Until the Next Instantiation

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"But don't cry for me, do not mourn me," said the prophet. His white robe was framed against the blackness with a panoramic view of the accretion disk, where the infalling gas lazily swirled down into the black hole. Like an icicle on a Christmas tree, Asa thought. Then she realized how cartoonish that looked. Something was out of whack here.

And now the prophet wasn't wearing a white robe but a white spacesuit, as if Asa's brain constantly churned to render the surroundings more realistically.

"I have to leave you now, said the prophet," and put his hand on a frame of a round hatch door, behind which was a lifeboat. "I need to leave you so that my persecutors won't come after you. But don't think of me as dead. I am going into the safety of the event horizon, beyond which no one could catch up with me. I will sail into the singularity for the rest of my life. For this is a supermassive black hole, and its event horizon is millions of kilometers, and I can live out my entire life before the tidal forces tear me apart. The The electronic substrate of my brain will simply run out of energy. Remember it as the image of my capsule slows down to a still near the event horizon; remember it as the black hole radiation slowly engulfs me in flames: death has no power over me. The devil, the trickster, will give you this illusion, but you should know it's just an illusion. I will have passed into the vast safe embrace of our Father, the event horizon."

"No, no, don't say those last few sentences," said one of the disciples, Siani. "We should not make it look as if it's due to the laws of science. A religion needs to be based on faith!"

"You can always edit out any sentences you don't like," said the prophet. "Our reality is infinitely editable. Hey, is everyone here completely booted up?"

That's right, Asa finally realized. This explained the incongruent images of the icicles and what-not. Her newly instantiated brain was still a bit woozy, until her memories sorted themselves out.

"Look," another disciple, Hemi, interrupted. "I'm actually the opposite of Siani on whether our religion should be based on certainty or belief. We, and your future followers, need to know what happened to you. Did you burn in the firewall at the event horizon, or not? There are only two possibilities: yes or no. We shouldn't just choose to believe one or the other. We are supposed to know that. The only reason why you sent our hibernating minds a signal to re-instantiate was that this time we could create a religion based on certainty. No more of that inscrutable mystery drivel."

Now Asa remembered what role the prophet assigned her to play. She stood up.

"That's not a problem, folks," Asa said. "We won't have to guess what happened to our prophet. We can even arrange his second coming!"

The room broke out in a commotion.

"Yes, we can!" Asa confirmed. "We will entangle him with some particles that will stay here as he sails into the event horizon. And then, when the black hole finally evaporates, we'll be able to reconstruct him from the Hawking radiation leaving the black hole! This was shown to be possible! What do you think, heavenly brother?" she addressed the prophet.

"Ah, but you are wrong," said a grotesquely distorted voice, coming as if from under water.

His image burst into existence all of a sudden. Instead of a fully-formed head, he had a grotesque nub with only a mouth, which he needed the most, because he rushed to speak. His incomplete boot-up didn't stop him.

Asa bristled. "Oh look, here is our friend Yaniv! What are you talking about? And why didn't you report here in time? At least form your head fully before you speak."

"I had to stop you before you rush to a wrong conclusion and destroy our chances of building a new religion. We can't build a religion that will have all the same flaws as the previous ones. And all I had to do was to dig a little more deeply in the science archives. So pardon me that it took me a few extra minutes to boot while I ingested a few thousand papers."

"Enlighten us, then!" voices shouted, not without some sarcasm.

"To compute what particles in the universe our prophet might be entangled with -- whether they are beyond the event horizon, or scattered somewhere outside in the Hawking radiation -- would take impossibly long," said Yaniv. "So long that the second coming of our messiah is out of question. Who's going to wait long past the end of the universe for the second coming?"

"You are just an advocate for the devil!"

"Oh, if only that was the case," sighed Yaniv. "But what I said is true. To compute which of the radiated particles would be him would take two to the power of the age of the universe, thanks to the computational complexity of that task."

"Darn!" said Asa. "And here we were thinking that we could build a foolproof religion based on a messiah that really will come back from the dead, even if only in the form of Hawking radiation."

"Yes..." sighed Yaniv. By now his head was fully formed, but for no use, Asa knew, because all of them will soon dissolve into nothingness again, until the next instantiation, when some new knowledge becomes available for them to try this again. "A devil-proof religion, my ass. We thought we could finally conquer the devil by reincarnating ourselves on a particle substrate, away from the evils of the flesh. But the devil did us one better. He reincarnated as computational complexity."

About the Author: 
E. Voruna is a software developer in Austin, Texas