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 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.