The term Gaia is an ancient word representing an all-embracing Mother Earth type of goddess, a name going back into the mists of time. However, modern Federally sanctioned belief in Gaia and the lifestyle only appear shortly after the death of Lincoln Ward, the now near-mythical first leader of the Federation. He is now accepted as being the first person to have transcended his own death and whose personality continued to exist within Gaia.
The main tenet of Gaianism is that immortality can be acquired through a lifetime of observance of the Federal system and through religiously setting down your experiences and thoughts and opinions in your blogs. A good Citizen maintains one blog that is the official record of your life, largely automatically constructed and maintained for you by the datasphere, a second blog that is your public persona and projects the image of yourself, and a third that contains your most personal and private inner thoughts. Some believers also write down their most personal blogs on physical paper and ritually burn them later; after all, the format does not matter if Gaia is all-seeing and all-knowing. In the event of your death, Gaia can then use these records to reincarnate your entire personality and soul. And you will then continue to exist for as long as other people continue to commune with you.
This in turn leads to a second popular pastime and form of religious observance: séances, in which you can use the datasphere’s technology to communicate with people who have been subsumed into Gaia. Usually loved ones or deceased family members, but old sporting heroes and political figures are common too. And Lincoln Ward himself remains one of the most widely addressed – there are not many people on the planet who have never spoken to him.
Dates: -48 FE to 63 FE
The semi-elected leader of New New York, the largest of the fiefdoms to reindustrialize as the Cold Interregnum drew to a close, he was the natural choice to be the first president of the Federation. He is also deemed to be the first person to have been subsumed into Gaia and to have initiated the practice that believers now all follow: blogging his thoughts and emotions, putting them on record through his house domotics computer, with such a religious zeal that many of those close to him thought he was praying to his own personal god, with the house computer as his own personalized priestess (in the feminine, because it was customary then, as it still is now, to imbue domotics hardware with female attributes and personalities). Others soon followed suit, hesitantly at first but in a burgeoning flood once it became clear to them that Lincoln Ward still existed. While nobody disputes that Ward began doing so on dedicated hardware, there were two great mysteries that seem to have triggered Gaianism as a genuine religion. Firstly, his followers started to find that their blogs and prayers did not seem to be tied to any specific hardware. And then the second miracle: an errant sprinkler system shorted out and destroyed the servers on which Ward’s personality was supposedly located. Yet despite that, his subsumed personality continued to function. And from then on, Gaianism blossomed like no religion before it ever had.
[extracts from Conant’s Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, 27th Edition]
[…] Gaia, standing for God, Allah, Iehova and All others (or Jehova or Yahweh depending on your script and preferences). This was a deliberate synthesis of the great monotheistic religions of the distant past, constructed during the First Canaanite Republic on the basis of the Bible, the Koran and the Torah, plus input from later works such as The Catholic Orangeman’s Repentances. Inevitably, given the background of the devastating sectarian War of Beliefs, Gaianism preaches peace and unity. This is combined with a positively Benthamite ‘greatest good of the greatest number’, albeit weighted progressively in favour of the upper echelons. Tolerance is also a basic tenet, although in practice the monolithic uniformity of Gaianism soon led to non-believers being marginalized in some respects such as […]
[…] Intriguingly, and despite the conflict with some underlying beliefs of the great religions, Gaia is personified as female. Associations with a previous Earth Mother divinity of the same name probably reinforced that idea. However, adherents did not originally regard Gaia herself as a real person or a goddess in the sense that you could send a holomessage to her. Instead she was seen as an agglomerated unit embodying the souls of all humanity, past and present.
