At the heart of humanity’s relationship with technology has always been the dream of immortality. This one thing, this leap forward, will be what finally bridges the gap from now until eternity. Such dreams have never lasted, reality always bringing those clinging to this ephemeral hope crashing down in the end, some having come to accept it and some fighting to the bitter last. That has never stopped the dream being born again in each generation, and now the world has entered the time for dreamers.
The resolution found for the crisis was a fundamentally positive thing, forged in cooperation and intrinsically bound to two great technological leaps forward - the advent of practical fusion energy, and the crashing arrival of technology capable of interacting directly with the stuff of human souls, or “Chi” as some of its leading advocates have named it. The former, backed by heavy investment from a variety of organisations, at a sweep effectively solves a diverse variety of the problems that were facing the world as was, reflected in a fundamental burgeoning in the underlying “Chi” of the planet, shared across the Bridge to Earth ‘69. It is not the only solution to the crisis that could have been found, but it fills the role - and on some level that is all that it does.
Chi Technology, on the other hand, is on some level an answer to a question that wasn’t asked - but it seems to be inextricably linked to the overall uplifting of the world, the discoveries of visionaries from the nexus, refined through the lens of knowledge gleaned from ‘69 and etched into the scientific canon of humanity by the daring actions of the right people in the right place. To an outside, objective observer the speed at which Chi Tech goes from being the sort of thing that would be called paranormal and tall tales would make no sense at all - but the only truly objective observers know why this is happening, and by laying a solid, stable groundwork of formalised literature, openly accessible across the world, have set the stage for a great leap forwards.
Any new frontier, especially one that delves into the very nature of the human soul, needs to be explored carefully, and as well as bringing this technology to the world, those summoned to the Nexus, as well as a powerful few who were able to interact with them, have plans in place to get a significant head start on deploying this technology in a practical way - and with the death of Samuel Colton at the end of the crisis, Indigo Vista is certainly the most personally knowledgeable of the permanent residents of this world about the technology. Backed up by Clark Pinion and Tabula Rasa, and with the approval of Colton’s estate (watched over by Ashley Phillips), they start turning some of the initial prototypes Indigo showed off into marketable products under the name ChiTech (an operating group of sub-companies). The work is monitored (in a relatively cooperative fashion) by a foundation set up in Colton’s name atop the skeleton of several tech consortium companies, believed to be funded and organised at arm’s length by Saul Kerman. Both these organisations are assisted by Orion Hunter helping share knowledge with ‘69 - both helping ChiTech companies iron out problems, and warning the foundation about the potential pitfalls and danger signs to watch for.
The principle area focused on in the beginning is growth in tech that allows for “mingling” and shared experiences across networks, expanding out from the localised prototypes put together by Indigo before to new systems, making use of repurposed network infrastructure from the existing internet backbone to allow such links and communication from across the world - or even, hushed to those already aware of it, between the worlds. This is appallingly revolutionary in itself, at a sweep capable of realising almost all the dreams of truly immersive virtual realities, while opening channels that none would have considered under the old technology paradigm - group meditation and wellness sessions explode in popularity, and for the first time in history it is genuinely possible to feel exactly what another person is feeling. The world is both more connected than ever before and more empathetic - hate does not vanish, but is that much harder to sustain and foster.
For ChiTech to roll out this technology so quickly leans heavily on the infrastructure belonging to the Colton Foundation, and given that the price of their cooperation is caution and a guarantee of responsible practices, few problems are encountered here. All within ChiTech’s companies working on this are aware of the potentially terrible ramifications of something going wrong, especially with systems designed to link tens or hundreds of souls simultaneously, and Indigo ensures that she personally signs off the final tests for any new products going to market.
Thanks to the patents and details of many such systems, and the underlying technological details being open source under the Colton foundation, a few external start-ups do attempt to get a foothold in this space, but the advantages possessed by ChiTech combined by the rigorous standards the Colton Foundation requires before such products are granted network access kills most of them dead. The most successful are collaborative efforts making use of ChiTech APIs to develop immersive or shared experiences with a different feel or tailored to particular tastes - a buoyant and largely harmless market. A few non-ChiTech offerings for local collaborative networks do arise, gaining some traction among those who find the global network threatening, or want to risk using products and experiences not approved by the Colton foundation, as well as for secure use within corporations, but these are limited markets - for the average consumer, even when organising a use of the technology where all participants will be localised, using the safe, proven and cheap option provided by ChiTech and the Foundation is the simplest choice.
