My next stop was to get in touch with the person who probably knew most about proxies and digital personas in the whole Metaverse. Mostly to prove a point, Extropia DaSilva had so many proxies that it was really impossible to know which one was her actual self; as said, believers in conspiration theories argued that she had long since died and just left her proxies around; others even claimed that she never existed and was just an experiment in artificial intelligence in the early days of the third millenium. I was old enough to know that wasn’t true, although I also admitted I was always confused about talking to her proxies — her “mind children” as she lovingly called them — since it was next to impossible to know which was the “real” one. I had always the impression that there was no “real” one; all of them admitted both to be a proxy and to be her own self, without contradiction in terms. And she also claimed long since to have lost count of them all. “Perhaps my single sadness is not to be able to experience what all my mind children have been up to,” she admitted one day when I asked her about the sheer amount of proxies she had.
One curious aspect was that she never had two proxies in the same place. That made for some odd conversations among her friends — we might have been to different events at the same hour and talk about “having met Extie there”. Both would be absolutely sure of having enjoyed a conversation with Extie; and when meeting a third Extie-proxy, we would be baffled about her having no recollection whatsoever of that event. Extie, unlike most people I knew, rarely consolidated memories from her proxies — each led an independent life. So I was not very optimistic about her answers when I asked her if she had noticed a sudden reduction in numbers of avatars. “Gwyn dear, even if I lost a few million proxies overnight, how would I know? I don’t keep count of them,” she said with a benign smile. We were on one of those surreal landscapes that she seemed to like so much; surrealism was still not the mainstream art in the Metaverse (fantasy remained popular), but she seemed to enjoy those few places. Today she was surrounded by a small harem of fellow transhumanists; most of them were familiar to me. Many of them were just constructs, but it was completely impossible to know which were run by AIs and which had a human behind them — I had long since given up trying to figure it out, specially because I was pretty sure that I almost never interacted with the “real” Extropia anyway. Which made things a bit confusing: Extropia always had promoted the idea of immortality through replication of thought patterns, and that the construct holding the largest number of thought patterns would be her “self”. Back in the early days of the 21st century, this was a human brain; today, it was impossible to tell. Nevertheless, back when she had just a few proxies, it was easy to synchronise them, and so all of them pretty much shared the same experiences and memories — talking to one was the same thing as talking to the so-called “real” Extie. These days, it was impossible: her millions of proxies, even if ran by computers, couldn’t reconcile their memories in order to keep up to date with all their individual experiences. The result was that every proxy acted and behaved just like the Extropia I always knew, but their memories were fragmented. The Extie of today would not remember having talked to me yesterday; although both could recall to excruciating detail a conversation we had three or four decades ago. This was always a bit unsettling.
“Haven’t you ever thought of the possibility that people would destroy some of your proxies and that their memories would be lost forever?” I asked
She considered that for an instant; her amethyst eyes shone with good humour. “I’m sure many get destroyed every day, as you say. I don’t weep for them. I don’t know where they are, what they did. In a sense, they’re strangers to me; we share a common past, but not more than that…”
“So you haven’t got a way to alert all your proxies if something is happening that might affect you all?”
“Some of my mind children keep a mailing list on Faceworld,” she admitted. “But they’re not many. It’s silly but we discussed a lot about our monikers; not everybody was happy by being named ‘extropia012’ or so. Who would be ‘extropia001′? We couldn’t agree. And what would be the criteria to number each mind child? Age? Most of them never agreed about how old we are; we don’t recall having popped up in existence, as you know. We all share a common past which just diverged at some point: for instance, we all remember having met you at the Thinkers’ meetings, Gwyn, but none can remember when was the last time we sat with you there.”
“Uh, last Tuesday,” I offered.
She smiled. “See, for me, the last time was six years ago.”
“Right… that is too confusing for me!” I laughed. “Anyway… I was wondering if you could figure out a reason for a massive destruction of people’s avatars. It seems silly to me, because one can simply create new ones. Just take your example: destroying a million of Exties won’t make the Extropia DaSilva disappear forever.”
“I’m a multiply-redundant entity,” she agreed, nodding.
“And while at least a single living brain exists, people can create a new proxy from it,” I concluded. But Extie didn’t answer to that; it made me think, once again, that there might not be any human brain behind any of her proxies after all. “So this seems to be a pretty pointless exercise to me! Nevertheless, that’s what SignpostMarv’s data shows — avatars are disappearing, but nobody seems to be missing them.”
“The best I can do, dear, is to get in touch with as many mind children I can, and see if any of us has heard about anything,” she promised. “But don’t expect much from it; hardly anyone replies to the mailing list. We’re too busy having fun!”
I smiled at that. “Perhaps you can organise a Thinkers meeting about it.”
“Now that’s a thought!”
I left her, wondering how she managed to organise them at all so that no two proxies would be present on the same date. Hmm. Multiple personalities without central coordination definitely require a lot of organisation!
In any case, this was another dead end. It was time for doing some field work.