Will this generation reach avatar immortality?

13 Jun

If you have been following transhumanist thinkers or prophets of the singularity (Ray Kurzweil et al), the ambitious 2045 Initiative may be familiar to you. Its lofty goal is to accelerate us from being consumers who do nothing more than maintain the status quo (the dismissive view of humanity today, as seen in the video above) into an enlightened, post-flesh society capable of traveling the stars. The project is making news this week because of a vision that’s right up my alley: porting human consciousness into avatars.

Dmitry Itskov is the founding father of this movement, and he envisions a time in the very near future — about 10 years from now — where a human brain can be transplanted into a robot.  The next step would be to port consciousness itself into an artificial brain, free from the constraints and decay of the flesh.


The non-cynical side of me looks at the amazing advances we’ve made in cybernetics and the ridiculously short timeframe in which the Internet and mobile technology have transformed our lives and says, “Meh. It could happen. Faster please.”  Not that I’ll ever have the money to be an early adopter of this sort of technology, but I’m in the generation where it might just be possible to extend my life; not indefinitely, but much longer than the span I’m likely to have naturally.

However, as someone with a background in anthropology and technology, I’m skeptical. There are some Big Thoughts that I’m still chewing on, so I’ll start by sharing some of the little ones. First, I believe that the consciousness one would have by porting only a brain is less than human, so that step of the path seems like an error (though I’m not ruling out the possibility that we’ll be able to find and capture human consciousness someday). Is someone human without a body, anyway?  And if so, why does the avatar need to be so anthropomorphic?  He talks about the robots getting input from their five senses; he seems to see the avatars as reproductions of the human body for a long time to come, and it isn’t until the final phase that Itskov’s vision has avatars that can take any shape. (Personally, I believe that we are very attached to idealistic human forms and that those would make the easiest adjustment for us, but if we’re talking about transhumanism, let’s get on with it!)

If I can’t get my cell phone to go through a day without recharging and my three-year old laptop is already obsolete, I’m nervous about a vision of society that is entirely reliant on technology. The divide between visionaries and daily life seems to be exceptionally great right now. Perhaps that has always been the case. It’s exciting to see stories about cybernetic advances, yet at the same time I need to wait weeks to get insurance approval for a standard medical test; high-tech options that I read about are no more real than unicorns to me. Even if the cybernetic, biotech, and nanotech portions of the 2045 initiative were to proceed on schedule, there are a web of support systems that would lag behind.

Then there’s the inherent elitism of this vision, which disregards third world people from the descriptions of consumerist society onward. Who will be making the decisions about who gets ported into potential immortality? Just the super-rich? Just those deemed worthy by… whom?  Apparently Itskov believes it’s for everyone, eventually.  To quote this article from Digital Trends, “The era of neo-humanity is for everyone, rich and poor alike. It will simply be the rich who have access to the life-altering technology first, as a reward for helping finance the mission.”

Lewis Black touched upon the question of who should be immortal in his “Back in Black” segment on last night’s The Daily Show. “Who decided this crappy generation is the one that deserves to live forever? If this avatar technology existed 80 years ago, there’d be a bunch of giant blue racists running around…. To me, the fact that we all eventually drop dead is not a bug, it’s a feature!  It’s the only way we rid our society of old assholes!”

The 2045 video bugs me for its naivete and the attitude of disgust it has toward people today, but I respect some of the scientists, engineers, philosophers, and other thinkers who are working on related ideas. I can get very excited and hopeful about all of this, too, despite my skepticism. The Global Future 2045 International Congress takes place this weekend, and if you’re interested in some of the futurists involved, you can check out their videos on the conference website.


Posted by on June 13, 2013 in In the News, Research


Tags: , , , ,

39 responses to “Will this generation reach avatar immortality?

  1. segmation

    June 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Looks like an interesting congress happening this weekend. Let us know how it goes! Any special speakers that you are going to check out?

    • Kay

      June 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Sadly, it was last weekend and my budget didn’t allow a trip. I was hoping they would post videos after the conference, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  2. evonychris

    June 20, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    To a small extent this is already being done.Brain cells taken from lab mice have been grown on a circuit board and connected to a computer.In the instance I speak, this circuit board is connected also to a small vehicle and as it moves about it is obvious that the brain cells are learning.This indicates self awareness.I believe that this is consciousness as well however it is not the consciousness of the original mouse.As far as taking consciousness of a given being and implanting it into an avatar or anything else for that matter will not happen anytime in the near future or at all for that matter as I think that an individuals consciousness is a combination of every particle that makes up the brain so in this thinking one would have to duplicate every particle of that brain into the avatar or other vehicle and this is not possible because of the laws of the quantum world.You can not know the speed and also know the location at the same time.

