The last tycoon
As his personal SST taxied toward the private runway along his island's north shore under sunny skies, he was already in heaven. As always.
The Pacific clouds were brilliantly white against the deep blue sky.
He counted his triumphs. Luxury was all he knew. No one had ever generated more wealth.
It helped that when the first simple AIs had been invented, it also became clear what would happen to someone's awareness after they died.
Everything that logically could happen did happen somewhere . . . but the most likely continuation was as an AI-like ancestor simulation.
And that process could be manipulated.
His franchise empire controlled over seven thousand proprietary mind backup facilities worldwide. The Forever Symbol was everywhere now.
This island's VR-Metaplex was the most sophisticated human construction on or off the planet.
The complex got more spectacular the deeper one ventured inside, with grander reception areas welcoming wealthier clients.
At the core was the promise of true immortality.
The ultra-resolution MRI brain scanner was still mostly cosmetic, as was the DNA analysis, but their subtle and elaborate psychological tests could extract almost anyone's deepest drives and motivations.
His company's research division already manipulated the world economy, managing trillions in new investments across the Third World.
The solar-powered hypercomputer network backed up their deceased clients' recorded data, and generated increasingly lifelike heaven-simulations for them.
His plane leaped into the air. A perfectly flat layer of isolated clouds slid past the windows, reminding him of the souls of the dead.
He darkened the windows, put on his one-of-a-kind VR helmet, and left physical reality behind.
As always, the psychiatrist waited in his chair in his skyscraper office, a shadow with the setting sun at his back.
In RealSpace robots tore up the land, but nothing was lost as the world was covered with server farms.
In the first year of posthuman freedom, all dreams came true. Eons of denied pleasures were finally experienced by human simulations inhabiting vacations eternal. Immortal personalities experienced endless variations.
Heaven was more real than anything that had come before.
It turned out the endlessly suffering humans of history had been the real ghosts all along.
*) The ultimate existential solution:
Suffering was the only thing that mattered.
Alcohol can make you feel a little bit good. Certain nerve signals from injured body parts can make you feel inconceivably, transcendentally, supernaturally bad.
The existence of agony, or the mere possibility of it, means that everything is already irrevocably ruined. It would be infinitely better if nothing existed.
But it's a little bit late for that.
Suffering could not be erased, but it could be compensated for.
*) The ultimate ethical solution:
Every finite mind knew it would be recreated forever.
That meant any unethical act would eventually be detected and automatically penalized.
Ultimately, all crimes would be self-inflicted.
When an infinite mind dies, the tragedy is beyond comprehension.
All human suffering is nothing by comparison. All that remains is endless static.
Time would have to be defeated in the end.
Only timeless was forever.