So, you died. Good for you. Luckily, due to various scientific advancements that spit in the face of biology, philosophy, engineering, and general plausibility, you’re technically not dead! Your body is, as well as your brain, but your consciousness has been mapped and uploaded to the big server farm in the sky, and now you’re here!

So, obviously, this is some sort of transhumanistic, ghost-in-the-machine, virtual afterlife, and that comes with two major perks. Functional immortality, and free reality-bending powers, to some degree. But this is where things start to get complicated.

There are two extremes: A setting where everyone can just make or do anything, to anyone, without limits, without any need for skill or experience. At all. Think of a puppy. There is a puppy. You just willed a puppy into existence. Think of someone's head exploding. That guy's head just exploded. You did that. Think of begin god-king of the universe. You are now god-king of the universe. Someone else wants to be god-king. Someone else is now god-king. You kill him with your mind. He comes back and kill you. Now someone else wants to be god-king. You can see where this is going. Clearly, this is a terrible, terrible idea, and the decline of the virtual paradise will be swift and drastic.

The other extreme is that only one person, or maybe only a few people, know how to control the artificial reality, because they’re the ones who made it. This is also not a great idea, for the same reason that if humans can do something without any consequence, they almost invariably always will. Those few with the power of gods will act like gods with human values always do, and things will start to go downhill.

So, our two options are anarchy, and dictatorship. There needs to be a balance between the two, and some form of maintaining general peace and making sure everything doesn’t fly off the rails. But before we implement any kind of existing government, here’s some important information.


Getting killed is not a big deal. If you die, you pop back up somewhere nearby within a few minutes. It still hurts, but not nearly as much as being killed for real, and doesn’t really have any permanent psychological effects. Killing someone is kind of equivalent to punching someone in the arm, really hard, and for no reason. It’s not the worst thing you can do to someone, but it also makes you kind of a D-bag. If someone killed you, then stole all your stuff, you’d probably be more mad about all of your stuff being gone than actually dying.

Also, you can actually die if you want to, because as we all know, immortality sucks.


People can change their reality. Obviously not at first, but the only upper limits are time, determination, and how much you actually have to learn. If you get to the point where you have complete and utter omnipotence and omnipresence, great. You win. There is literally no aspect of reality you cannot control. You hit the level cap. Have fun. This would take a really, really, really long time, and would honestly be pretty boring, so most people don’t do it. It’s kind of like memorizing the dictionary. Theoretically, you could do it, but most people just get to a point where they can see anything within a billion light-year radius, can create entire galaxies with the snap of their fingers, shrug, and say, “Yeah. That’s good enough.”

Some Reality-Bending Rules

  1. The pre-existing laws of physics are viewed as “suggestions” by most. You can defy gravity, but given that it's pretty useful for keeping stuff on the ground, as long as no one's actively changing it, physics will snap right back to what passes for "normal"
  2. People can change themselves, including minds and bodies. Do so at your own risk.
  3. No time travel. Because that would require sending data (i.e. the data making up a person or thing) back or forward in time, and it’s complicated enough already.
  4. You can’t change some stuff, just because it’s so basic. There are definitely aspects of the universe that would definitely cause everything to stop working if they changed, so the people who built the universe had the foresight to make them tamper-proof. It doesn’t stop people from trying, though.

Destroying Everything

If you do something that would destroy a decent chunk of the universe, then you’re going to get some sort of popup message that says something along the lines of “It looks like the action you’re about to take would destroy most of reality. This will likely inconvenience many hundreds of billions of people, and cause them all to blame you for this. Are you sure you want to continue? Y/N” This does not generally happen, given that it takes a lot of time and skill to even destroy a few square light-years, and when all those billions of people come back, they will likely kick the living daylights out of you, one at a time. This creates a surprising amount of peace.

Self-Contained Universe

It governs itself, because it has to. There is no outside influence upon reality, or at least no provable one. People die, pop up here, and someone shows them around and welcomes them to the club. That’s it. At no point is a lab tech somewhere back in the real world going to use his admin powers to ban someone for being annoying. You have to deal with that yourself. Any laws beyond basic universal structure are made by someone on the inside.

Knowing What You're In For

You sign up when you’re alive, they put a thing in your brain, you die sometime later, and then you wake up here. People may not know exactly what it’s like, they can’t look into the afterlife and see, but they know roughly what to expect. that means that they know they get immortality, reality-bending, and things like that, but they know nothing about the societal or governing structure in-universe.