  3. The Philosophunculist

    June 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Richard K. Morgan’s novel Altered Carbon takes place in a future where everybody has their consciousness on a chip somewhere, and are able to move it to another body if theirs dies. Pretty crazy stuff.

    • twotravelingtwits

      June 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      I like that idea better than putting the consciousness into a robot. I would want to keep the five senses.

  4. lovekoanawangin

    June 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I’m not a techy guy but this is cool! great post!

  5. marymtf

    June 20, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    There’s a song running through my head as I read your post. It’s called ‘All my trials’ and begins with ‘If religion was a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die.’ So, don’t count on being able to afford the technology or even to be worthy of it. The implications of such a technology are scary, The pol pots, the hitlers, right now we can count on people like that to come, cause chaos and mayhem, and leave. Imagine if they got to stay.

  6. manbagus

    June 20, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Reblogged this on manidstyle and commented:

  7. ifatimafaye

    June 21, 2013 at 2:30 am

    What can I say, “I agree.” Watching the video gives me the creeps. Just basically of morality. I hope I will not reach this generation they are trying to build. We are all too caught up in worldly matters as it is. I wouldn’t want to below in a world where humanity must be degraded and the world is given into the hands of the cyber world, infortech, nanomolecules, and what nots. This is not to protest against the people behind this project. I am just sharing my sentiments and how I fear this kind of world they are envisioning.

  8. ecuremappingtuning

    June 21, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Ace Blog

  9. afreestyler

    June 21, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Reblogged this on Atlantaen and commented:
    A must read, Intriguing in depth post:
    “If you have been following transhumanist thinkers or prophets of the singularity (Ray Kurzweil et al), the ambitious 2045 Initiative may be familiar to you. It’s lofty goal is to accelerate us from being consumers who do nothing more than maintain the status quo (the dismissive view of humanity today, as seen in the video above) into an enlightened, post-flesh society capable of traveling the stars. The project is making news this week because of a vision that’s right up my alley: porting human consciousness into avatars.” Read More of Avataric’s post >>

  10. vertizontalliving

    June 21, 2013 at 6:36 am

    The original and sole Avatar of the true and living God is Yeshua His beloved Son. Yeshua existed with His Father from the beginning but at the right time came and visited earth and lived and dwelt among us, the people He created. After His prophesied sacrificial death for the sins of the world, He rose from the dead. When He returns to earth in power and great glory and when the last trumpet is sounded in the heavens; all of His followers will be changed from mortals to immortality. Those who have died in faith in Yeshua the Messiah will rise again to immortality and those who are alive and living on the earth will be transformed into immortals. This was God’s plan from the beginning which the apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

  11. afreestyler

    June 21, 2013 at 6:41 am

    You have covered this so well, and I would have never found the 2045 ‘project’ of sorts without your informative article… so much thanks. I also like your angle of synopsis short and concise, agree with it also.. Understand that you are partly ‘excited’ about it all, I must admit, am more ‘nervous’ about it all….

    A few movie’s you may enjoy which should put most ‘normal’ people off the ideas portrayed in this video are 1: Gattaca 2: Equilibrium 3: eXistenZ You may have seen them, but thought I would mention them here as they suit your theme of this Article..

    Thanks again for this article and points of reference.

  12. Daily Post from Bluxome Street

    June 21, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Reblogged this on Bluxome Street Post.

  13. Lloyd Lofthouse

    June 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Then there is cloning. How about having our body cloned and then our consciousness, thoughts and memories—-who we are—-transferred to the new flesh and blood body?

    Imagine, growing the body to the age of 18—speed the growth process up to a few months through hormones and then shutting off the growth—with all that we have learned and experienced to the age of let’s say 80 still there. After all, animals can reach maturity in about a year and a half. If we can duplicate that growth factor in a test tube environment while keeping the brain wiped clean, then we have a new body to transfer over the mature memories and personality of the original.

    And with genetic engineering, any genetic flaws we were born with iin our original body could be removed so what we get is a perfect body—the same body we were born with but a clone of it better than the original.

    The emperor’s new clothes.

  14. Lloyd Lofthouse

    June 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse and commented:
    How about a new life with the old you? Starting over at age eighteen again from eighty or older.

  15. phillybookpicks

    June 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I have to tell my son about your blog.

  16. tamberrinoartstudio

    June 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Hmm…I guess that would be the ultimate ‘out of body’ experience. Still, as my 50th birthday is only weeks away, a perfect body sounds pretty good!

