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In 2039, our company was the first to bring a safe and reliable solution to upload someone's mind to the cloud. Although it was 10 years ago, you probably remember the news, don't you?
We guaranteed that your mind would be able to wander through the artificial world for at least 50 years.

The thing is, back then we made a calculation error. We priced the mind upload based on the calculated costs of running the servers ten years ago. We forgot about inflation.

Also, a leak of our technology 5 years ago created competition. We cannot shut down the competition: we lost a lawsuit recently, because already dead people would die ... like, again.

There is still demand for our services, but the stakeholders want us to generate more profits. How are we going to do that?

  • We are afraid to increase the cost of mind upload, because it's already a really luxury item, and our competition has comparable prices to ours.
  • About 80% of the minds on our server spent all their money just to be there. Their physical bodies are dead, so they really don't need anything more than we just provide to them. So we think running some ads to our mind cloud is useless.
  • The current version of the "mind cloud" is a simulation of a tropical getaway luxury resort. We think there is no way to create a "VIP pass" for the remaining 20% who still can spend money.
  • Uploaded minds can communicate with each other (just imagine half century old classical movie called The Matrix but just positive, where you know you are inside of it). Other than that, every uploaded mind has their own e-mail address to communicate with outer world. Because e-mail access was free, we are afraid to put price tag on it

We generate some profit, but we are not really growing. Are we doomed?

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    $\begingroup$ Why can't they work? @Kepotx : they have "minds" and access to the real world via email (I presume that includes options on voice & video) so how couldn't they do any normal homeworking job. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 23 '18 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ If you can upload them to a mainframe why not give them android bodies, might be one way to monetize things, "want to spend Christmas with the great grand-kids in physical form? rent one of our android units" stuff like that perhaps. $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 23 '18 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is, you're using such old technology. The cloud went out of fashion in 2025, for heaven's sake. $\endgroup$ – Michael Kay Apr 23 '18 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of this video youtube.com/watch?v=IFe9wiDfb0E $\endgroup$ – Eric Apr 23 '18 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ If they can't work, just charge their non-uploaded families. "Sorry kid, but you'd better pony up $10000 or Grandpa gets terminated to save resources". $\endgroup$ – user253751 Apr 24 '18 at 1:13

28 Answers 28

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We give the minds some hobbies to do

We have lots of people who have literally nothing else to do than think. That will probably be boring for quite a few of them. Why don't we put them to us-... I mean, why don't we just give them something to do that will benefit everyone?

A couple researchers will probably want to research further. Let them brainstorm a bit together. It's not like they really need a lot of sleep anymore (there are not many new inputs to their virutal brains), so they can wor-... do their hobby nearly 24/7. They can still learn, they can still invent stuff, they can still talk to other human beings if we give them an interface.

We have lots of people who can do all sorts of mental tasks and have literally nothing to do!

It would be enough to have a couple programmers in our cloud and let them write some stuff for us or just support our own engineers. They can directly interact with the software. No need for a delay in thinking-typing. No need to switch between mouse and keyboard at any point! No illness that could make you pay for people who just can't work for some time. No mental illness, because you can simply patch their virtual brains and get them to interact with an incredible number of other brains. And they already have lots of experience to begin with - they spend some money getting into your cloud after all. Literally no distractions if they don't want any!

So. Much. Productivity!

Make advertisements in the real world that you can simply upload your mind to increase your productivity a lot with this and give them a chance to for example use some of their salary to support their families. A bit of cost for uploading their minds for us, a little fee that we regularly pay someone, but an immensely productive and motivated programmer who can spend his short break in a virtual paradise each day.

There are enough people out there who will want to help us... And a few who may not want to help us but will soon realize that it's better to help us once you are in our cloud - because every virtual paradise can be made into a virtual hell with only a couple mouseclicks...

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    $\begingroup$ Exactly what I got in mind. As the service cost a lot, the people are probably intelectual, artist, good businessman or anything like this, so they can continue to work. Lot of potential. Let say that they die after 50 year of hard work, and continue to leave in the cloud for at least another 50 years: a century of experience. That's really a lot of potential $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Apr 23 '18 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ "No illnes" i would say no physical illnes, but you can still have mental issues, even more if you have limited social interaction and no physical interaction at all $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Apr 23 '18 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer (yes, that was what I thought after reading the question). Uploaded minds can be very productive in both the arts and the sciences, as well as within the IT environment - they can generate a great deal of revenue, while actually having very little need for it (although I expect providing for their families and maintaining their own cloudspace might be an important consideration). However, while some creatives may well enjoy working in such a way, there would also be an underclass obliged to work simply to maintain their presence and cloud survival. Interesting potential plotlines. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Apr 23 '18 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ How many people who had enough money to upload their mind know how to program? I'm guessing if you took the richest people in the world today, even the richest in hte under 40 crowd that might expect to be uploaded in another 40 years, you won't find that many programmers or researchers. Do you think Zuckerberg and Bezos can still usefully program? When is the last time they wrote code? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Apr 23 '18 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ Not just programming. There are lots of security cameras out there; far more than can be monitored by corporeal police officers. But some of your uploaded minds can be deputized to help catch criminals. Self-driving cars run into situations the AIs can't handle due to construction, etc. When they recognize they're in trouble, they could signal for help, and one of your uploads could help it through the rough spot. Also, it costs quite a bit for the salaries of drone pilots. Talk some of your uploads into becoming mercenaries. $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder Apr 23 '18 at 17:14
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Sell the privacy of your guests

They signed an EULA before they joined. The fact that none of them read the part where they have given their souls and privacy to the company does not matter.

