The culmination of humanity’s demise was as old as humanity itself. From the first illustration drawn on a cave wall, humans had told stories and recounted history. Each cumulative link in the chain, from decorative pottery and bedtime stories to television and holographic novels, furthered the desire to augment or escape reality. Ever seeking utopia, a world without struggle, the greatest achievement known to homo sapiens was also its last act in a lonely and indifferent cosmos.
The first inroads to mankind’s undoing began with prosthesis. The marriage between man and machine allowed amputees to twitch a muscle and control a rude motor. Implants were designed to allow the blind to see and the deaf to hear. At first the implants allowed only a narrow spectrum, roughly equivalent to that of the native human ability; later it was expanded to include wavelengths far beyond that of the Norms. With genetic engineering, disabilities were eliminated altogether. The brain was mapped and tapped. Cybernetic implants and connections gave way to a half-breed of humanity, a union between the digital world it created for escape, and the physical world to which it was chained.
When humans dreamed, thoughts were captured, recreated and rendered in full detail in a digital system. Art was reborn in the renaissance of direct thought. Individuals with no outward signs of talent or ability became composers of grand scale, artists of unimaginable beauty. The creative mind was no longer bound by sinew and skill. The world operated at the speed of thought. “Think-tanks” became a literal term, as the knowledge and subjective experiences of men and women were combined, aggregated and quantified. Theories and wild imagination alike were efficiently parsed and fact-checked. Scientific progress exploded in a flurry of thought experiments and dynamic data-modeling.
It came as little surprise when the first brain was successfully merged with a fictional universe. Video game companies at that time were constantly pushing the limits of their hardware. How quickly the fictional worlds spread. Linked by the underlying technology, each world was distinct yet connected to the whole. In any world, and in every world, the digital self became an extension of the physical self. Skills learned in one universe translated to all universes, both physical and virtual. The worlds grew, aided by true Artificial Intelligence architects. The difference between sensation physically, and the digital equivalent, rapidly dwindled to nothing.
Philosophy as a field was born anew, as discussions of the ego and digital property rights collided with the belief in the divine. Fair and equitable treatment was a mandate from the earliest integration systems. Each person would succeed on the merits of their skills. Theft was impossible; any item could be restored to its owner instantly. Greed became useless when the resources were essentially infinite.
Leaving behind a massive, world-wide automated and self-improving system, Mankind shed its corporeal form. In that instant, the creation merged with its creators, and humanity as the universe knew it ceased to be.