San Junipero

The digital promise of salvation

Never before has the world changed as dramatically as in the last 50 years. In the past, people have died mainly from illness, terrorism and the consequences of the war. Today more people are dying from traffic accidents, sugar consumption and drug use. It is therefore understandable that cultures in the past have been very busy with afterlife.

In the Christian tradition, for more than 2000 years, earthly and material life has been almost meaningless. Because the right and eternal life began in the afterlife. It has also attached little importance to health care, but left it to the “Almighty”. The Buddha, who after many years of meditation has come to the conclusion that “All life is tantamount to suffering”, has come to the same conclusion. However, Buddha has given a recipe for liberation. All you have to do is go the golden eightfold path. Even easier is the promise of salvation in Christianity. It is enough to believe in the resurrection.

The most difficult path is suggested by Hinduism. In a multitude of rebirths, man must cleanse himself until his atman (soul) enters the Brahman (God). There is endless suffering to endure. In the Islamic tradition, believers have little room for maneuver because the fate of the people is determined by Allah. One is dependent on the mercy of the god to alleviate the suffering. All major world religions deal in some way with salvation and offer salvation after death.

Black Mirror 3.4. San Junipero_EN

The technological development beginning with the 19th century has called many of these beliefs into question and made them largely obsolete. In secular Europe, there are hardly any atheists. However, hardly anyone believes in a further life of the soul after death. In technologically advanced countries, medical technology has also brought enormous benefits. Simple things like heart transplantation, sewn on severed limbs or eye lasers are standard and associated nearly without risks.

More difficult diseases such as Alzheimer’s, paraplegia or cancer persist, although, as the example of AIDS shows, there are already promising therapies here. In episode 3.4. In the second half of the episode, we meet two older women. One Kenny is suffering from cancer and Yorkie has been paraplegic for many years. These two defects cannot really be cured today. In the future that Black Mirror brings in here, it’s still like that, but patients can travel with their minds both in space and time. For this purpose, a chip is mounted on the head that plays a mental world to the patient.

San Junipero is such a construction and represents a city from the 1980s. So a time when the older ladies were still young girls. Usually you have good memories about it. Disco, friends, adventure and first love. Right there in San Junipero, in a bar, meet the young women Kenny and Yorkie. Initially, it was only a very superficial relationship between two completely contrary personalities.

While Kenny enjoys the disco life on all counts and says to herself that she is a “pretty freaky one”, Yorkie is a very closed type. Nevertheless, a relationship is building up which will become deeper and deeper in the coming meetings. Yorkie always had a strict and authoritarian education. Nevertheless or because of that she feels in her inner affection for other women. When she tells her parents about this, there is a serious conflict. She rushes away from home by car and builds an accident with the consequence of paraplegia. For the first time in San Junipero with her new girlfriend Kenny, she really can experience the love of women (in cyber reality). There is an intense love relationship between them and they are very happy. Yorkie once said, “You would not even have seen me in the real world.”

For therapeutic reasons, patients cannot always stay in the virtual world, but only once a week, and there for only one day. This “immersive nostalgic therapy” is meant for patients as a change. For physically dead people an actual life in virtual space is possible. One could thereby achieve the eternal bliss and live on in those places and with those people who mean the greatest happiness.

So it would be best for dying people to die. That’s what Yorkie wants. The doctors do not turn off. In the virtual world these two women decide to marry what they will do in reality. Kenny has thus given the order to shut down the system. Of course, again in the virtual world, Yorkie wants to live there with her wife. Kenny initially refuses because she wants to do just that with her deceased husband.

Kenny is also concerned about whether it really makes sense to live forever in the bar in San Junipero. Humans have always thought about liberation from earthly suffering. However, like an eternal bliss, no one brings happiness and meaning. If Infotech and Biotech ever give us the opportunity for a mental life, we should think twice about this alternative. But in contrast to a physical life, it would still be the better option. If we could continue our lives in an IT system, we would burden the environment less than if we physically lived for millennia. We would burden our globe so already that a physical life would not be possible for at least 10 billion people. Even though we are very skeptical of artificial intelligence today, it could be a guarantor of global survival.

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