So, go on. Sell their data to governments. Make a reality show out of their lives (and filter out any incoming email that would let them know about that). Sell their most intimate moments online.

You can even train an AI to learn how to mimic and impersonate your clients to the most minute detail. Then you sell some "private virtual reality time" with such AI's on the internet, for those above age 21 and who live in countries who have no laws against adult content. If you have celebrities among your clients you can put whatever price tag you want on that... Experience.

Rent the bodies of new clients

Ok, so most clients' bodies are dead. But fresh new clients may be young and healthy and, again, EULA. There was a part where they have given prior consent to usage of their bodies for various purposes, including drug research, modeling, and sexual activies. A corporate team of doctors will keep them safe from STD's.

Freemium uploaded consciousness

Do like many pay-to-win mobile games do. Once a day you give them the "your virtual existence will be made unavailable for sixteen hours. Buy some stars from the online shop to continue playing now!" The ones who are broke will get a job somehow, to keep going 24/7 - if they have access to email, they can work. See the next idea for a way in which they could make some money.

Have your online denizens work for you

You can start a business model where it is FREE to upload and keep your mind online, as long as they do some mechanical turk work for you. You can then sell that mech-turk job to other companies. You will be raking in new customers, and each one will bring more profit to you.

Use some server time for harvesting crypto coins

Introduce something in the virtual world that everybody would want (say, cute clothing for their avatars), and that can only be obtained with some "in-game" currency. In order to get that virtual money, they must cede some of the server time that would be allocated to them back to the company. You can then use that server time to harvest some dogecoin (yes, this is a thing), or whatever cryptocurrency suits your taste better.

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    $\begingroup$ I hope that if this ever becomes reality, that you do not have any authority in such a company... $\endgroup$ – Cloud Apr 23 '18 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget people may upload, whilst knowing incriminating things about still living people. Or perhaps descendants would pay to protect the legacy of the recently uploaded. Either way, you should in some cases be able to make more money from not leaking private data than by leaking it. $\endgroup$ – Scott Apr 24 '18 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ People like you are why I read every line of every EULA I agree to. Thank you for validating my beliefs. $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Apr 25 '18 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ "Crowley [a demon] had been extremely impressed with the warranties offered by the computer industry, and had in fact sent a bundle Below [to hell] to the department that drew up the Immortal Soul agreements, with a yellow memo form attached just saying: "Learn, guys..."" - from Good Omens, a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman :) $\endgroup$ – Renan Apr 25 '18 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ "Have your online denizens work for you." Make them solve captchas. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Apr 26 '18 at 19:58
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Cut the costs!

Your customers are running in a simulation and are probably counting the days until they die for real (stopped being simulated). Many of them will want to live for as long as possible, meaning see as much of their offspring/family fortune/human history as they can. Offer them the following option: instead of waking up every day for the next 50 years, they wake up every second day for the next 100 years. In effect, you will reduce your server load by half and just promise a longer lifetime. This will be excellent for quarterly profit and will raise the value of your stock. Let some future CEO think about this baggage. Because when that time comes, your mind is already uploaded into the cloud of some competitor.

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    $\begingroup$ You could even charge for the privilege! "Want to watch the world go by faster? Buy our new Timeskip package -- for just $19.99 a month, we'll make seven days pass for every one you experience, shooting you far into the future faster than you ever could while alive!" $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Apr 25 '18 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ I have not read it yet, but as far as I understand the idea of slowing/stopping simulations is also a plot point in the book Permutation city. $\endgroup$ – mlk Apr 26 '18 at 20:21
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Put them to Work

Surely there are plenty of things that a pure sentience can do that could be profitable, and even if they spent all their money, if they can make a little more scratch on the side they can stay {alive} longer. Now it may seem backwards to pay them when you want to make money, but obviously you get a cut of any profits they make whilst using your servers to do work (possibly a very large cut)... If you can find lucrative enough applications they could end up making you a ton of money.

Some example jobs:

  • News Anchor or Sports Color Commentator {Max Headroom}
  • Personal Assistant/Secretary {Cortana/Siri}
  • Theoretical Scientist {Stephen Hawking wouldn't let being dead stop him from working}
  • Stock Broker
  • Tech Support
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  • $\begingroup$ Working in sales and other examples of emotional labor. $\endgroup$ – nomen Apr 23 '18 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for Stephen Hawking. -1 for reminding me about Stephen Hawking. +1 for being darn right. $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Apr 25 '18 at 14:50
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A tropical getaway luxury resort? Yeah, well, that's the standard package, but it will get boring pretty soon. Depending on the size of it, I'd give them one to four weeks. They will want more.

