve the identity of the individual, but this also seems to raise difficulties.

  • Plutosdad

    Most Christians I know, including my Catholic parents, think this is somehow disgusting and a violation of God’s order. According to them we are supposed to die and go to heaven.

    I, however, am more than willing to put this off. If it is a non-destructive brain scan then I am all for it. If it is destructive (the brain won’t survive) then I might wait until I am terminally ill.

    I just finished Ian M. Bank’s Surface Detail, where he postulates some people will go as far as to create Hell virtual realities to punish those they think deserve to be punished. The frightening thing was those who thought this was a good idea used the same defenses of hell as people do now. We need eternal punishment to “keep people in line”. But in those worlds it was other humans who decided who goes to hell. I can definitely see it happening, looking around at our “new jim crow’ prison system that starts them young and offers no compassion whatsoever (I just got done reading Michelle Alexander’s book the New Jim Crow). How much easier will it be to torment those that live in computers.

    So .. that book alone really put me off the idea.

    • James Walker

      if capital punishment has zero deterrent effect on murder rates, and neither long nor short term confinement in prison has any measurable effect on the rates of other crimes, why on earth do we imagine that an “eternal punishment” in Hell would deter anyone from sinning?

      the answer is – we don’t care. we just want people to be punished. something in our nature cries out for it. we try to blame “forces of darkness” for the evil in the world but we don’t seem to realize it’s us. it’s all us.

  • James Walker

    I think the Evangelical Christian emphasis on being “backed up” is a terrible distraction from what Christianity is all about. I find myself wishing the Jonathan Edwards-es and such from the “Great Awakening” had focused on teaching their congregations how to be better vessels for God’s Love in their daily lives than on the whole “sinners going to hell” trope. SMH

    • histrogeek

      Well, the Second Great Awakening kind of did do that, although it’s probably better understood as creating a society that is better in line with God’s commands.

  • The interesting thing is that if I don’t exist, I won’t mind not existing. This gives me all the comfort I need 🙂