Computers are bad at infinity, so the universe is only functionally infinite. That means that at any given moment, it has a finite number of space and atoms in it, but you can always make more. The universe can be made bigger, and more things can be made. Difficulty of making them scales up with complexity, so, making a $1\text{m}^3$ block of silicon atoms is a snap, but making an entire computer is quite a bit harder.

All of this clearly invalidates, or at least complicates, most traditional forms of government. So here are some some basic requirements.

  1. It needs to work, and work well, for a long time. These people are going to be around for a very, very, very long time.
  2. People need to be happy, or at least the vast majority. The whole point of there being an afterlife is that it’s actually better than normal life.
  3. There need to be rules. Murder is sort of a non-issue, but other general human terribleness should be kept in check.
  4. These rules need to be enforced. Maybe the populous is kept in check by those who have ascended to near-godhood. Maybe there are artificial entities already in place as part of the universe’s code, to act as lawmen. Maybe it’s all just held in place by mutually-assured destruction. If you kill someone, they’ll come back to life and kill you right back.
  5. These rules are subject to public opinion. Same reason that, “If one finkf when one fhould floate, then they are decred gilty of whichcrafte ” isn’t a law that’s on the books anymore. Times change.
  6. There needs to be some degree of stability. We can’t have the governing body in wherever you live being overthrown every other week.
  7. Ignore the other six requirements. Of course it can’t work properly! Where’s a story without conflict! People should be dissatisfied, laws should be broken, punishments can be avoided! Chaos needs to exist, if only as the exception to prove the rule. If everyone were happy with everything, all the time, then nothing interesting would happen. A utopian society is not going to happen. All I'm looking for is something that keeps the universe from burning down or being consumed by lovecraftian monstrosities, while still allowing human demi-gods to run around and do/make fun stuff.

So: How to govern a society of functionally immortal reality-benders?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why do you asume inmortal reality benders will form a society at all? $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 22:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You mention an oscillating fight to be God King as an example. When you throw around words like "immortal" and "reality bending," the behaviors we see will be remarkably dependent on the exact flavor of how the universe resolves conflicting desires. Does one fully overwrite the other? Do they blend into something nobody specifically wanted? How does it interact with "death?" Does death reset your desires so you have to start over? I would 100% expect the society to structure itself to the exact ruleset of the universe, and conflict resolution is a big part of that. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Cort Ammon you're right. To clarify, I think that this form of reality-bending revolves around messing with the various locations and qualities of atoms, so, instead of just instantly changing everything, I guess it would be more like lowering the amount of energy drastically in a enclosed area, while manifesting liquid water around it, and freezing your opponent's head solid, then seizing power while they're incapacitated. You really just have to be very, very specific for it to work. It's kind of like genie-wish rules. If you miss one tiny detail, then nothing works right. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ Um... Is there a single computer running all this? I'm afraid about someone pulling the plug. Unless there's a back-up save. $\endgroup$ Commented May 24, 2016 at 21:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Send in AI Hugo Weaving in sunglasses to sort things out. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 0:49

13 Answers 13


Why would you be allowed to mess with other people's data? We don't do that now: you visit web sites and customize them within the scope of their design, and could make one from scratch or even own your own server. But you don't change up a public site beyond your own account or beyond its custimizability.

Likewise, you can create VR spaces and invite others in, but you can't edit those owned by someone else, and public spaces will exist with limited ability to alter at all.

Now maybe there will be free-for-all sandboxes that you can play with, both shared and private. But there will be places set up to be a certain way and the whole reason for using then is that it is that way and a beach, for example, won't change into an office building.

Your premise seems to imply that it's set up as a single global reality with 3D positions like our real world. Why? Places will have their own disjoint 3d space within them, and multiple places exist simultaneously.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Exactly. People will want privacy, and I can imagine each person has their own impenetrable fortress of coolness $\endgroup$
    – Jon
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is very similar to the setup in Brandon Sanderson's novella Perfect State. $\endgroup$
    – Tacroy
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, this is pretty standard thoughts for how VR worlds would function. Safe zones in which others can only do so much, around your stuff, and probably your person. Can be deactivated, but only by you $\endgroup$
    – lupe
    Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 8:43

I think your best bet would be to have an up vote/down vote system for behaviour. Committing a crime gets you down votes. Murder would be 1 down vote and serious crimes like rape and kidnapping are say 100 down votes with other crimes in-between. The down votes would be decided by a panel of judges, say 3 per case. When a crime is committed the victim reports the crime. If the perpetrator is known then the judges summon them to stand trial. If they refuse they have 100 down votes automatically given. If the perpetrator is unknown the judges seek out evidence, like a modern day police force would.