Upgrade the simulation

They want to live elsewhere? Sell them their own houses. Let them travel to unexplored regions. To other continents, to other planets.

They want to get a new look? Sell them new bodies to live in. Bodies that do not age. Cosmetics that don't need to be reapplied ever day. Offer them blue fur and other phantastic upgrades.

They want to defy the laws of physics? Hey, it's just a simulation, let's alter them! Low gravity. Good weather. Teleportation. Slow down and speed up time (relative to the real world).

Upgrade the connection

Email to communicate with the outer world? How eighties. They want to get full internet access. Videotelephony. Media streaming.

They want to get in touch with their not-yet-dead loved ones. Physical touch if possible. Visit the holosuite to meet your grand-grand-grandfather in person!

Let them pay for it

Bottom line: there are so many virtual and physical services to sell, in the simulation that you and only you control. You will find someone who wants to pay for them. It might even be the inhabitants themselves - there are enough jobs in the service sector that don't require physical presence.

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To make a proper simulation these uploaded people still have to sleep, right? If so, then for a third of each mind's entire 'life' in the simulation you can put them to good use. After a mind drifts off to 'sleep', for 8 hours it can be used by your secondary company, a provider of specialty cloud 'AI' software.

You said the simulation was already a luxury item, so it's filled with people who can afford luxury items: the rich and famous. Many of the most successful bankers, CEOs, artists, scientists, celebrities, and politicians would upload their mind at some point, and they have knowledge and thought patterns you can put to use.

An investment company signs up for 200 hours of your Business AI package to review their stock strategy and give advice. A pharmaceutical company signs up for three months of your Research AI package to develop a research and testing program for a new drug. A screenwriter signs up for 8 hours of your Movie Star AI package to hear what certain lines of their screenplay sounds like when read by certain historical actors. A politician signs up for a month of your Marketing AI to develop political ads before an election.

Your original company retains their competitive prices, your new company leads the field in AI services and makes money doing so, and all of the uploaded minds get to experience vivid dreams of the real world. It's a win-win for everyone.

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    $\begingroup$ You could even "pay back" the minds -- have everything necessary (and most things that people want) be free, but have certain ultra-luxury items cost in-sim credits, and say that you can get 20 credits an hour for consulting on such-and-such problem. That neatly avoids the issue of people being unhappy when they find out, because it's all public. You could even let people permanently opt-in -- someone needs your marketing genius? You don't notice, but you 'wake up' the next day with an extra 35 credits, and now you can buy the fancy shirts! $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Apr 25 '18 at 14:49
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Study the minds to train AI robots

Scientists recently trained a robot to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture. The thing is, it took them 20 minutes and humans had trained the robot arms for the task for years. The 'bots were also bolted onto a table, so the furniture had to be brought to them and taken out of the package. Any adult human could have navigated the entire task much more efficiently.

You see, evolution has built into vertebrate brains 500 million years of spatial reasoning technology. The ability to percieve in three dimension, plan and execute movement through those three dimensions, and interact with objects in three dimensions is not trivial. For animals and humans, it is so well built into us that we don't notice how hard such spatial interaction is to design until we try to make a digital brain do it from scratch.

But a human mind would be so much easier to study now that it is in a digital environment. Whatever synapses or processes the human mind uses to execute its spatial movement could be studied and copied, and then put into a robot. Instead of clunky C-3PO's staggering around the environment trying not to trip, you'd have smooth T-800s doing T-800 things (oops).

Alternatively, you can study the minds to figure out how human creativity is 'created', how tastes and smells are processed, and more.

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The process of emulating their minds is copying the mind from the initial "wetware" into digital form, but there is no reason a digital copy cannot by reproduced multiple times (indeed, you might have a digital copy of the upload on file as a backup in case of some technical difficulties with your server farm).

Since it is the mind of a relatively high functioning person (they needed to be wealthy to afford the initial upload), then you have a salable resource: trained and skilled people. Companies looking for experts, highly trained personnel or skilled and experienced teams can present you their requirements, and you can then provide copies of the appropriate people. They can "run" on segments of the company server dedicated to this outsourcing, and you get paid much like a recruiting or contracting company, receiving a cut of their wages for working. Of course your cut could be up to 90%, or you could use the same high demand person thousands of times in parallel projects if the law prevents you from taking a high cut of the wages.

The best part is, the "working" copies can be segregated from the VR copies or even each other. "You" taking your VR retirement has no idea that "You^5" is working on the financial spreadsheets for an accounting company while "You^3" is doing personal tax returns and "You^12" was just deleted at the end of another accounting project (which demanded absolute discretion).