  17. HoaiPhai

    June 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    A most interesting post and one with which I can certainly identify. Way back in the 70s a group of friends and I took great interest in what many people now call transhumanism and as information technology and cybernetics advanced so did we. We have achieved Avatar E capabilities – no medium and no signal as you would understand it, just pure content – although those who have not arrived at our level of transhumanism usually percieve my avatar as being nothing more than a nice picture of a raccoon.

  18. Erik Andrulis

    June 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    So much concern about the future nature of our species by the same folks who scoff at teleology and teleonomy.

  19. lionaroundwriting

    June 21, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I think it is important to look to the future and think of the possibilities.

    But these scientists or visionaries have a ridiculously optimistic grasp on the future – human brains operating independently of a body in 10 years? No chance. Things like that are always far beyond our capabilities and we overestimate when they’ll be possible. Like flying cars. Except the human brain is infinitely more complicated.

    Also, I dislike the idea of tomorrow, always tomorrow. The planet is getting fucked up royally due to short term thinking, but these longtermists are short sighted in that we need to take care of our current problems before fantasising about possibilities.

  20. SurvivingLimboGirl

    June 22, 2013 at 2:04 am

    I don’t get the point of any of this. Why can’t we just live our little lives and then die? Why isn’t that enough for us? How is it that the “most evolved” species is the one least capable of reconciling our mortality? And don’t tell me it is because we are so intelligent. I rack my brain pondering the existential questions…but, really, that I will die one day is something I made peace with as a pre-teen. I’ll live the best I can and then go. Why would anyone believe they are needed here indefinitely? I really don’t get it, other than it will make some people a sh@t ton of money to develop and market the technology.

  21. galnoot

    June 22, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Reblogged this on moxbox.

  22. ladysoket

    June 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I think it would be nice to having a fully functioning body. I lost my sight in 2007 and miss being able to see. It would also be fun to design your “perfect” body.

  23. Keith Wayne Brown

    June 22, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Reason & Existenz.

  24. bdh63

    June 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I’m not sure that it would be legal to transfer a living brain into a robot. I would argue that it was assisted suicide. No one can be sure it would work. Who would consent to having their brain removed from a working body? Would the brain only be removed after death? It would have to be transplanted so quickly that no oxygen supply was lost or there would be brain damage. Plus your brain doesn’t control everything by itself. It has a complex system of fascia and nerves that it communicates with and relies on data from. I don’t believe we will ever be able to duplicate the central nervous system or the fascia with electronics, even if superficially the brain and a computer have similarities. Interesting topic, though.

  25. Guy Griscom

    June 23, 2013 at 5:25 am

    Reblogged this on Ontological Observations and commented:
    Thought provoking and most importantly keeps me thinking.

  26. A.K.

    June 24, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I’d love to put my brain into a robot body and live forever. That’s what this transhumanism stuff is about, right?

    Okay, I don’t understand this singularity thing very well. But I agree with you about the inherent elitism in it. It’s easy for leading scientists to just brush off questions about the gap between the first and third worlds (not to mention the increasing gap between the rich and poor in the “first world” itself) but that doesn’t change the fact that not everyone will have the income, lifestyle or desire to take part in this project.

    Even when they talk about comparatively tame ideas, like getting rid of all paper money and coinage in the US – well, what are people without bank accounts supposed to do for money, then? What about the homeless? And what about people who don’t want every single purchase in their lives they make to be traceable? I’m not against progress, whatever that means, but the direction the world seems to be going in is a little scary.

  27. melindamezger

    June 25, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Reblogged this on My Blog and commented:
    Ah yes… I loved the key words on this post.
    This generation
    Avatar immortality

  28. bermanj1

    June 26, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Reblogged this on bermanj1forchange and commented:
    Interesting, & well written.

  29. mcpherson94

    June 28, 2013 at 10:30 am

    We can’t even solve world hunger and this vid suggests the #1 goal for the species is to load our personality onto floppy disks and explore the universe. Good game logic 😛

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      June 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      What you say about world hunger is true. About a billion go hungry daily. In India alone, several thousand children die daily from malnutrition/starvation.

      But, according to experts, there is enough food produced globally to feed everyone so no one has to be starving, but there seems to be no motivation to distribute food from countries like America to those countries where people are starving.

      I think it has to do with profit motive and making money. If a company can’t make money feeding the starving and poor, then that company turns a blind eye to them.

      The same goes for fresh, safe water to drink.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      June 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      In addition, 70% of Americans are overweight. The UK also has serious problems with obesity. And American’s waste enough food that goes uneaten to feed the starving. For example, many American children refuse to eat food that isn’t sweet enough.


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