Here’s the basics of the lore on these things, as a kind of FAQ, gathered up from the recent, recurring discussions.
I am sure I miss something, so please add factoids and references! Please keep clear though what is canon-confirmed and what is your favorite hypothesis.
So! The very, very basic is that when you fly in space, you are inside a pod, a capsule, which is a gel filled thingy where you control the spaceship via neural implants. When you die, the capsule kills you, takes a snapshot from your consciousness, transfers it over the FTL to where a fresh clone of you waits, and you wake up in a new body. Simple.
In the capsule, however, things are different. All the equipment needs to do is detect a breach in the pod, because – as every cadet has hammered into his head from the moment he starts training – pod breach, without exception, spells doom for the person inside. Therefore, the instant the egg begins to crack, two things happen: the wire-cap on the pilot’s head injects an instantly lethal nanotoxin into his bloodstream and the scanner sends its piercing light into his skull. Scarce seconds later, he begins the muddy climb towards consciousness in a new body, light years away.
The process is really safe these days, but it apparently can fail (CCP Falcon in this Reddit thread):
If the process is not controlled and standard, the risks can be greater. Advanced age at first cloning is suspected to have contrinuted to personality changes caused by the experience (Muriya Mordu), and cloning done without proper care can cause brain damage (Bethora).
If you die outside of the pod, your chances to get a scan in and an immediate revival are slim (from The Capsule and the Clone)
The crucial element in the process relies on a brain-scan snapshot being taken at the precise time of death and transmitted to the waiting clone, and so the transneural burning scanner required to do so needs to be mounted somewhere close to the person at all times. Since the snapshot itself causes massive physical damage to the gray matter, there can be no margin of error; it needs to be done at the exact time of death. In planetary vehicles, the cloning companies have experimented with mounting the transneural scanner in a variety of locations, but the almost limitless potentiality of planet-bound environments has proved time and again that it just isn’t safe – snapshots either go off due to false stimuli, leaving healthy clients in a vegetative state, or fail to go off due to circumstances unforeseen by the safeguard mechanism, leaving clients dead with no chance of retransplantation.
But don’t worry, because there are backups, ie copies of your mindscan that can be used to revive an older copy of you in case of death outside of pod / jumpclone creation. Backups are in multiple places in the lore, but how the process works exactly is not described in lore proper.
Death states that all mindscans are lethal, so presumably creating a backup would also require cloning:
Cloning outside of a capsule is also possible, although the associated risks remain pretty much the same: The brain is scanned - and thereby ruined - and its contents transferred to a receiving station that instantaneously awakens the consciousness in a new clone. This can be done only under laboratory conditions, although technology in the area is progressing quite rapidly. The possibility looms that cloning may at some point take place outside the strictures of a capsule or a similar machine, though it’s considered unlikely that it will ever be anything other than instantaneous.
From The Capsule we learn that
Eventually in the last couple of decades, cloning became a realistic and stable enough process to allow those with the vast wealth required for such a complex process to ensure the continuation of their lives should the worst happen.
Today many public figures, politicians, actors, heads of state, and other celebrities have the option to effectively insure their lives with an almost criminally expensive cloning contract that enables them to safeguard their future.
However, non-lethal scanning have been assumed assumed by many players and at least by some devs to exist. Here’s a description of it by a storydev at the time (obs: this is not in current lore and not by current lore team, use with caution):
Aside from related technical issues, ome of these are explained by cultural values. There are many Minmatar who believe that only (one copy of) one body and one mind may exist at any one time.
[—] philosophy of those who believe that only one living body and one living spirit, or mind, may exist at any one time. Within this tradition there exists a school of thought that believes it is acceptable to assist a spirit in crossing from a dying body to a new living body
Amarrians have a ‘sacred flesh’ tradition that makes many frown on cloning, even though a recent exhortations by Empress Catiz and the Theology Council indeed confirm capsuleers are considered fully human.