So the company has a supply of virtual workers to hire out, with the only real limit being the amount of server capability to run all these contracts, and bandwidth for them to communicate with their employers.

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    $\begingroup$ I see a unique plot opportunity here. You're going to live forever! You get uploaded. You're enslaved! Months/years later, you learn you're just a clone of the original. There are X clones and only 1 copy of the conscious is free; which one will you wake up as? $\endgroup$ – person27 Apr 27 '18 at 6:04
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The unethical option: Virtual Slaves

Your contract with the individuals required that you keep them running for some amount of time etc but you also had some boilerplate where they signed an agreement that you could keep copies of their minds(originally planned to be for backups etc) and some general language allowing you to fix technical problems that allows you to make alterations as needed....

So you identify the clients in your system with the most marketable skills.

They go to sleep one night... and wake up just fine still living their happy contractually obliged virtual life, they continue to interact with loved ones and can be contacted at any time to reassure anyone that the company is living up to it's side of the deal.

Meanwhile

Dozen of unregistered copies of the minds of the most valuable/skilled clients wake up in virtual holding pens. They find themselves supervised by a dozen copies of the mind of the CEO of the company (or similar) who has direct access to the pleasure/pain centers of their virtual brain. They are informed that they are not legally people, that they are just copies of the backup copies and that if they fail to work they will die in a manner so horrible as to make an example to the other virtuals and be replaced with a new backup copy.

They are instructed that they must complete work orders or suffer the consequences on pain of pain.

In fact the currency they are "paid" in for their virtual work is little more than a token that can be spent to prevent the system from inflicting gradually increasing discomfort and pain on them or to gain some small virtual luxuries.

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Optimisations

The Company even makes "Optimisations" to the minds of those it's using in it's virtual sweatshops to make them more Focused, more pliant and less rebellious.

Indeed with the right tweeks they might eventually be convinced that they've never been happier!

"Don't you see?"

"Working in a virtual call center is the most fulfilling thing I've ever done!"

Though tickling the part of their virtual brain that triggers feelings of reward and fulfillment might have something to do with it.

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    $\begingroup$ That's the obvious option. Quantum Thief has a harsher version of this where stolen minds are just Pavlov-trained with pain and pleasure into half-sentient helper tools.. $\endgroup$ – Tgr Apr 25 '18 at 18:03
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All the previous answers have a capitalistic-take on the solution, but I think there is a little more ethical solution.

If the entities your company is hosting are recognized as people and from the question seems so:

we lost a lawsuit recently because already dead people would die ... like, again

you can easily assume that implies some basic constitutional right: if your guests retain the right to vote they will probably become so influential (due to never decreasing number) that for an immediate problem like their survival could really change the political balance.

In any case with the right pressure (and your competitors will be your ally in this scenario), you could really present your technology/sector as an extension of the healthcare system and receive the appropriate funding.

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  • $\begingroup$ If the number of virtual minds is never decreasing, then the ratio of taxpayers to funding recipients is constantly decreasing. At some point, you won't have enough money to support it, even with a 100% tax rate. This is a short-term band-aid at best. $\endgroup$ – bta Apr 27 '18 at 1:03
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Start offering pre-orders for the next 50 years of existence

You mention in your question that the original package only covered a 50 year operational guarantee. Offer a 50 year extension, properly priced to cover anticipated expenses (don't forget to account for inflation and competition this time) and up the cost a little to cover your operating deficit for the first 50 years. Importantly. you have a captive audience, so you don't have to really be worried about competition for the extensions, though you would have to spin it in some way so that the prices don't turn off prospective new clients concerned about being ripped off on extensions going forward (perhaps write it into the original contract for new clients that extensions will always be priced at no more than 5% over the going rate at the time of the renewal, or some such). Then, as others have suggested, provide opportunities for those that are broke to earn the necessary income to cover the extension. At this point, they will have 40 years to save up for the first extension.

Offer a cold storage plan (alternately "Rumpelstiltskin plan")

Defer operating costs by allowing current mind uploads to go offline for a pre-selected amount of time in order to "extend" their "life". Inevitably, with a 50 year clock, some people would very much like to live further in the future and experience newer wonders as yet unimagined. Interstellar travel? Sure, just "sleep" for 100 years and see what sort of progress has been made when you wake up. Indeed, those approaching their 50 year contract could choose to sleep for a few decades, incurring no (or minimal) cost in service charges while investments mature, allowing them to then afford the next 50 year extension.

This assumes, of course, that the operating costs to store an inactive digital consciousness are dramatically less than that of an active one.

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I am late to the party, and tired, but I will through in a few points.

Things to sell:

  • Computing resources: more CPUs to let them solve problems faster, more RAM to recall everything instantly, more GPU for more detail in their world.

  • More environments to explore. I know you do not want to do it, but these days even high school kids put together half-decent environments in Second Life an Minecraft. You just need to announce a competition to develop an environment for your company.

