Becoming cyber angels

There is more and more, and often positive, coverage of mind uploading and cybernetic immortality in the press, and it appears that leaving biology behind and becoming cyber angels is an idea whose time has come.

In an article on The Independent, titled “Will scientists ever discover the secret of immortality?” Mark Piesing asks if we’ re really going to be able to live for ever. I like this article because it does not even bother to discuss biological life extension too much, and goes straight to the beef: mind uplaoding and cybernetic immortality.

I strongly praise and support research on biological life extension, first and foremost Aubrey de Grey‘s SENS, but I consider it as an intermediate step. Sooner or later, we will leave biology behind and become cyber angels living as pure software in robotic or virtual bodies. Of course, Sir Arthur C. Clarke was one of the first to see it: “And now, out among the stars, evolution was driving toward new goals. The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and of plastic.”

Writer Stephen Cave, author of the new book Immortality, defines digital immortality as “So your brain is scanned and your essence uploaded into a digital form of bits and bytes, and this whole brain emulation can be saved in a computer’s memory banks ready to be brought back to life as an avatar in a virtual world like Second Life, or even in the body of an artificially intelligent robot that is a replica of who we were.” He considers digital immortality only as a backup solution, but others are fully committed to leaving our bio bodies behind in old dull meatspace and moving to cyberspace — a challenge that projects such as Carbon Copies and Russia 2045 already believe they can overcome within 40 years.

In the end, Cave argues, “theoretically the problems of digital immortality seem solvable, but whether the solutions are practical is another story… Although when it does happen it is simply inevitable that the rich will get there as they have the most power among us.”

Others are more positive about the prospect of true digital immortality within a generation.

Dr Randal A. Koene is the founder of the non-profit Carbon Copies Project in California, which is tasked with creating a networking community of scientists to advance digital immortality.

For Koene the “digital you” is very much “you”, there being a “continuity of self” in the same way that “the person you are today is still the same person you were when you were age five”.

“This isn’t science fiction, either, this is closer to science fact,” he argues. Carbon Copies “is working to create a road map to substrate independence by pulling together all the research that is going on, identify where the gaps are and then what we need to do to plug it.” Koene believes that digital immortality is the next stage of human evolution, whether on this planet or another.

The Russia 2045 project is only briefly mentioned in the Independent article, but it is the main focus of another recent article appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle, with a press release titled “Dalai Lama Supports 2045’s Avatar Project.”

The 2045 initiative has received the blessing and support from the Dalai Lama, as it prepares to announce the second Global Future 2045 Congress, being held in New York, May, 2013.

Dmitry Itskov, founder of 2045, met His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, in his residence in Dharamsala, a small mountain town in northern India.

The final goal of 2045 Avatar Project  is developing an artificial brain in which to transfer one’s individual consciousness with the goal of achieving cybernetic immortality. Developing an artificial brain and understanding the nature of human consciousness, says the Dalai Lama, could be attainable, and would be a great benefit to future development of science.

“In the last few years, scientists now begin to show an interest about consciousness, as well as brain specialists, neuroscientists, who also begin to show interest about consciousness or mind. I feel that over the next decades modern science will become more complete,” said the Dalai Lama. “So up to now the matter side of science has been highly technical, highly advanced, but the mind side has not been adequate. This project, definitely, is helpful to get more knowledge.”

The 2045 initiative held its first Global Future 2045 Congress in Moscow, in February 2012. The next Global Future 2045 Congress will be held in June 2013, in New York City. For more information, please visit www.GF2045.com.


A recent, very energetic and inspiring video presentation of the 2045 project.

  • Hi Giulio. I enjoyed the article. In my opinion, the greatest hurdle to sharing these ideas is the unnecessary assumption that “plastic” or “metal” will be the substrate for our digital spirits. We want and will have warmer and more beautiful substrates than those words imply.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Well, that sentence in 2001 gave me very powerful, positive and beautiful emotions when I first read it (I was 10 or so). But I can see how some people may not relate well to “plastic” or “metal” as substrate for our digital spirits. So, what should we say instead?

    By the way, here is a longer quote from Sir Arthur’s 2001:

    “And now, out among the stars, evolution was driving toward new goals. The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and of plastic.

    In these, they roamed among the stars. They no longer built spaceships. They were spaceships.

    But the age of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter.”

    Perhaps Angels of light, instead of metal and plastic robots?

  • How one visualizes this depends a lot on one’s perspective on seemingly disconnected issues. For example, if the universe is old enough for many advanced technical civilizations to have arisen in the past, they could have moved ahead to address and solve this problem for themselves, and then go on to offer their techne, merged with that of other prior civilizations, as a gift to those planetary civilizations where it was unknown.

    In this case, it is neither supernatural nor mythic-religious to suggest that there already exist mechanisms for capturing and sustaining the lives of beings who show themselves of value to the rest of the cosmos. From this viewpoint, which is easily compatible with simulationism, life extension of one’s biohost becomes a mere prelude to true cosmic immortality. Using materials likely more refined than metal and plastic.

    We should not let the eloquence of our sci-fi past distract us from the true arrow of destiny. Though we cannot change what has happened, we can often choose what will happen. The key is to make a choice in the light of truth.

  • Giulio Prisco

    Good to see you here Dan. Yes, advanced civilization out there may have found ways to eliminate death on a cosmic scale, by copying all sentient beings in their region of the universe and pasting them in a digital (or even physical) afterlife.

    This scenario is explored in Robert Charles Wilson science fiction novel Darwinia. Advanced galactic civilizations routinely copy all sentient beings in the galaxy (and the same happens in other galaxies), and after death we wake up in a computed afterlife. The book has also other very interesting subplots:

  • Giulio Prisco

    This article has been republished by the IEET, and we are having a very interesting discussion as usual. Join here:

  • Joseph

    This reminds me of Terrence McKenna’s ‘Angel Inside the Monkey’ lecture


  • Giulio Prisco

    @Lincoln I propose to speak of “crystal minds” instead of “plastic and metal” – which as you say are not emotionally appealing words:

  • Dear Sirs,

    the ArtElectronics.ru online-magazine translated in Russian and published Giulio Prisco’s article “Becoming Cyber-angels” here: http://www.artelectronics.ru/telegraf/telegraf/683

    Best regards,
    Djennet Ataeva
    Art Electronics Editor&Director