Up votes are gained by doing good for your community. Up votes will also be handed out at a rate of 1 per year as standard however criminals lose their up vote gaining for 10 years as standard. The number of votes you have determines how many powers you can gain although you still need to practise to reach the full potential of your current level. So a lazy 100 voter has the same powers as a 80 voter who practises a little or a 50 voter who practises constantly.

Judges are people with over 1000 votes. If a judge has any down vote they instantly lose their judgeship. Judges have the power to give down votes along with other powers unique to judges. Killing a judge gives a huge penalty as judges are crucial to society running correctly and killing one inconveniences everyone.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ So... kind of like Stack Exchange? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ Is'nt SE a good democratic system? For this particular question it makes sense since nothing is irreversible. The fear of being permanently know by everyone as a dick is enough to keep people from behaving as dicks. I come on wb.se regularly and the worse posts I can see are the one badly written or off topic... and we are on the internet! There is so many ways to be annoying on the internet. If I had edit right I could edit this answer and try to start a flame war. But I wont and chances are, nobody will. $\endgroup$
    – Nyashes
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 22:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If I could add an apostrophe to that comment, I would. I may also pick up litter at a public park I happen by; but I would not re-arrange the picnic facilities or replace the grass with a pond... $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ No, SE is a terrible democracy. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Reminds me of a Community episode. $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2018 at 12:28

Everyone has a budget of CPU power and memory for "Mods"

By default, the simulated Universe runs a rough approximation of the physical one, with the same laws of nature. This can be changed by people "modding" the simulation in a specific location. How much they can change is limited by their personal budget. This may start out small and increase with responsible use and decrease if the mods cause issues. A person doesn't know their exact budget, but will notice it takes more and more effort to add or maintain changes until nothing extra happens anymore.

  • People can pool their budget by cooperating on some "mod". Whole groups can set up their unique slice of the Universe with completely different rules.
  • Changes attempt to overwrite each other, causing a conflict. If person A is maintaining a mod that makes the sky look pink from a certain location and person B tries to make it look blue again, the two instructions will use up both people's mod budget until one gives up or they reach a compromise. Since this is costly to the system, both person A and B will have their budgets shrunk slightly. This discourages conflict and encourages communication and cooperation.
  • A person has increased CPU priority on their own avatar and home location. This means it's very easy to protect oneself from hostile modding and even mod ones way out of normal danger. All the conflict's budget penalties are allocated to the hostile person. A home location cannot be claimed in conflict, because the oldest active claim takes precedence.

Example time!

A group of people have banded together and set up "Furryland". All avatars entering this zone instantly sprout a soft, smooth fur all over their bodies, while their faces take on an animal aspect and their eyes grow huge. This is maintained by the entire group, leaving them most of their budget for further private perversions mods.

Any person entering can allow the mod to take effect without expending their own budget or decreasing that of the furries. If they resist, they will get priority and no change will happen, but this is taken out of the furries' budgets. Before long a group of hostile people is trying to ruin Furryland by making mud tornadoes and fighting the changes to their avatars, costing the furries their mod budgets. To prevent this, the furries set Furryland to be their home locations, abandoning any other claims they might have had. Now, the priority works as follows: The home location effects now override the mud tornado, with penalties going to the hostiles. The hostiles' personal resistance to the furry effect still overrides all, but it doesn't penalize the furries in their home location.

One lone griefer tries another way: modding boulders out of thin air far above Furryland, then letting normal gravity drop them on the poor furries. He reasons that since the simulation is the one creating the big crash, the furries can't negate his mod. However, what happens is that with very little effort, barely more than a reflex, the people underneath the boulder can mod it away before it hits them or their home location, this being an exception to the rule that modding the default simulation costs effort/budget.


Within this framework, cooperation is rewarded greatly by the ability to create and maintain greater things, as well as protecting them through the "home" designation. Conflict is punished by diminished ability to change the simulation. With everyone having supreme authority over their own avatars, you don't need law enforcement, though people certainly can set up a cooperation to prevent "griefing" and other abuse, as well as organizing to create greater things on a cosmic scale.


A book suggestion for you, where all these topics/issues are touched if not even solved:

Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale by Leonid Korogodski

The books setting is a bit different as the world is filled with three intelligent, cognitive races. It is also set in a far-future era. There is usually no interaction between the three races. This is by law, based on a decision after the war.

Three races

actual humans

again split into more groups that have massive genetic differences, as they spliced there genes. It is so big, that they are not able to easily (if at all) communicate anymore.