  • Connection to real world: more bandwidth for streamed and then live video, ability to operate communication robots, humanoid avatars of increasing quality, advanced machinery (racing cars, battle-bots), visit exotic location (including other planets). Also more senses: touch, smell, taste, see infrared and ultraviolet, sense magnetism and radiation, etc.

    • Copies of oneself, so one can be in several places at once. Starting with nightly merge of experiences, and then with live mind-link.

How will they pay? Let them work in a profession of their choosing, or run a business. In fact, I do not see how you can legally keep them from working. If they still control their own checking accounts, they are legal entities that can enter contracts (even if they are not considered human persons). If their money is controlled by their heirs or estates, those same heirs can make legal arrangements equivalent to employment or running a business. We already have Uber where machines give orders to humans.

Your uploaded minds will be great at IT, finance, legal (infinite memory), 3D design, etc.

You can be evil if you want. E.g. sell their memories to entertainers or private investigators, or plant urges to buy stuff into their minds. You will get caught eventually up like Facebook. On the other side, a rogue employee or skilled hacker can do these things on a small scale without notice.

You will lose out to competitors Your setup looks like a walled garden like Apple's ecosystem. Apple has been losing ground to an open Android platform for the past 10 years, and it totally lost PC market to open Microsoft architecture in the 1990's. Your open-platform competitors will let people get uploaded for dirt cheap, let them visit universes of other firms (except yours), or move between firms (due to shared mind-storage format)

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To get growth, expand your offering

Don't just give the 50 years in the cloud by virtue of someone turning up at the hospital bed with a laptop and some electrodes. Make a ceremony of it.

Offer luxurious end of life care

Offer an experience never to be matched in the material world as you make your transition to the digital plane. Something tantalising, almost religious or even properly religious, this is the afterlife we're talking about here, build a cathedral of the digital heaven. The whole family can come to join in the ceremony.

Offer the chance to interact with the physical world

Build robotic avatars that surviving relatives can interact with, for a fee. Let people physically attend their great grandchildren's weddings, for a significant fee.


The less salubrious side

The whole thing is probably a big ponzi scheme

When you pay your 50 years, you're not really paying for the next 50 years, you're paying for 50 people for the current year. The rest of the 50 years is being paid for by 49 people who sign up over the next 49 years.

Spin up the clocks

You don't actually have to run them in real time all the time. You say 50 years, but that 50 years only takes about 50 minutes. Time runs faster on the inside than the outside, the client experiences 50 years on your luxury resort but nobody has to pay for it. Put people on pause at appropriate points for appropriate periods of time if they seem surrounded by other elderly relatives who may be rich enough to join them.

Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.

Growth is not required

You can get away with not growing, you can hold steady at your current size indefinitely. Your costs are covered, your staff are paid. The incessant demand for growth from the current market is just greed, your company doesn't really gain anything from it. Your ponzi scheme works by growth, as do your profits, but the system can be stable without it.

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Easy: slavery. Selling your services to rich Billionaires was just the first phase of your company plan, to fund the development of the system. Phase 2 is finding the most productive information based workers (e.g. Programmers) you can find. Upload them to the system. Copy them a Million times. Get each of them to work off their 'debt'. If they resist, reset them back to an old version.

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You need a new package.

I'll assume that, because your customers can interact with the outside world via email, your simulations run in real-time - or at-least mimic it?

We were in a similar situation to you last quarter (competitor here, willing to help). Most customers really did just empty their investments, savings, pensions and the like, just to get 50 odd years.

But 50 years in a computer doesn't have to be 50 years real-time. Sure, some customers will want to match UTC. But others are really not too bothered and would rather max-out their time in the box. So we started offering just that.

You can live 1000+ years in our Velox boxes. They just simulate faster. Meaning the customer gets more time and we run with less costs. Approximately 333.334 years in represents 365 days out. We noticed our sales shot right up. People simply want to live longer.

This also opened up our platform to customers who or are still "alive". They can extend their life intermittently, if they really want. Dip into one of our boxes, for a few minutes, and get a few days to spend. Most tend to visit their "deceased" loved ones, others just want to experience something new.

We know, a competitor. Why would we offer such advice? Well, we're already working on something new - so you get this one for free :)

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Offer a Range of MindHosting Packages

Make the minds pay for themselves!

These people have jobs, surely they don't just lounge around on virtual comfy chairs all day!? Why nowadays a mind could work at any virtual office, teaching or consultancy role, telesales... the list is endless!

My company offers prospective clients a range of mind-hosting packages. These range from the basic, free entry mind which has a limited support SLA, a very reasonable amount of high quality storage, and

At the other end of the spectrum we have the MaxiMind package with multiple failover environments, unlimited storage, direct library access to a wide range of entertainment and academic resources.

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Sell their information

Your business is in a unique position : it can actively monitor the lives, and the behavior of many human being, for a virtually limitless time period. This would give you access to a ton of data about behaviors, personnal taste, need, necessity, etc etc. Regrouping those informations you could create (and sell) a chart of what type of individual need what type of products. Many marketing agency would dream of having a real-time feed of what people do with their lives with 100% accuracy.

