When mankind died, nobody noticed. Not even mankind. It didn’t happen with an explosion, or a disease, or any kind of apocalyptic event. It just happened.
It started innocuously enough when scientists and technologists created a way to map the brain and create a functional copy on elaborate computer systems. A human mind could then be transferred to the computer and the result would be a ‘program’ that acted like the person would, within the limitations of being stuck without form, voice, or senses.
Because the human mind doesn’t do well with such limitations, virtual worlds were built which the ‘mind programs’ could interact with. Not only that, but multiple ‘mind programs’ could interact with each other and even with people in the real (or ‘outside’) world.
Eventually, the technology became inexpensive enough that nearly anyone could afford to have their minds uploaded to a computer when their bodies reached the end of life. It was comforting to be able to talk to deceased loved ones and actually get responses back, without relying on Ouija boards or sketchy mediums. It was looked at as a form of immortality.
People can be, in general, an impatient lot, especially when it comes to travel. Faster cars, faster planes, faster boats, faster spacecraft all came long because we don’t want to wait to get to point B, especially if it means less time on the beach.
When teleportation was perfected, people cheered! Finally, then can get to Point B in less time that it took to blink. More beach time! Less time commuting!
The way it works is to scan a body at the originating point, map out every detail of every atom, save the information, disperse the molecules of the body, transfer the information to the destination, and then re-group molecules exactly as the original.
Many people were ecstatic. Others realized it was a death machine.
A teleporter, you see, is a cloning device. Or, more accurately, a fax machine.
Consider this: You sit down and write a letter to your cousin with a pen and paper. You fold up the paper and put it in an envelope. You put a stamp on it, drop it in a box. Eventually someone comes to pick up that envelope and through a series of road trips, plane trips, and more road trips it arrives in the mailbox of your cousin. She opens the envelope, takes the paper out, unfolds it and reads it.
It’s exactly the same letter that you wrote. The paper is the exact same one you handled.
Now, sit down and write a letter using a pen and paper. Then put the paper in a fax machine, dial a number, let the machine scan the paper, and take that paper and put it in the shredder. When your cousin picks up the letter from her fax machine it will have the same data (the words you wrote), but it is a completely different piece of paper. Even though the words are the ones you wrote and even look the same, it is not the same.
Or, to be more exact, let’s say we make a clone of Bob. The clone looks exactly the same as Bob A (the original Bob). Bob B (the clone) has the same memories and mannerisms of Bob A. Let’s lock Bob A into a room and send Bob B out into the world.
Bob A’s friends and family are happy because they don’t know that Bob B is a clone. After all, he’s functionally the same as the Bob A they all know and (presumably) love. Bob B goes to Paris and has a great time at parties.
How does Bob A feel about this? He doesn’t. He has no idea what Bob B is up to. Bob A is not Bob B and does not magically experience what Bob B does. Bob A’s life effectively ended when no new experiences were, well, experienced. Bob B didn’t notice and didn’t care because he had all the old memories of Bob A, plus all the news ones that he was making while living the jet set life.
The only difference between this and teleportation is that Bob A is still alive, which he most definitely would not be after all his atoms were disassembled.
The end effect being that anyone who used a teleporter once was deceased while a copy lived on. An artificial person.
The true end came with the perfection of nanotechnology. That would be using molecular sized robots to manipulate molecules, or manipulate atoms to create new molecules. What once could be done by chemistry and nature could now be done on demand by tiny robots.
This led to a major impact on mankind. Devices could be ‘grown’ instead of manufactured. Things could be self-repairing. If a human organ wore out, it could be repaired without surgery. Or replaced completely with a newly grown one. The entire body could be, in fact, continually repaired without the person ever knowing it was going on. Which is an awful lot like how the human body worked originally, except for the limit on how many times it could do that.
It wasn’t long that the scientists and technologists realized that, with a bit of creative programming, a new body could be grown that was similar, if not exactly, like a ‘real’ one.
Make a new body and download one of the ‘mind programs’ that were living in digital heaven into it and you would have a working human.
Except that it wasn’t. It was a copy of a mind living in the copy of a body. The original having been long lost to time and, hopefully, in a different afterlife altogether.
Procreation became an issue. Not that birth was a problem; no, the new facsimile bodies could use the nanobots to build a new embryo. For the sake of tradition, the process could take as long as it always has even though it could be sped up quite a bit. Write some rules about which traits to take from Mom and which to take from Dad, mix them together, and you have yourself a baby. Take what you learned about mapping the human mind and more creative programming and you end up with a new person who lives a long a life.
But it’s not exactly human, is it?
As more and more of these neoteric humans were created (“naturally”, in artificial bodies with minds created by combining the minds of the parents) they outgrew the number of original humans until the last person of mankind faded out.
Nobody is sure when mankind died, when that last ‘real’ person passed away. And why would they? Their mind, copied from the original, would have been placed in an artificial (but totally original-like) body and continued to live.
What we are now are ghosts of those people. Echoes of those who once were.