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"I do think there is a link in that in both cases, writing fiction or writing a computer program, at any given moment you're focusing on a very specific and particular thing—one word, one line of code, whatever."
- Neal Stephenson

Virtual Immortality  
  A method for storing the mind and memories of a person, and recalling and reconstituting them at will.  

In the end our ancestors learned how to analyze and store the information which would define any specific human being - and to use that information to recreate the original, as you have just recreated that couch.

"I know that such things interest you, Alvin, but I cannot tell you exactly how it was done. The way in which information is stored is of no importance; all that matters is the information itself. It may be in the form of written words on paper, of varying magnetic fields, or patterns of electric charge. Men have used all these methods of storage, and many others. Suffice it to say that long ago they were able to store themselves - or, to be more precise, the disembodied patters from which they could be called back into existence.

"So much you already know. This is the way our ancestors gave us virtual immortality, yet avoided the problems raised by the abolition of death. A thousand years in one body is long enough for any man; at the end of that time, his mind is clogged with memories, and he only asks for rest - or a new beginning.

"In a little while, Alvin, I shall prepare to leave this life. I shall go back through my memories, editing them and canceling those I do not wish to keep. Then I shall walk into the Hall of Creation, but through a door you have never seen. This old body will cease to exist, and so will consciousness itself. Nothing will be left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.

"I shall sleep, Alvin, and without dreams. Then one day, perhaps a hundred thousand years from now, I shall find myself in a new body, meeting those who have been chosen to be my guardians. They will look after me as Eriston and Etania have guided you, for at first I will know nothing of Diaspar and will have no memories of what I was before. Those memories will slowly return, at the end of my infancy, and I will build upon them as I move forward into my new cycle of existence.

"That is the pattern of our lives. We have all been here many, many times before... this present population will never repeat itself again...

...At any moment, Alvin, only a hundredth of the citizens of Diaspar live and walk in its streets. The vast majority sleep in the memory banks...

From The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Unknown in 1956
Additional resources -

Compare to the cortical stack from Altered Carbon, a 2003 novel by Richard Morgan.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The City and the Stars
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to The City and the Stars
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Virtual Immortality-related news articles:
  - Neuroscientist Works Toward Virtual Immortality ala Clarke

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