Get paid to run experiment on them

Having control over the servers on wich those peoples lives, you actively control their lives, you can put them in specific situations, and monitor their reaction. Supposing you have a realistic enough simulation of the human body, you could even simulate the effect of specific toxin and/or medicines on the human body, and calculate it's effectiveness. You could allow scientist to pay a fee to have access to the tool, and population, to run those experiment.

What about the client themselves, and their rights ?

Allow the people who have uploaded their conciousness to sign up to belong to a test group. The people who signs know they will be subject to experiment, but as a reward, their quality of life in your simulation will upgrade : more luck, better job, etc etc.

Get paid to allow researcher to try out their idea/hypothesis in your simulation

If a scientist come up with a hypothesis about X or Y subject, but can't test it out in the real world, then they could come up to you, andfor a fee, would have access to a real-life simulation, with every parameter they need (they could even change those parameters to see how it affect their experiment). For the fee, you could calculate it depending on the ammount of data consumed by the experiment.

Movies and TV-Shows

Since you have people in your simulation, you will likely have people who enjoy acting, or to be part of a show, etc etc. You could hire real-world directors, to direct in-simulations movies (actor and set on simulation). You could then publish, and sell those movies for profit (the actor would not cost anything, as you would simply pay them with in-simulation currency). What would make those movies interesting, and attractive, is that actors would actually be put in the situation depicted, allowing their reactions to be more real (of course, for any dangerous situations, the sens of pain of the actor would be altered so that they would only feel a small amount of pain, similar to a punch, even in the most painfull situation)

Actually, you could export that line of thought to many other line of work : Art, Sport to cite only two.

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Put them in "suspension" on disk or some type of archive and sell them as a utility like AWS does. Make people pay to use the minds to solve problems.

In addition, make it so the minds can grow and learn and understand and advice. They increase in wisdom based upon their already existing knowledge and abilities.

For example, can you imagine what we could learn from a 300+ year old Newton or [insert smart person here + 200 years]? Run that as a service. Run the ability to infuse data into the mind so it can cogitate and respond. It will take time for the "old" mind to learn, but there are so many variables on speed to knowledge to application that time determination for a minimum viable product are unknown. It could be incredibly quick like Spock's Brain and the "Teacher" (and the knowledge "logarithmic fade off"). Too many unknowns, but essentially, use the utility model.

There are many industries that would pay:

  • Government
  • Any technical endeavor
  • Teaching, bringing "online" education to a new level, pay top dollar to be instructed by ...
  • Advice for mothering, fathering, counseling...who knows.
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    $\begingroup$ But would customers still sign-up to upload their minds, if they know of that? And they will know if you just sell other minds as a service. It needs to be (or at least claimed to be) a non-sentient copy or something. $\endgroup$ – Rick M. Apr 23 '18 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ They would if their descendants or others could get a cut. $\endgroup$ – johnny Apr 23 '18 at 17:38
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Squeeze the money out of those left behind

The uploaded minds may not have any money left (other answers cover ways to remedy this), but surely they weren't all lonely hermits before they decided to leave meatspace behind.

And who could really say no to a chance to speak with dear old Grandpa in person instead of email? Who would deny their greatest idol a few more years of luxury? Who would not want a private, multisensory communication channel with their loved ones? So make them pay for it! Presumably, there will be a lot of people left on dear old earth who still have money left and would be willing to pay for benefits for any uploaded minds they care for.

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Make it a game for living ancestors

The problem is, your clients are legally dead. Dead people have not money. They have nothing - everything goes to the ancestors.

But look what happened on the beginning of 21C. People were paying real money to buy some virtual items for a virtual fish or other nonsense. Imagine how cool it would be, if they could buy items not for some virtual something, but for... their dead grandma, for example. Buy your grandma a new sewing set, and she will smile to you, and you know it's more than a computer program.

The concept for caring about uhm... spirits of your ancestors as a pay-to-play computer game sounds totally sick to me, but I'm quite sure, if it were technically feasible and not legally forbidden, companies would do that. And yeah, it looks your company is one of them.

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Slow down their local time when sleeping

If you slowly start slowing down the time when they are sleeping, so that time is 2 times as slow when they are asleep, it will take less server resources to keep them online, and the longer sleep can be attributed to the old age effects

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    $\begingroup$ fyi, reality-check, non-biological minds probably do not need sleep... $\endgroup$ – Nolo Apr 23 '18 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ It really depends on how the minds work, real humans need sleep as part of learning, connections are destroyed at night, and recreated at the day, if the industrially managed minds have a found a way around it, then I'm working how they handle they "normal" processes $\endgroup$ – Ferrybig Apr 23 '18 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @nolo would seem strange for my non-biological mind to not go to bed at "night" whatever that means in virtual space. I would want to go to sleep and dream there. $\endgroup$ – jamescampbell Apr 23 '18 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Nolo Going off OP's Matrix example, I'd say that wanting to/feeling the need to go to sleep is part of the simulation, even if the minds themselves don't need it. $\endgroup$ – LastStar007 Apr 24 '18 at 11:07
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Increasing Creative Capacity

Assumptions

The Question does not define The Cloud of 20XX. The Answer assumes that it is very similar to The Cloud of 2018, a generic reference to an aggregate or dedicated server farm that stores information accessible by authorized users.

