Unliving or Ancient Ancestors or Massed Minds are memories of departed Heechee which are uploaded to dataspace in a process called Lifting. They are considered to be a continuation of the deceased and continue their existence as citizens, albeit second class.
The Heechee proclaim great respect but the Unliving are to perform tasks distasteful, perilous or tedious. When it comes to personal comfort or safety, true convictions emerge. Those on the High Council can advise other members but have no voting rights (although Fogram's close ties with the First Seat gives him almost absolute power). They also serve as software, since Heechee never evolved informatics.
The religious members of the White Hand know that Lifting does not evade death, it only creates a program which is an exact copy of the individual; their true consciousness goes elsewhere.