2136: Meki gets a job as a stewardess assisting cryofrozen individuals adapt to 22nd-century life.
Vyver Corporation is responsible for this. Meki loves watching denizens of the past wake up in the present. It's sorta magical. These are people who passed on a century or even two centuries ago with the hope that a future civilization could assist them. Technology from back then was so primitive and impossibly useless compared to what her society has now. She wonders about what the world was like back then sometimes.
In 2145, she helps a man who died in 1993 get used to modern life— John Paul Ciserano. She learns about him, about how he was the son of a businessman who paid $800,000 to be frozen following a severe illness virtually unknown in her time but greatly feared back then: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, better known as AIDS. She personally can't fathom the idea of living (and dying) in the 1990s. She talks to co-worker, Salamasina "Jex" Vinn, discussing the '90s. Both of them are '90s girls... but not the one this man experienced. Strange to think he died almost a full century before they were born. All that he's missed in his time departed! John Paul Ciserano first days reanimated are full of moaning and slow movements. He needs some time for rehabilitation. Cryonics were not always as refined as they are now. These days, one could simply use molecular nanotech to "switch off" the brain and switch it on later, or uploading the brain into a synthetic substrate via switching it into an anadigital computer cell-by-cell. Before the 2040s, all of this was impossible. Cryonics in the 2030s are recognizable, but moving back from there, it seems as if cryonics was the equivalent of turning humans into ice cubes and stuffing them into freezers with the intent of holding them in front of open flames and expecting them to magically return to life.
In the 1990s? Before the 21st century even began? Good lord! And it turns out that the first person to undergo cryonics did so in 1967. And it's true, he cannot be saved, but there have been attempts. Ciserano manages to regain faculties of functioning in life, and he is able to recall from his memories (proven by comparing his statements to actual documentation of news). Meki is giddy about informing Ciserano of the history of the world since 1993. How shocked he'll be to learn she's the former empress of the Fourth French Empire, here working for minimum wage talking to a popsicle man.
You can't just stick a person from the past in front of all the wonders of the future and expect them to be perfectly fine. That's why humans and super-realistic gynoids are used for temporal rehabilitation of those waking up: showing them amorphous liquid metal supermachines right off the bat might cause a heart attack.
When Ciserano died on January 17th, 1993, for example, there were babies who couldn't yet walk or talk who were older than the Russian Federation, Kurt Cobain was still alive, less than 13 million people were connected to the Internet, the European Union was still nearly a year from being formed, William Clinton had yet to be inaugurated as President of the United States of America (not for a few more days), there were no well-known real life humanoid robots on Earth, the fastest supercomputer was the Intel Paragon— with its 95 gigaFLOPS processor, while the average home computer cost over $2,000 and often about 512 kilobytes of RAM and 80 MB HDDs and 14.4k modems to connect to the pitifully small internet. Humankind's ventures into space were extremely limited— it had been 24 years since Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, and 21 years since Eugene Cernan last stepped on the moon. The International Space Station had yet to be conceived, let alone launched. There was no predominantly 3D video game console on the market yet. The first smartphone was just a few months old, and only the geekiest of geeks would have ever known it existed. For the most part, people lived in a world that hadn't radically changed technologically since the 1950s.
To Meki and Jex, the times were unrecognizable. As unrecognizable to them as the 15th century would be to us. And that's why they need to help Ciserano cope.
Ciserano wakes up on January 27th, 2145— 152 years and 10 days after his death. Many of his brain cells are mushed, but they are reconstructed quite well. After a day of activity, his neural pathways resolidify into how they were when he had died. During that day, as aforementioned, he seemed a lot like a man who woke up from a twenty-year-long coma— making baby-like sounds and generally unable to comprehend what he was seeing. This was because his muscles had not moved for 150+ years. But after that day, he was forming full words and moving his fingers and arms like an adult. After two weeks, he was forming full sentences again and was able to read passages from books.
By the end of the week, he had completely regained all function. Again, this doesn't mean anyone who's unfrozen will be normal after a week— his rehabilitation is accelerated due to his asking for the latest technology to assist him. Indeed, these amazing 22nd-century technologies are what he's been waiting for all along, ever since he was a little boy. Others who have been frozen for as long as he has will be stiff and virtually paralyzed for months. People who don't move for weeks often lose some semblance of their ability to walk correctly— not moving for a century and a half will lead to your body becoming akin to a doll. That goes for all muscles— if you don't talk for years at a time, then any words you say when you do begin talking again will be slurred and incomprehensible until you retrain your tongue to move correctly. Even moving your eyes can become a challenge when they haven't gazed around in ages.
Ciserano is told he is a very lucky man. Attempts to revive people cryofrozen from his time often end in failure. In fact, there was one man who was frozen in 2024 that they cannot revive due to his body being too degenerated. That was over 30 years after his time, and the technology was still too primitive.