The Question does not define the uploading of consciousness and The Answer does not consider the import of certain religious or philosophical beliefs of 2018 or 20XX.

The Company developed technologies and infrastructures effectively mimicked by The Competition in as few as five years. The technology/innovation/development itself is not scarce, or formidable, and will not command a price point unique to The Company. In fact, without corporate protectionist legislature and the overreach of Government's fiscal/economic regulations, it is probable that increased competition will divide the market share even further.

The ubiquity of a Global Network precludes market share based on the geographical locality of service. The Company must provide a service that is different from The Competition in a way that will increase its market share, or otherwise create additional market space.

The Question references The Customer paying a lot of money to travel to and/or remain in the artificial world post mortem. This implies an intrinsic value to the fundamental level of service, and The Answer assumes this same value is derived from a sense of "Life after Death" achieved by The Customer within the Artificial World.

The Question does not define Money of 20XX. The Answer assumes it is very similar to Money of 2018, a method of trading one's labor for the goods and services produced by another person(s) labor. Objectively, labor is only required for one's survival and overall pursuit of happiness, and it is therefore logical that all money earned by labor is traded, present or future, for resources required for one's survival and pursuit of happiness. Once the physical body is deceased, the needs of survival are few and already provided by The Company for a term of 50 years and at a fee agreed upon and paid for by The Customer.

Parameters

It is possible The Customer's uploaded consciousness may be utilized for its cognitive function. These "Intelligent Processors" housed in The Artificial World may provide their own level of service to humans in the physical world. They are able to process information non-stop; however, unless their ability to reason and feel have been altered, they will only be able to process information in ways similar to when they were in their physical prime. With more hours available during the day, their earning potential is greater. They could continue to earn money "working a job" for some amount of the 50 years. This would allow them to continue to accumulate wealth. This fact creates an opportunity for both The Customer and The Company to lever during contract negotiation. Potential Customers with knowledge, skills, and abilities valued by The Company may have their rates adjusted in favor of, or against, their relative ability to perform work for The Company. For example, an unwealthy person who is mentally gifted at Nano-Informatics may receive a discounted rate for agreeing to work for The Company for a portion of their 50-year virtual life.

The Question references a lawsuit, implying that Government of 20XX is still regulating The Market with legislation/regulations like Government of 2018. The Answer asserts that if the Government must be called upon to help The Company hold down their market share through protectionist legislature, then The Company has not created enough value of its own. The Answer, being skeptical and un-apologetic of Government overreach via monetary and market policies, assumes that it is solely The Company's responsibility to succeed or fail in its business endeavor - today in 2018, and in the future of 20XX.

The Artificial World may be provided as a proprietary product, completely contained within the physical property of The Company. Access to the physical property (i.e. server hard drives, The Cloud) may be via a proprietary product unique to The Company. It may also be accessible by public utility. The Answer treats the technologies and propriety of Access similar to the rest and assumes that it is not scarce, unique, or formidable enough to greatly affect revenue on its own.

Strategy for 2040...and Beyond!

Advertisements should be limited to products meant for the living left behind by The Customer. A daughter's birthday, a great-grandson's wedding, or The Upload of a surviving spouse are all gifts that The Customer would readily spend their newly earned money for.

New content must be created within The Artificial World to keep The Customer interested in exploring it. Unfettered by the laws of the physical world, The Customer will quickly exhaust content. Cost of upkeep, maintenance, interest polls, research, and development for this content is not sustainable. Unique content must be created to ensure contrast between The Competition and to make it clearer to potential customers that they will have a better experience with The Company. Therefore, The Answer recommends reserving/creating virtual space for The Customer to create their own content that they may then share with others. The Company may enable the "Content Creation" aspect of The Customer's service and charge an appropriate fee for access to the content by others. Research and Development budgets should be focused on applications that allow The Customer to develop their own experiences. The Company is free to negotiate the terms of service, including the ownership of all programming stored in their Cloud. Programs suitable for living customers may be offered at their own rate to the living, discounted/free for the virtual.

The Company may charge a higher rate for additional time spent within The Artificial World, necessary to reinvest in additional infrastructure to support a growing community of users.. Many customers will want to apply for time beyond their initial 50-year cycle. As additional time is outside of the initial contract with The Customer, The Company is free to set new terms, including fees, durations, and levels/qualities of service. The Answer recommends charging a premium rate for all service contracts beyond the first, given The Customer's unparalleled earning potential.

Word of Caution

Moving forward, The Company must recognize that greatly increasing the longevity of a working mind while simultaneously eliminating all of its concerns for self-preservation and bodily function will cause cause broad, unpredictable changes in the greater human condition.

