In 1987 Keith Henson founded the Far Edge Committee. The group's sole purpose was to begin planning for the Far Edge Party, an enormous gathering of downloaded multiple selves that was to be held in the far-off future and at the other side of the Milky Way.
Henson came up with the idea after realizing there was no way that he personally was going to make a grand tour of the Galaxy if there was only one copy of Keith Henson alive, even if that copy was supposed to live forever. He might live forever, but the Galaxy sure wouldn't.
"There are 100 to 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone," Henson said, "and even with nanotechnology to help, it will take a year or two per star system, not counting travel time between stars. Visiting every interesting object in serial is literally impossible, since the interesting places won't last long enough. I don't want to take such a long time looking over this one small flock of stars that most of them burn out."
Plainly there was a problem here: how could a single person see all there was to see if part of your destination went up in smoke while you were still in transit? You couldn't, of course, not if you were just one person. But if you were many people-a bunch of