Think the sci-fi movie Avatar was a little too far-fetched? To recap the movie’s plot, we watched a group of scientists create genetically engineered avatars (Na’vi) so they could mine for a valuable mineral on the moon Pandora. Turns out, the most ludicrous part of the entire movie may have been that we only watched it in 3D, rather than experienced it for ourselves.
Scientists have already developed video game controllers that give players the ability to control on-screen movement with their brain waves, paralyzed patients can control a robot’s movements with just their thoughts via brain implants, and in Israel, a test subject was recently able to effectively direct the movements of a robot located nearly 1800 miles away.
Suddenly, Jake and his avatar don’t really seem like sci-fi anymore. And if it’s up to Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov, human life could soon resemble the ending of Avatar, except unlike Jake, we won’t just ‘become’ our avatar form, our avatar form will in essence become us, running from a download of our disembodied consciousness.
In the 2045 Initiative, Itskov proposes the idea that humans can achieve immortality by 2045 through a series of advancing technological innovations.
- Year 2020: Humans will be able to remotely control robotic avatars through brain-computer interaction.
- Year 2025: Humans will be able to continue living after their physical bodies have given out by transplanting their brains into robotic avatars; this ‘autonomous life-support system’ will enable humans to continue to have an active life.
- Year 2035: The human brain and consciousness will be recreated via computer model and transferred to an avatar to enable humans to keep living after ‘death.’
- Year 2045: Immortality arrives in the form of a holographic avatar; the human brain and consciousnesses has been fully transferred to the artificial form.
While Itskov’s plan is ambitious, it’s not entirely off-base. As mentioned above, scientists and researchers (not even working on the 2045 Initiative!) are close to completing the ‘Year 2020′ task, as the first generation of brain-computer interaction have been found successful in test patients. When you look at it that way, we’re nearly 1o years ahead of schedule.
The development of brain-computer interaction has had a positive impact in the medical community thus far; paralyzed patients have been able to regain ‘movement’ through their thoughts. But should we welcome or be concerned about the possibilities of a hybrid human-robot creation? Itskov imagines a world where humans have more capabilities and power than ever before:
We believe that before 2045 an artificial body will be created that will not only surpass the existing body in terms of functionality, but will achieve perfection of form and be no less attractive than the human body. People will make independent decisions about the extension of their lives and the possibilities for personal development in a new body after the resources of the biological body have been exhausted. The new human being will receive a huge range of abilities and will be capable of withstanding extreme external conditions easily: high temperatures, pressure, radiation, lack of oxygen, etc. Using a neural-interface humans will be able to operate several bodies of various forms and sizes remotely.
And in a recent letter to the Forbes World Billionaire’s List, Itskov likens the quest to immortality as a positive business strategy and details how immortality will positively impact current and future society:
Unfortunately, modern medicine is still the medicine of a hundred percent mortality – the best it can do is to temporarily delay the process of human aging. I urge you to take note of the vital importance of funding scientific development in the field of cybernetic immortality and the artificial body. Such research has the potential to free you, as well as the majority of all people on our planet, from disease, old age and even death. Contributing to cutting-edge innovations in the fields of neuroscience, nanotechnology and android robotics is more than building a brighter future for human civilization, but also a wise and profitable business strategy that will create a new and vibrant industry of immortality – limitless in its importance and scale.
This kind of investment will change every aspect of business as we know it: the pharmaceutical industries, transportation, medicine, energy generation, construction techniques, to cite a few. Currently you invest in business projects that will bring you yet another billion. You also have the ability to finance the extension of your own life up to immortality. Honorable businessmen and businesswomen, members of the Forbes richest list: human life is unique and priceless. It is only when we have to part with life do we realize just how much we have not done, that we have not had enough time to do what we really wanted or to address something we’ve done wrong.
Will Itskov’s plan enable humans to continue to exist as a species, even if we faced extreme climate change or relocated to another planet? The promising- and frightening- aspect of the 2045 Initiative is that what seemed like science fiction just a few short years ago, the ability to control a robot with human thoughts, is now very much a reality. How far-fetched is Itskov’s plan, and do the benefits from achieving immortality outweigh the potential consequences?
Learn more about the 2045 Initiative below:
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Top image credit: 20th Century Fox; all other images from 2045 Initiative