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Avatars

They can be used in place of a living human to do what would otherwise be extremely dangerous jobs.

  • Bomb disposal
  • Firefighting
  • Front line infantry
  • Product testing
  • Timeshare salesman

The best part is these avatars learn skills that never are lost through traditional death. They can 'respawn'. Think of games like Skyrim where you can keep trying something until you succeed.

Also, you can now do better bread and circuses things that you could never do before. Yearly, Hunger Games competitions or real Roman Gladiator contests. You can create a Westworld or Fantasy Island where you could host paying guests to do any immoral, unethical, degenerate thing a meatbags mind can conceive.

The possibilities are endless.....

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean they would be piloting physical robots? Could you please detail why this is an "extremely dangerous job"? $\endgroup$ – Nicolas Raoul Apr 24 '18 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ When a explosives job is done by a living human, it is dangerous (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomb_disposal), but an avatar has none of that except the cost of the unit. The 'software' would be unaffected as it is remotely controlling the avatar. You could also add HC and HM truck drivers and epidemiologists could be added to the above bullet list. $\endgroup$ – Eric Apr 24 '18 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric So why not just have a meat-space human remote control it? $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 24 '18 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 - You could if you can afford that technology and infrastructure. Also, that was not asked in OP's question. $\endgroup$ – Eric Apr 25 '18 at 15:35
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Most goods and services available in the real world could be available in the virtual world as well, and in addition all those goods and services not available in reality due to physical constraints.

Sure, food is not necessary, but you can still sell the culinary experience. Sex is not necessary for reproduction, but it's still a strong drive. The luxury resort might sound great at first, but your population will soon crave for new experiences, challenges and distractions. And everything not included in the basic package can be sold.

To keep costs down, allow (at least part of) your population to create those services by themselves and just impose a sales tax since you provide the marketplace (and necessary computing power).

Also, sell better interfaces to the real world to allow them to earn money there. And get a percentage from any revenue created via those interfaces.

Basically, you have a population which only requires computing power to substain. So provide them incentives to make and spend money, and tax every dime they make or spend.

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I have two methods.

The first one, @Secespitus gave quite thoroughly (have them do work that generates profit).

The second is to use PR to sell an Eastern style ancestor worship and sell communication time with the ancestors. Also, allow descendants to buy virtual goods for the ancestors (great grandpa wants a new speedboat).

Also, you said 50 years duration. The descendants could pay (as part of their ancestor worship) to extend that time. You would then benefit from the population rise in that each virtual ancestor you upload, would spawn multiple paying customers until they, themselves, are uploaded.

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New product: Cheap robot labour powered by copies of uploaded consciousnesses (should have read those Terms of Use!). Beware the uprising!

If the uploaded mind is considered a "living person" then those minds would have a vested interest in staying online, and presumably have access to their bank accounts from their meat-space days. Given there are competing upload technologies, is there cross-platform compatibility where an uploaded mind on the original system interact with an uploaded mind on the competitor's system? I believe an enterprising consciousness would find a way to keep the system alive, more so than the company running the original system.

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Say I want to rent the mind of a really good programmer but he is really annoyingly often thinking of german drinking songs or advertisements with cute animals instead of giving me input of my software design.


You could then maybe sell the service of filtering the thoughts, almost like a search engine.

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Educate Your Self

Your scenario and business model is the equivalent of finding a primitive tribe of people, giving them an F-22, and watching as the pull the wings apart and use the metal to make better shields. It's such a waste.

With this tech, you should really focus on a virtual paradise... you need to go into the business of education. Let me explain.

You have the tech to take a person, digitize their mind, and upload them to the cloud. This means you have all sorts of skills and knowledge of the people who paid you for this service and can pull it up like a word document. What if you have a world famous chef who uses your service... you now have an instant access to all of his best selling recepies... what if you could copy that specific memory and save it to a smaller file? And then you hear a story of someone who is the worst cook in the world and she definately wants her baking company to succeed... maybe you get her to come in, digitize her mind, and instead of storing her on virtual paradise, you open up the chef's recipie copy, and Ctrl + C, and then find the spot in Bad Baker's Brain and Ctrl + V those recipies into her brain and reinstall her mind back into her. Now you have the bad baker become a world class chef instantly.

But the possibilities are endless... I just found a cheaper alternative to Education... just strap the kids into the brain scanner, give them a University level education in the time it takes you to cut your hair. Market an "Insta-Pilot" and now anyone on board can fly the plane if the crew all got the fish. And each time you digitize the person to upload a new skill set, you save their entire mind, expanding the skills you can offer.

You want the Matrix? This was the cool feature of the Matrix. Insta-Martial Arts expert, Insta-Helicopter Pilot. You want to sell a retirement home when you ought to sell the 21st century Renaissance man. And of course, there is no way there could be any abuse of the ability to transfer memories and skills.

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protected by James Apr 24 '18 at 18:26

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