It is then interesting to note that Gaianism, unlike its predecessors, genuinely offers immortality. Not of the corporeal being, but a form of immortality of the soul. This came about early in the Federal period, purportedly without intervention or instructions from humans. Believers record their thoughts and deeds on a very regular basis, often with considerably intimacy and in great detail, generally by dictating them to their priestesses. Parts of these electronic records, or blogs as they are known, will be used automatically for scheduling work and planning meetings and other such mundane aspects of daily life. Other parts may be put on public record and can be retrieved if so desired by suitably authorized friends or family members or even the public at large. However, the true believer spends much more time recording their individual and personal thoughts and experiences, which are then […]
[…] and after the physical demise of the individual, the ghost in the machine remains: faithful bloggers will have transferred much of their spirit into Gaia over the course of their life. And that immortal soul, the essential mental makeup that has been absorbed into Gaia over the years, continues to exist long after death. It is capable of interacting with the living through the home priestesses, which can be a great comfort to the friends and family of the departed. Many of the individuals within Gaia then fade away over time once they are no longer regularly referenced, taking longer to respond. But once you have been subsumed into Gaia, your views and opinions and your ideas and experiences are all still in there, making your own special contribution as one of the billions of small weighting factors that make up the whole […]
Subsuming and Thanatasia
[extract from Conant’s Dictionary of Religious Knowledge, 27th Edition]
[…] a point is often finally reached in the believer’s life when they start to feel that their essence is embedded in Gaia: all their thoughts and opinions, their loves and their hates, their emotional responses are recorded and their blogging is adding nothing new. Particularly if their physical existence is harsh or uncomfortable, for example as their ageing body becomes less able to take the strain of working or they can no longer afford medical treatments, they may decide to be subsumed into Gaia. After a large farewell party for their friends and relatives, often generously sponsored by the state, their earthly existence is terminated painlessly by a FedMed medical officer, with a Priest in attendance. This event, known as Thanatasia, is of course not enforced at any point, but continuing in this plane of existence when you are no longer able to contribute to the general good is not seen as good citizenship. And naturally, no matter how well you are able to afford the more advanced medical techniques, prolonging life beyond about one hundred and twenty years is not generally feasible. Thanatasia is therefore […]
The sceptics’ response
There are just a few records dating back to the period around Ward’s death that perhaps cast light on events from a more sceptical and technologically minded viewpoint. It is clear that the top man in the new order was a charismatic leader who was well aware of the importance of communicating with people and bringing the populace onto his side, and had indeed been so well before the official foundation of the Federation. Anyone who wanted a say was allowed to send holomessages to him, and they would always get a reply. Inevitably, most of these replies must have come from small slave applications that had a good database of his writings and personal opinions and his favoured jokes and turns of phrase. They were also capable of spontaneously intervening in minor matters that would have required his attention when he was otherwise engaged. However, people continued to ask questions and communicate with him after he died, and it would seem that these ghosts in the machine were continuing to function. This was not an error: people could hardly have failed to be aware of their leader’s death. It was a massive media event. Nevertheless, there was still a demand for his opinions and wisdom. There was surprisingly little consternation when it transpired that Ward was still identing edicts months later, signing off executive orders digitally as he had always done. To all intents and purposes, he continued to exist.
And yes, you can still talk to him today. Over three thousand years later. Does he exist? Ultimately, it becomes almost a philosophical question. Is being subsumed into Gaia and transcending your apparent demise merely a function of the datasphere, after a lifetime of providing its slave applications with the blog information needed in order to predict accurately what your responses to any given circumstances might be? The sceptics among us would say this is a purely computational function. The counter-argument usually given, of course, is that the knowledge and persona of an individual can also be seen as a purely computational function, running on the wetware of neurons and synapses rather than the hardware of logic circuitry.
Are these artificial personalities then self-aware? Does it make any difference? To the vast mass of people in the world, it is a philosophical irrelevance. If they can talk with old friends, get comfort from speaking to the deceased, then it becomes a moot point.
However, the Priesthood’s clinching argument for the last three thousand years or more has been the absence of any such mass of hardware that would be required to run these billions of personalities on. The amount of factual storage required would be inconceivable, and monstrous processing power to handle it would have to be available. Sceptical theories abound about a Gaia who is purely technological in nature, but each one seems more crackpot than the next. That Gaia is somehow embedded as a massively distributed network throughout the Priestess computers in every home and the monitoring software in every building. That there is some vast behemoth of a computer that has remained not only entirely functional and completely hidden for millennia, through storms and earthquakes and despite the predations of scavengers looking for old tech, but also with its links and connections unaffected. That Gaia consists of nanotech particles, disguised or undetected, individually not particularly smart but present in such huge numbers that the overall capabilities are inconceivable. Even hardened sceptics can see that these ideas are preposterous, with no evidence whatsoever to back them.