Ciserano was lucky because he purposely had doctors kill him before AIDS did the job in order for his body to be properly cryonically frozen. Most people who are cryofrozen have it done immediately after death— that is, the process begins after they have already died. Ciserano demanded the process begin while he was in a coma. The process of cryofreezing him would be what killed him— and also what saved him 152 years later. Those precious few minutes he saved meant that his brain activity was essentially frozen before the neurons could begin breaking down. His body was stored in a high-quality facility, and he was not disturbed.
In essence, he never actually died; he's just been in a frozen hibernation. That's the optimist way of looking at it, at least.
Very few people go his route because it's considered unethical. And because cryonics were so controversial back then, no one knew if it would work any better than cryofreezing a person right after death. Back then, it was thought that it wouldn't matter either way: if a future society was that advanced that they could revive a person who was frozen, would it really matter if they had already died? As it turns out, yes.
Just look at Meki— she's been loopkilled over 10,000 times, and she's sure that who she is now is not the same Meki that was alive before all that torment began. This is all because there were many instances where she had suffered clinical and brain death for extended periods of time, meaning that the picotech method used to revive her essentially had to 'rebuild' her mind from the sludge of death. She's not even sure this is the same body, even though the genetics and appearance match up and even ASI claims she's not a clone. And she was literally made to be loopkilled.
For someone who died such a long time ago, it's a burden on our abilities to do something like revive a person and keep their consciousness intact. After a certain point, it's just not possible— you're gonna need a new consciousness.
Technically, we can bring back Dr. James Bedford, who was cryofrozen in 1967. But we know for a fact this wouldn't be the same Dr. Bedford's consciousness; his brain was too far gone, so we had to reconstruct it. Unless that set of neurons contains consciousness, it's done for.
The current mode of thinking is that consciousness can be turned on and off like water in a pipe. Our brains are made out of ultra-complex pipes through which consciousness flows. Simply turning off the electrochemicals doesn't kill consciousness for as long as those pipes remain in place, as what happened with Ciserano. They merely reactivated his brain, and very little had to be changed outside of some brain damage in a few areas. But a lot of people suffer even more extensive brain damage, sometimes even losing large parts of their brains, and their consciousnesses' are perfectly intact. Thus, there's no reason to believe the Ciserano that was revived in 2145 is any different from the Ciserano that died in 1993.
However, if they decided to revive Dr. Bedford today, in 2145, there's nothing left of those original neural pathways that were originally there in 1967. They could definitely use ASI to figure out how his brain was structured, but such extensive reconstruction raises the question of whether that would be the same Dr. Bedford. Just like how, when Meki suffered very extreme torture in DURK #6, she almost certainly lost her brain multiple times, and the brain she has now is a reconstruction that just happens to be in the original body. Does that make the Meki of 2145 the same Meki of 2107, even though she has the same personality, memories, and characteristics?
It's a dreadfully hard question to answer.
Ciserano is unconcerned with the philosophy behind it all and would rather get back to enjoying life. He's happy to see that the world is just as futuristic as he hoped it would be and then some. He really does have a lot to learn.
When he died, the Cold War was supposed to be over. America won, right? In fact, the Russians never thought the Cold War was over; 1991 was just a single defeat in a larger war. And not even a decisive one either. It was only America that thought the Cold War was over; they just managed to convince their vassals this was the truth. The Cold War did not truly end until 2028, with the partition of Russia into multiple Eurasian republics, as well as the 2029 collapse of the United States.
He lived in an era where World War III seemed inevitable until it didn't. Did it happen? As it happens, it did. World War III began roughly 40 years ago. The most amazing fact is that it took that long. To Meki and Jex, they were in their twenties when WWIII befell the planet and nearly did humanity in, and it's in living memory even by non-Singularity standards. To Ciserano, however, the amazing fact is that there was a 161-year gap between the world wars. MAD really did do wonders. He thought that WWIII began in 2028, considering Russia shattered apart and America dropped to what sounded like third-world status. No, that's just an example of how "high-impact geopolitics" tended to play out in the 21st century— all the side effects of war without the guns and bombs.
Cyberpunk came true for a while, as corporations dominated the planet and the Fourth French Empire arose on the backs of corporate totalitarianism. Meki being a child of that empire, a living doll for her father. She subverted it and then came the ol' Internationale. Communism came back for a short period of time before it, too, was subverted. Meki learned how a doll dies, and she eventually found her way back to France. World War III was pretty bad; it killed well over a billion people and all but depopulated Eurasia and central America. Eurasia fumbled about for another ten years with a huge revolution in the middle, and then the machines took over because of how awful of a job Eurasians were doing. And that's how a French empress became a proletarian pauper.
Strange times, strange days. World War III set human civilization back by probably a century, but this is a post-Singularity age so that was easily recoverable. Nevertheless, plans for a "Great Leap Above" were meant to start in the 2110s and 2120s, but they were pushed back to the 2130s and 2140s and even 2150s. Humanity became a Type I Civilization in 2125, though.
Ciserano is unfamiliar with the Singularity, but he's pleased to hear that humanity's spreading pretty far throughout space, with manned colonies on Luna, Mars, Ganymede, Europa, and even Titan. Actually, there are nation-states on Mars and Luna is part of a federated republic. It was fun in science fiction to imagine these things, but it's been painful as hell getting them started. And while that's going on, we're colonizing the sea and subterranea. It's not just for fun— it's completely required.
