The shadow of the reaper looms long over the human race. As mankind’s oldest foe, death is an opponent not to be taken lightly. And in fear of our very nature, a few terrified souls such as yourself have set out on a desperate search for a way to avoid fate. I could say be careful what you wish for, but I know that’ll fall on deaf ears. With time standing against you and old age eroding everything you wish to save, it’s pretty clear that you’ll take any Faustian bargain which poses a potential solution.

Instead, let me walk you through some of your options–although be warned, most of them have less than pleasant side effects. Here are 4 of the more attainable, if highly questionable, means of cheating death.

4. Simulation: the Virtual Ghost

You could do a little bit better job with your scan, though. Maybe include some hair.

Before we get too out there, let’s consider why it is that you want to avoid dying so much. Is it for yourself, or are you trying to spare someone else the heartache of being without you? If your concerns are largely external, then there is a much, much simpler way to go about this: the virtual ghost. See, all we need is something that recreate the experience of being around you, knowing what you know and responding as you would respond. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sentient, just appear as such to an observer. In the face of imminent death, you can dedicate your time to the creation of this simulation, ensuring its perfection. Scan your body to create the outside, and program it with all your memories, knowledge, and personality and voila–we have a simulacrum that’s indistinguishable.

Of course, it’s not you; not really. Max Headroom wasn’t Edison Carter. There’s an inherent failure in the continuity of consciousness here, so it’s not exactly cheating death. You’ll still die, but at least something of you, everything you learned and experienced, will remain here indefinitely, and that’s a lot better than most people get.

3. Brain Transference

Finding a trustworthy surgeon is important, of course. Don’t want to end up floating in a jar.

At that stage, we’ve already decided that what matters when it comes to “you” being “you” is your memories, knowledge, and personality. Where is all that stored? Your brain, naturally, so that’s what we need. People have already figured this much out, and it’s possible to get your brain frozen after your death… but that doesn’t do much to help you avoid dying in the first place. Ideally, we need to take your brain out of your sickly body while it’s still alive, and just find another, healthier body to put it in. Finding someone willing to go along with that might be difficult, but the less scrupulous among us could likely find, say, a brain-dead or comatose patient who’s not doing much with his body at the moment. Kinda worked for Professor X, right?

On its face, this seems pretty clear cut–it must still be you, since it’s just your brain in a new body, but let’s stop to think how much of your life and experience is shaped by the vessel it was experienced in. Is this new body shorter or taller? Is it fatter, or differently shaped? Heck, beggars can’t be choosers here; you might wind up with a body of a different race or gender. How does all that change alter the way you perceive reality now?

2. Mind Upload

The mind upload process also generally works better if it’s voluntary, and performed prior to death as opposed to during it.

But if you’ve got the technology, we can take that a step further. After all, the memories and knowledge in your brain is effectively just data, right? What if, instead of programming that simulacrum manually, you were instead able to just upload the whole thing directly? I mean, the brain’s capacity is estimated to be as much as 2.5 petabytes, so you’ll need a lot of space, but if you’re capable of performing this, that’s probably not an issue. Where it gets more complicated is the maintaining that aforementioned “continuity of consciousness”–how do we ensure that the contents of your mind remain you, and not just a big load of mostly useless data that isn’t capable of self-awareness? One option might be to simulate the brain itself, every crevice and fold, in perfect detail. It’s been done, at least in part, before. Although getting that much data on a particular brain, well… that might require disassembly…

And that’s without getting into the philosophical aspects of this. If it’s possible to upload your mind to a computer system that’s simulating your brain, especially if that can be done with you still alive, is that really you, either? What makes it any different from an extremely accurate version of the above? Hypothetically, you could create infinite copies of yourself, and then which one is really “you”? All, or none? It’s hard to say. Let’s not forget, this is just replicating your mind, and you’ll still be without your body…

1. Savestate Cloning

Be careful not to get multiple bodies running at once, though. Things get confusing, cults are formed…

Of course, I have a few ideas about that one, too. While we’re ripping your brain apart to get an accurate map, why not save a little of that DNA? You could start growing yourself some clones right away, and depending on how developed your civilization’s cloning technology is, you could be out on the town again in somewhere between 2 weeks and 18 years. You’ve got your mind, you’ve got your old body (minus a few decades and some scars), what more could you want?

Oh, don’t think so simply, my friend; this setup offers you so much more than just a new lease on life. Once this operation is up and running, you’re flirting with true immortality. With a stock of reserve clones and brain backups every night (because after all, the structure’s the same; you just need to map changes, now), no matter what happens, you’ll be able to revive back at base, in a new body, with at most a few hours worth of memory loss, as if you were in a video game. As technology continues to advance, you can genetically modify clones for optimal health or to better match your perfect image of yourself…

What constitutes “you” at that point is extremely complicated, and only gets worse as the centuries pass. Perhaps “you” died long ago, in that original brain upload… and each new body you pass through, supplanting the infantile, undeveloped mind that came with it, adds a little something of someone else who never was. After countless iterations, is there really much of the man who feared death so terribly that he resorted to this?

I think that about covers it. Are you still the same person who started reading this article to begin with? You can let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @RetroPhaseShift. Keep your eyes out for an announcement about the release of my next book soon!