Sunday, July 29, 2012

Immortality - 2045 Strategic Social Initiative

Two news caught my eyes early Sunday morning. One is in BBC and another one is in Discovery News. The BBC's one talks about the universal yearning to live forever. And the Discovery News points to a Russian media mogul who has started taking initial steps to achieve cybernetic immortality for humans by 2045.

Is this possible? Is there really a modern elixir that can be devised through digital technologies? It may seem too far fetched at this point, but possibly is a good step. Good diet and exercise can, theoretically, prolong life, but the certain upper longevity limit perhaps cannot be crossed for mortal human flesh. This 31 year old Russian media mogul, Dmitry Itskov, has even created a non profit organization named 2045 initiative. Here is his plan in summary:
"The main objectives of the initiative are: the creation of a new vision of human development that meets global challenges humanity faces today, realization of the possibility of a radical extension of human life by means of cybernetic technology, as well as the formation of a new culture associated with these technologies.
The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one's individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality."
 Technologies described in 2045.com look to be achievable in abstractions, however, in reality it will take enormous coordinated efforts by many specialists of various sciences and technologies. The social resistance that will be attracted when this initiative gets more momentum from various quarters, including political, religious and economic entities, could become challenging to surmount, unless more nuanced approach is taken, including inviting representatives from all these resisting groups.

Comparing this science fiction like initiative with the article in BBC news, one question comes to mind: why would anyone want to live forever? Would there be any meaning, value in a life that has no ending? Also, more troubling questions come to mind: what kind of humanity would emerge after being transformed into a cybernetic entity in an artificial and holographic body like an avatar?

Every major religions and scriptures promise an afterlife, where the good folks go to heaven and the naughty ones go to hell. These are simplistic but powerful motivators for human beings that guide and inspire ones to push the limit to achieve and share goodness with many. Human beings, in overall perspective, are not matured yet to dwell in a life without the promise of rewards after death, at least for many. The very thought of death can be off putting. This science fiction like initiative that 2045.com is proposing may give a different light to this predictable mortal life.

Just imagine, at the end of your natural life, your consciousness will be transmitted into a holographic brain with a full functional artificial body of your choosing. How wonderful that can be! You will live forever. Almost that is. One catch is that human beings are prone to violence and greed. Would being transferred into a holographic avatar have any effect abating these self destructive tendencies? And if there are some algorithmic logic put into place to check and thwart human being's jealous and impulsive violent trends, what type of existence that would be? No more free will? Would all the cybernetic consciousness be connected in a global consciousness stream? Somehow StartTrek's the villainous Borgs come into mind. However, that was only fictional dramatic scenario. Maybe, a connected global consciousness can be positive, that can collectively decide the overall progress of our shared existence.

From the times of antiquity, human beings are trying to find the very purpose of our existence. Why are we here in this big blob of a planet, in a solar system along with other seemingly dead planets? In cosmic reality, the significance of our existence in terms of time and effect can be as glorious as the life of a mere wasp, marching ants or bacteria residing in every surface of my earthly possessions. And, it can be something opposite too. Perhaps our existence does have deeper meaning than the naked evolutionary truth describes. Whatever it is, collectively, we have quite a bit way to go to find any definitive answer.

2045 initiative is a positive step. If it is managed in altruistic vision that it depicts in its nicely designed site, then there is greatness can be reaped. And yes, of course immortality too! Immortality embedded in per click advertisements of ultimate social network utility! Okay, that's a depressing thought, but maybe immortality in avatar will be made available like an Open Source and free for all application, for rich and poor, all nations, all races will have the equal access. I can foresee a future constitutional amendment: All avatars are created equal.

Now, James Cameron must direct another version of his fabulous Avatar movie.

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