Naturally, this is a very highly automated society, a "technist" economy as they call it. They actually couldn't even get into deep space without high levels of automation precisely because of how much work had to be done just to survive. They sent robots to Ganymede first and had them build the structures humans would eventually live in. We tried sending humans first back on Mars, thinking we could make it so that we'd have a relatively traditional set-up of workers, project overseers, and scientists. Turns out, Mars was a dusty motherfucker, and everyone had to be a worker just to survive at all. Problem being, only some people were supposed to be workers and only they were trained for that job. And thus a few people died on the very first Mars mission. Everything was accounted for, but Murphy's Law exists for a reason. That's why they upped the automation, to not have to deal with that nonsense. There are still workers these days, but proletarians are sort of like superstars in this day and age. A human who works with his hands catches huge pennies. Meki didn't even realize she was part of a new elite until just recently; it's like she can never avoid being part of some elite class of human.
Nevertheless, there's some jobs that even humans are not yet allowed to do. On the southern side of the earthface of Luna, there's an entirely automated city that you can see from Earth (especially during a New Moon). This is a mining facility that's the size of New York City, built in just a few months and run entirely by an AI.
Ciserano has to ask: machines run the world? It was moreso a few years ago. But now there's more human sovereignty. Earth is, by and large, a sapiocracy where ASI and superintelligent posthumans actually run global affairs, but local and some regional affairs are in the hands of pure Sapiens and Neanderthals.
Yes, Neanderthals. We brought them back. There are multiple humans on Earth right now. In fact, one of Meki's close friends— Conner Disraeli— is a neo-Neanderthal. Meki herself is an Eximi, Homo eximius, a species of superhuman sometimes known as "Aryans" (though Eximi themselves prefer 'Eximi' because of the Nazi connotations of 'Aryan'). Jex herself is a Sapiens, just like Ciserano, but she's also cheating a bit since she's a pedigree Melanesian whose ancestry dates back close to 70,000 years. She's probably as close to a hybrid human as you can possibly get, with Sapiens, Neanderthal, and Denisovan genetics.
Ciserano shouldn't be suspicious; we discovered that most Eurasians are actually part Neanderthal, and that Neanderthals are not the dumb ape men we thought they were. They may have a difficult time speaking like Sapiens and Aryans, but they're just as sapient as they are. It's the lesser human species like the Adams, Piths, and whatnot— they're the "wild humans".
Ciserano finds it strange to imagine that archaic humans—
Ah ah ah. Archaic humans describe Neanderthals. It goes 'archaic humans, common humans, and high humans.'
Okay, previously-extinct humans exist at the same time as superhumans and cybernetic superintelligences. This is just a natural result of the mid-21st century. When Ciserano died, China was still an impoverished backwater country in East Asia; today, China is king, on Earth, on Luna, and on Mars. China never experienced the Enlightenment and never developed the liberal sensibilities of the West. Thus, playing with human genetics didn't really have the same profane connotations as it did in America and Europe. When Russia and America fell, it really was China über alles, 中國在世界之上.
Meki's closest friend, the Franco-Japanese anarchist Mariko Kusanagi, called China home during World War III because she felt China was mankind's last hope. And it really was.
The world is strange, and that's the first thing anyone from the 20th century has to understand. ASI have followed a doctrine of "ultraterrestrialism", essentially putting them above the comprehension of unaugmented people. Meki's befriended one of the most important artilects today, Terios. And Terios looks like an angel. Xes actual base is somewhere in Vern and this is just the form xe takes when moving among human society. She eagerly learns what Terios has to teach her, and she tells Ciserano to try to do the same...
Does he miss his family?
Only his sister. He never got along with his parents and is frankly happy to know his father is dead, having died in 2016. He never married, and he was gay in an age when gays were not accepted in polite society. These days, being gay is about as offensive as being straight. There's absolutely no reason to be offended by homosexuality nowadays, in an age where people can get augments to turn themselves into liquid metal or upload into supercomputers, or use said augments to become animals— or even sapient plants and other lifeforms.
We've completely transcended biology. There's one colony of people who have become a sapient grove of glowing trees. In the 1990s, such an idea was so outrageous, even someone tripping on LSD couldn't have come up with something so ludicrous. But that's just the way the world is now. Meki herself has a robot husband— a robot husband who looks exactly like a Gray alien, particularly "Skinny Bob". Alusru Rasa.
In this Vyrdist society, one need only get a loan of helots, have them generate some wealth, and voila— you're in the money. Hence why modern society seems so classless. They used to say that people were poor because they wanted to be poor, and this was utter bullshit. But nowadays, that's actually true. Gaining wealth is as easy as getting a loan for some helots, which requires little more than connecting to the Internet (through your mind, of course!) and applying for it.
It's not the only way to generate wealth, but it's certainly the easiest. Ciserano's perfectly fine with that; he can be a playboy once again, and this time in a sci-fi society.
Indeed, no one's stopping him. Just be careful— we're not immortal, we just play with death a lot.