The Amarr have a mixed view on cloning, with the doctrine of Sacred Flesh prohibiting it for royalty. Many members of the clergy and nobility also adhere to the ideals of Sacred Flesh, though violation of it among these segments of society is not considered a religious crime as it is among royals. However, cloning has gained more and more acceptance among the Amarr in recent decades, especially with the rise of capsuleers. Some theologians contend that the soul transmigrates into a new body upon cloning, while others claim that clones are nothing more than soulless shells. (From Death)
As the faithful will know, this Exhortation by the Theology Council contained the judgment that cloned humans should be accepted as embodying souls in communion with the Imperial Rite. (See links above)
Backups of non-capsuleers have some use, however:
Similarly, some military personnel who serve as crew onboard vessels belonging to the various navies of New Eden are mandated to fly with a basic clone that is backed up every three months at the end of their service rotation. This means that if they are killed in the field, they lose a maximum of three months’ memory and training, and can be redeployed into service as soon as they have been assigned to a replacement vessel.
(Click here for a note on revised lore / Frigates of EVE)
The book Frigates of EVE states that navy personnel have backups without the modifier “some”. The word “some” making it not a universal practice was added by CCP Delegate Zero in 2021 with the explicit intent to make lore about backups more coherent - if they were so common why would not not every ship have them?
Besides clones availabe to some, all crews are not routinely backed up everywhere. Crew work is dangerous and a lot of people die, but other safety measures exist, as evidenced in multiple places in the lore, and for example this description of SoE work:
Provisions for crew safety on capsuleer vessels include numerous safety features, such as small boats, escape pods and long-term survival suits. The SCC also makes available life insurance and financing of static backup clones for space crews on highly favorable terms. Despite these measures the SOE believes not enough is being done to prevent crews losses aboard capsuleer ships.
In the Triglavian Invasions in YC122, further advancements were made in crew safety:
The pressure of the Triglavian Invasions on spaceship crew numbers and other military personnel risked becoming unsustainable without additional survival measures to reduce losses. Life Support Backup Units are placed in key survival zones to enhance the survival prospects of crew and other personnel in the aftermath of combat. (Item description ingame)
The reason you cannot have multiple copies of yourself is not technical; it’s legal. There’s a chronicle about that, but here’s ISD Thalack with the TL;DR (From the OOC EVE Roleplayers’ Discord, which you btw totally should join!):
Jump clones are not backups, but they actually kill you for them, so no time loss when you JC (from Death):
So-called “jump cloning” works in much the same manner. Once a jump contract has been agreed upon, the customer can enter any cloning facility at any station, whereupon they will be brain-scanned, their originating bodies effectively flatlined, and their consciousness transferred to a waiting jump clone at their requested destination. Any implants in the originating body are carefully picked out by machines and just as carefully inserted into a fresh clone waiting at the original jumping-off point. Once the owner finally jumps back, from their point of view, they are returning to the same body, with the same implants and all, when in actuality it is a new clone.
Oh, and while you usually don’t, if you are ok with the risk of losing time and have the correct equipment, you can leave your pod on a ship: Cross Capsule Variant | EVE Universe
And they make you die and clone once in the end of capsuleer training (Capsuleers;
Once a candidate makes it through the entire five years of mental and physical hardship and exertion, he is ready to face the final test: in order to gain his certification and become a full-fledged capsuleer, he must submit to voluntary euthanasia, give up the body he was born in, and clone into a new version of himself, for the first time coming squarely face to face with death. Despite the prodigious investment of time and energy the preceding years have demanded, it’s surprising to note how many candidates cannot make this final step, forgoing all they’ve learned because they can’t bear to cross the Rubicon into posthumanity.
There are a couple of bits here that cause serious headaches to players. Here are some common, as far as I know not confirmed by canon, solutions to those:
- It is generally assumed that the requirement for killing yourself once in the end of training was put in around the time EVE Source came out, because before that many player characters were talking about ‘still being in their original body’. This way, some of them still are.
- People’s assumptions of to what extent crew death is preventable by cloning and safety measures varies wildly, depending on their story needs for tragedy.
- Whether non-lethal scans exist or not is not an issue for most players; they might as well get backups by a method that requires cloning.