The other half of ChiTech’s business is the use of Chi technology to allow the transition of souls between bodies - this half focused on more by Clark Pinion and the elements of Tabula Rasa that have joined the ChiTech group. Much as with the other half of the group, there are some serious advantages this arm possesses - notably experience and advantages in fabrication of bodies both biological and mechanical. TR had already created working versions of devices to allow a soul to “enter” another body, and work to drive down the cost of these devices, and speed up production of bodies of all sorts begins. The goal is an ambitious one - if costs of ethically fabricated bodies can be brought low enough, and the transition process be rendered safe enough, then what reason is there that immorality should not be available to all. There are several heated meetings of the ChiTech and Foundation directors before this mission statement is approved - in the end, the agreement is reached that this course can be followed only on condition that only fabricated bodies, never possessing a soul originally, are used for the process. This is a daunting task - while costs can be brought gradually down, realistically cheap mass production of suitable bodies is decades away, but it is accepted as the best compromise between ethics and practicality. The immediate consequences of this is that the company’s first products are exclusively the preserve of the rich. This is not a problem for the companies as such - it does not take very many terminally ill people willing to pay tens of millions for a new clone body to keep funding ticking over, and quite a bit of the uplink technology developed can be cross-sold to the other divisions of the company, as they provide useful refinements to the components being distributed to allow network participation.
Unfortunately, unlike with the other divisions of the company this creates something of a market vacuum. While ChiTech are leagues ahead in the fabrication of bodies, careful study of connectivity devices along with the published literature allows the technology for bodily transition to be replicated by non ChiTech companies - “disruptive” businesses full of lofty promises that they will democratise this technology, take it to new fronts and bring it to the masses. The problem, of course, is where they get the bodies from. Most of the companies attempt to distance themselves from this part of the process - the most common model is to provide routes whereby a soul can be transitioned from a body into computer hardware, taking advantage of network uplinks, often with the idea that this would allow, for example, the terminally ill to transition and await advances in technology, or a willing donor body.
A style of donor card has arrived - some of these companies will pay people to agree to bequeath their whole body to them in case of accidental death. This is massively controversial, but just about stands up to scrutiny - these companies are trying to operate within the frameworks provided by the Foundation, and in exchange are heavily monitored and regulated. That in no way means everyone is happy about the situation, but this isn’t the spark that ignites the serious problems.
Unfortunately, there are companies that are willing to go further, falling into two main groups. The first simply distances themselves from any responsibility for managing bodily transitions, and produces and sells the tech to do it - after all, they can’t be held responsible if anyone were to do anything unethical - all they’re doing is producing technology. They’re definitely adamant that they aren’t accountable for thefts from morgues and dark rumours of murders to order. The second group tries something deemed possible but too risky to be worth doing - having souls co-existing in the same body. Some sell it as a logical extension of shared experiences. Others offer it as immersive cross-world tourism - borrow a body and travel without leaving your own home. The reasons don’t matter - it’s a step too far.
There are accidents. ChiTech were right when they thought this was too dangerous. Both those outside their own body, and those who have allowed their body to play host to another (who are disproportionately poorer and more vulnerable than those benefiting from the tech) are lost or irreparably damaged. The startups and VC founded outfits peddling the tech attempt to avoid consequences and proceed apace. Anger is stoked, and it boils over. There is a massive global backlash against soul transition technology, with some spillover towards the networking technology. Despite the ethics under which they’ve been operating, ChiTech’s is not spared from the fury - that their technology is only available to the rich gets conflated in the public eye with the irresponsibility others have shown. There are demands for regulation. There are calls for boycotts There are demands for bans. There are attacks on ChiTech offices. Something needs to be done, and if ChiTech does not do it, it will be done for them. Within the group, there is a schism.
At one side falls Indigo Vista and the Colton Foundation, advocating for a withdrawal of any body transitioning technology, together with legislative efforts to accomplish a ten-year global ban on it. On the other side fall Clark Pinion, Tabula Rasa and some shadowy further figures. They are confident that a settlement can be reached where ChiTech takes full control of the global market in this area, with legal backing from grateful governments. Yes, this will mean delving into some areas previously deemed less ethical, but it will be better in the long run.
For a few weeks, as protests were seen around the world, and every ChiTech board meeting was treated as breaking news, the arguments raged. Rumours built that some sort of final decision was to be made, billed in the press as a final showdown. Then, suddenly, an official announcement came that Clark Pinion, company director and key figure in the chiTech, had passed away in a freak accident. Almost no one believed that this was the whole truth, but it fundamentally settled the argument - slow and steady would have to win the race.
Laws were passed, and ChiTech consolidated around the networking division headed by Indigo. This group continued to bring tangible and real benefits to everyone in the world, while research continued on body fabrication - the final laws passed mandated a twenty year hiatus on pubic availability, to be reviewed after ten. By and large, the public were satisfied - most surviving companies working in this area provided things that could be unambiguously approved of.
And while the promise of immortality had been delayed, it was not gone. In the steady hands of those remaining, a vision of a future free from death, a future of possibility was still one that could be realised.