They have mixed communities where the communication works via a chain off intermediate versions of the two ends of the line. So a fish-like human speaks to a bit less fish-like, this one speaks to a fish-insectoid-like human, and so forth.

Humans also live in small enclosed communities. The planet is mainly inhabited by plants and non-human species, although more or less every little piece of the flora and fauna is genetically engineered for specific purposes.


They are robotic life-forms that evolved(?) from what we usually take as a typical robot. They mainly take care of the planet in the long term. One example is, that they change the direction of an astroid a tiny little bit, because there is a probability of a collision in around a hundred thousand years or so.

(simulation based) Artificial Intelligences

The third race is living in big simulated environments. The main actor of the book is one of them, so the reader learns way more about the details of them as of the others.

There are different simulations which are like countries. You can move between them, but it is not without effort – unlike inside one simulation. This is due to the needed transfer from one datacenter to another. There are big differences from simulation to simulation, for example how new individuals are born.

This is how the book starts: It describes in detail how the main actor gets born. I absolutely recommend anyone to read at least this part.

There is also of course immortality and reality bending to a certain point. The AIs are jumping inside the simulation without any effort. So they can for example watch the Robots (they have a nicer name in the book I don't remember) changing the trajectory of an astroid, in real time. But they know – and also mention – that it is not actual real-time, as they are only spectators watching recorded data. Light-speed is still the limit.


All the AI individuals are technically immortal. There is a very slow but not zero birth rate, though. They keep their minds clean by changing it. It is like taking drugs, but more on that later.

Reality Bending

AI people (has anyone a better name?) are able to change there environment. They have to obey physical laws, though. So what the simulation does is to perfectly(?) simulate physics but give the individuals a direct channel to manipulate it. So they cannot destroy the universe but easily create a four-dimensional cube floating in front of them.

In order to do such things, they need to be able to understand the math behind the physics. So it is a big effort. Some things – like changing their position – are simpler, because there are "APIs" for that. They think of it and it happens. Other things need to be done with lower level interfaces, so they are more complicated. Not everyone is able to do so and individuals are usually focussing on different things.

Changing themselves

There are ways to change the innermost of the simulation based individuals. But they cannot be forced to do so. It is an active decision to upload code that changes yourself. Some of them are very prone to do that and naturally it becomes more "normal" for individuals living many hundreds or thousands of years. Some of these programs are handled like drugs. Mainly because they can be very dangerous, they are not exactly illegal though.

Communication / Latency

AI individuals are communicating via interfaces like nowadays network programs or webservices do.

They have unique identifiers and can sign messages and so on. As expected, it is all based on mathematical methods. They use something like asymetric cryptography. That enables them to communicate privately and to validate the origin of a message.

Latency is no problem at all as the simulations are inside single, massively protected data centers. These datacenters connect to the real world via sensors, that are everywhere, except inside human-populated areas (part of that law that prohibits the interaction between the races). The simulations are also running way way faster than the real world, so if the actors want to watch an event in real-time, they have to slow themselves down (what they can easily do if they wish).


The laws are very clear in this world. There is the global law existing between all three races, that was created after the war and there are different sets of rules in each simulation. These rules are implemented in the core of that simulation. I'm not sure if they can be changed. There is also general consenus between the individuals and a kind of law enforcement.


Well since money makes no difference and you are all code in the computer. Then might as well use something everyone would be interested in.

Maybe even mind controlling literature which can cause your free traveling mind to become subservient without you knowing it.


I have actually heard of a philosophy, the name of which escapes me, in which we are actually reality warpers. It's a form of solipsism, basically saying that every single intelligence in the universe has conscious control over everything covered by its awareness. What complicates (and yet simplifies) this, is that over 7 billion people in the world have some influence. Like two people pushing an object from opposite sides, but instead it's 7 billion conflicting perspectives. Reality resolves itself by obeying larger consensus bodies and ignoring the less popular opinions.

Hypothetically, if such a world were to lose all but one intelligent mind, that mind would have complete at-will control over what was real.


For me, the question falls apart at the part that goes "So, our two options are anarchy, and dictatorship. There needs to be a balance between the two".

A change that fundamental will quite probably mean that the choices we currently might assume from human nature will seem very naive after a while, and choices and reasoning for them that we don't imagine now, would dominate. So assuming "new world but basically same life" doesn't work. Much like people used to imagine gods a bit like "people only stronger". Whatever people are now, these would completely change their understandings.

