Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov wants to download human minds into immortal robots within the next decade.
He’s hired 30 scientists to develop the necessary technologies, hoping to eventually create real-life “avatars.”
“Itskov’s project ‘Avatar’ is similar to the Pentagon’s own project ‘Avatar’ which envisions surgically transplanting human consciousness to a robot body. Itskov hopes to upload human minds without surgery leaving the human bodies empty while the human owners live on inside robots.”
Both projects are, naturally, named after the 2009 movie Avatar. Itskov also hopes to eventually transcend the physical and have human consciousness exist within holograms.
“‘Holograms give plenty of advantages. You can walk through walls, move at the speed of light,’ [Itskov] said. ‘Remember in “Star Wars”, Obi-Wan’s hologram? That was pretty amazing.’”
Obi-Wan’s ghost. His ghost.
He was dead.
The Immortality Conundrum
Here’s the problem with “transferring” your consciousness, and it’s the same problem faced when dealing with teleportation and cloning (for immortality): As far as data is concerned, nothing is ever actually transferred.
While we may someday be able to preserve an individual’s consciousness, to store their memories and personality within a computer program, the result will only ever be a copy.
The original person will still experience death. Unless we could find a way to integrate the brain itself into a computer, anything dealing with a copy will ultimately be pointless.
For the person being copied, anyway.
Of course, if the idea is to preserve an individual’s personality just to have it around, without any pretense of “immortality,” I suppose it’d be somewhat valuable. It’d be interesting to still have a backup of Albert Einstein around, for example. But it would never be the real him.
We’re slowly entering into this strange realm of science, where what it means to be human will be questioned. If this Russian entrepreneur is successful, or if such a breakthrough ever does occur, we’ll be faced with a lot of existential quandaries.
Not the least of which is: If your entire state of being can be recomposed into a bunch of 1s and 0s, what are you, really?
Image courtesy Steve Jurvetson.