"Ignorance is bliss."
"It is not real."
The thought appeared as he adjusted the haptic gloves. That would be the Skeptic, he told himself. He gave this name to the side of his psyche that resisted the Electric Memories. Naming "the voices in your head" was part of the Mind Bus technique, a suggestion of the Suspension of Disbelief department. It amused him to think about this crossover between tech support and psychotherapy. But the important thing was that it worked. The resistance was still there, but his experiences had improved. Engaging was also part of the technique, so he replied as he reached for the sensory helmet.
"I know. But memories aren't real either. They are how we remember facts, not the facts themselves."
"They are based on real things. Things that actually happened."
Oh boy. "Memories are stories we tell ourselves. They change over time. So what if we improve them with have a little help from the Assistant, like we do with everything else?"
As if on cue, the Assistant's avatar materialized in the virtual waiting room. Its feminine voice came through the headphones. "Hello, X. Your health indicators are good today. There are no pressing messages. Would you like an Electric Memory?"
"Very well. When would you like to go?"
Over time, he learned to trust the Assistant's choices. They were made using Emotion Modelling, the technology behind the Electric Memory smart agents, applied to himself as opposed to friends and relatives. Emotion Modelling evolved from sentiment analysis decades ago, becoming a new branch of science. Every word, video, picture, and voice recording was correlated with biometric databases and buying habits repositories and then used as training data for massive deep learning models. It turned out that the ability to model emotions was the key to predicting - and simulating - behavior.
The loading bar appeared. The Skeptic tried again.
"It is just a game."
Sigh. "OK, it uses much of the same tech. Immersive environments. Haptic and sensory feedback. Realistic avatars. Smart agents animating non-playable characters, only ones that remembered everything your friends ever did, behaved just like they would. But there is no monster to defeat, no gold to hoard. It is not a game."
The bar was almost full. He thought that was the end of it when a final question hit him.
"But then what is the point?"
He hesitated. That was the question he had been avoiding, finally revealing itself. Why did he keep going back?
"The point is reconnecting. Honoring the memories of the people I loved by creating new ones. They are all long gone, and I am still here. I am not ready to let them go. Not yet."
The loading bar faded away. The details of a crowded pub slowly came into focus. Laughter and music, sweat and cheap perfume. Even before he heard his friends calling, he knew when he was.
All doubts gone, all disbelief suspended, he smiled and walked to their table.