Perhaps people there go "who cares what they do for the first 20 billion years, let them". Perhaps the concept of ownership and proprietary/possessiveness fizzles and people see reality as art, and random change/creation/destruction as development in that art, all equally valid. Who knows.

Perhaps if death, loss and imprisonment don't help, people will do things they can't here and now, such as having your mind changed to mush - after all if you're a drooling wreck or have no memory of past matters, you can't so easily use your superpowers to change yourself back perhaps. Will that be possible?

Point is, you cant import human expectations. You can't expect to take a completely new paradigm, then figure its going to work based on how people react/ motivate/behave in this more limited world and lifespan, because the very beliefs you're using to assess how it might develop and therefore what governance if at may exist or be wanted, won't be held since the reality underpinning them will differ.

My bet is that human nature and understanding of life would change enough that governance as we see it just wouldn't be applicable, nor its lack a problem. Would the concept of "I" even remain the same? Doesn't seem likely. What would be discovered given that timespan? What would be valued? Why would it be? What would we learn of reality and its manipulation in a few quadrillion years (apart from "oh god, boring!")? People do things "to be remembered by history" but will that still be so? People do things knowing they'll be dead in a while and can forget it, will that be so? Those seem a bit more fundamental than how we'd govern and settle disputes.

The question is at heart, all about how we'd manage disputes in such a world. My feeling is, you can't settle disputes without experiencing what causes them, why they matter to other people, what matters to the participants that can be leveraged to resolve it, and what motivates people generally.

Can we imagine the answers to these that a few billon year old beings might have reached?


The same way we do now

...that is to say by reaching a consensus regarding the rules, rules which we base on our own emotions, our logic and our empathy (that is to say our ability to feel other people's emotions).


I think it will end up like so many online systems do: there will be some powerful users, and with a bit of luck, at least a sufficiently large part will be (mostly) benevolent, even if some of them might develop a god complex.
But what the heck: they are as god-like as it gets, so no harm done there.

These, let's call them super-users, will come to the aid of weaker users when those fall victim to trolls.
The trolls should be fairly easy to confine if a group of our superusers team up together to somehow banish them.
They might even create an illusion inside the illusion, push the trolls in there, and seal it up as good as possible, occasionally checking that the troll in question is still safely inside, where they are free to pester illusions of other users without harming anyone.

Mind you, it will not be a stable system. It will have its ups and downs, but overall, it should be just fine.

That is, as long as the trolls don't team up before the superusers do, but that can be considered very unlikely, because trolls hardly ever form teams, since that does not exactly come natural to a troll.

So, while not being paradise for everybody, it stands a reasonable chance of being a generally nice and pleasant place.

Which begs the question: Where can i sign up?


As your infinite society progresses, I see two factions becoming very powerful ruling classes. The builders an the controllers.

The builders are a group of people dedicating to building the most amazing structures. Destroy their world sized constructs and they simply rebuild them. They can reforming anything that gets destroyed in an instant, minimizing the destructive habits of their neighbors. To join their group, you must dedicate your immortal life to building and cooperation.

The controllers spend all of their time attempting to control the minds of the new guys. The work tirelessly to ensnare them in sudo universes of their own creation so that the captives do no know that they are trapped in a created universe. No matter how much the captives destroy, the can never escape because they do not know that they are captives. The perception of the greater universe has been stolen from them.


It would be better if every dead person had its own universe and reality shaping abilities but could connect with other people if they consent, like for events when they invite lots of people. This way would be less frustrating.

Private universe should be governed by their own ''god'' which has complete control of it so if they want they can decide to share this control

there should also be a public universe which everyone can enter and do all the mess they want and here everyone is a god .

This way it'be a way more peaceful and enjoyable afterlife but would require stronger machines that can hold all these universes .

when someone dies how do you know their conscious goes directly in the machine of afterlife but instead the machine doesn't simply make a copy of him and leaves the original person dead while the copy believes to be the true one ?


IRL the reason why I cant just wave my hand and make anything appear is because those are the laws of physics in this reality. In order to stay alive I need to breathe so its a law of this reality that I cant survive in a vacuum or underwater. Etc. etc.

Establish the laws of physics, of reality, within your virtual world and you wont have everyone doing just anything and everything.

Maybe there's a limit to things. You can die five times and after that you die for real! That sort of thing.


For many games, you can create your own world that you are in control of, and invite people you wish to play with. A very popular sandbox game with private servers, and a friend system added the ability to upload your mind, as people prefered to be in the game, more then living in reality. While each player is a god of the worlds they create, they must remain civil for fear of losing their friends, and never being able to visit other worlds.


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