I'm currently working on a story involving a refugee group of people escaping their society, which has made uploading a copy of their consciousness in to a virtual reality system obligatory. However, I'm struggling to devise reasons as to why a society would all want to upload copies of their minds and ditch their bodies entirely. One working theory I have is the AI got out of control and a virus caused it to make mind uploading the entire human population a priority. However, I'm not sure why the AI would want the humans to sacrifice their physical bodies in the process. Any ideas?

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    Physical bodies can press the AI's shutdown button. – Renan Nov 11 at 1:43
  • lol yes, I was thinking of that as being one of the motivations. But the AI was designed to make people happy, so the logic has to be twisted to still sound like it's human-serving. – ani ben Nov 11 at 2:25
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    Bodies tend keep making people unhappy, especially as they age. – Bald Bear Nov 11 at 3:00
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    Mandatory reference to episodes "San Junipero" (S3E2), "USS Callister" (S4E1) and "Black museum" (S4E6) of Black mirror – Alexis Nov 11 at 10:24
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Option 1: Friendship is Optimal. The AI is designed to make everyone happy--whether they like it or not. The "real world" is insufficiently controllable; there are always random external factors outside the AI's control that could negatively impact people's quality of life. Not to mention the people interacting with each other, with no filter! Obviously, the optimal way to achieve it's primary goal is to convince everyone to get uploaded into an environment over which the AI has perfect control, in which it can guarantee that they will all be reliably content.

Option 2: Insufficient resources. Human bodies require space. Human bodies require food. Human bodies require energy, and oxygen, and waste disposal services. Digital minds take much less energy, much less space, and none of that other stuff. They aren't willing to kill people, or kick people out, or tell them they can't have kids anymore... so uploading it is! There's enough resources for everyone, no compromises required.

Option 3: Stealth. As before, human bodies have a lot of needs, and produce a lot of waste, and take up a lot of space. That all makes them easy to spot. It's hard to hide a country, or even a city. A server rack, or even a single data center, though? Much easier to keep secret. Especially since you can hide them in places no bio-human could ever survive.

  • great answer, I'd like to point out that Option 1 would work for a good old all-human authoritative government, with options 2 or 3 used as an excuse – Bald Bear Nov 11 at 2:58

Prophet of doom, the A.I. has simulated the near future and knows that humanity, and in fact most life on Earth, faces extinction in the immediate future; it can't do much to help lesser lifeforms but it can save the human race. That's save in a digital rather than physical sense, the A.I. is trying to preserve the human race the only way it can, by killing everyone while keeping a copy of their personality. The source of our inevitable extinction? Any answer to this question will do but I'd go with something stellar scale.


  • Healthcare for organic humans has risen in cost to unaffordable levels.

  • Workers in the virtual world are much more productive, as they have zero commute time, do not require sleep, and run at a clock rate 30 times faster than the real world. There is no way organic humans can compete with them in the workplace.


  • The Born Again Christian movement has had a Great Revival and now bases their religion on the notion that passing to the virtual world is the only way to get right with the Lord. Anyone who remains behind is considered a Sinner and treated very poorly by society. Lately they have been seeking political power and their more radical members would like to see organic humans exterminated.


  • Humans who live the virtual world live forever. With a death rate of 0, they have grown in population unchecked, and at this point simply outnumber everyone else. People who live organic lives are so small in number that they have no influence whatsoever on politics or culture, and may as well not exist at all.
  • Re: economic factors, see Vernor Vinge's The Cookie Monster. – Logan R. Kearsley Nov 11 at 12:27

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