Immortality has been a dream of human beings since the dawn of time. Mankind´s fascination with cheating death is reflected in scientific records, mythology and folklore dating back at least to ancient Egypt.
Some have sought the secrets of immortality in the mythical Fountain of Youth. Others searched for answers by exploring the magical principles of alchemy. Many people have placed great hope in the promises of religion and spirituality, hoping to avoid the finality of death through an ascent into an eternal realm.
In the 21 st century, science has become the new religion for many, and that includes people obsessed with immortality. Now, proposed solutions to the problem of death usually center on advanced technology and artificial intelligence, and the belief that consciousness can somehow be “downloaded” into a computer or other digital storage device.
Scientific research in these areas continues, and no definitive answers to the problem have been identified. But one Russian billionaire is so convinced immortality is inevitable that he´s created and funded his own organisation to make it a reality.
This billionaire´s name is Dmitry Itskov, and his organisation is called the 2045 Initiative .
Will we be able to one day download consciousness into an artificial intelligence? Credit: serpeblu / Adobe Stock
What is the 2045 Initiative?
To bring his ambitions of immortality to fruition, Itskov has recruited several top Russian scientists in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, neural-computer interface and artificial organ engineering to join his project. Itskov has a vision for immortality that is expansive in scope, and based on an optimistic scenario of where science is headed in the next three decades.
The 2045 team is working to create an international research center that will focus on anthropomorphic robotics, transhumanism, cybernetics and living systems modeling. The 2045 Initiative is dedicated to the proposition that man´s consciousness can and will someday merge with machines, once the infrastructure of the brain is mapped and can be recreated in a digital environment.
Itskov and his supporters are convinced of the inevitability of this development.
“Within the next 30 years, I am going to make sure that we can all live forever,” Itskov told the BBC in 2016. “I’m 100 percent confident it will happen.”
The 2045 Initiative Vision
According to the 2045 Initiative blueprint, cybernetic immortality will proceed in four steps :
First, software that allows for the human brain to interface with a robot avatar will be developed. Through the power of the mind of its controller, the robot will be directed to perform various actions. To the uninformed observer, it will appear as if the commanding brain were actually inside the robot’s head.
When the 2045 initiative was launched in 2011, they predicted that such a technology would be available by the year 2020.
Once this step is completed, the next milestone will be the invention of a robot avatar that can host and be directly controlled by a transplanted human brain (like the Frankenstein monster, but without the rampage and destruction). 2045 Initiative leadership predicts this will occur by the year 2025.
By 2035, according to 2045 Initiative scientists, it should be possible to control a robot with an artificial brain, modeled after that of a human. This brain will be imprinted with an existing human personality, from someone whose patterns of thinking, acting, feeling and being have been mathematically decoded.
Then, if all goes according to plan, in 2045 the final milestone will be achieved. At that time, fully decoded and transcribed human personalities will be programmed into a computer. They will be perfect replicas, or digital clones. A hologram will then be generated that can function as the person’s vehicle, and that hologram will be fully capable of assuming any shape, size or appearance.
As an alternative, nanobots that can be programmed to construct custom-ordered bodies will also have been invented, allowing a computer-coded conscious “being” to take a more authentically physical form whenever they’d like.
In each of the last three stages, the brain, personality or consciousness used as the model will belong to someone whose life is on the verge of ending—thus allowing them to achieve a form of immortality, as it is defined by Dmitry Itskov and his mates.
Immortality to the Rescue
It is tempting to shrug off the 2045 Initiative as nothing more than a vanity project, created by a man with too much money and an unhealthy obsession with death. But Itskov and his team claim to be motivated by the highest of ideals, and by their desire to preserve human beings from extinction.
In the 2045 Initiative mission statement , they make reference to the escalation of interlocking environmental crises “which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species.”
To forestall this catastrophe and preserve mankind’s future, they propose to contribute to the creation of a more safe, sane and sustainable society, built on five principles for more enlightened living:
1. High spirituality
2. High culture
3. High ethics
4. High science
5. High technologies
They hope the 2045 Initiative can help instigate and inspire a profound global revolution, what they call “a large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history.”
“Neo-humanity will change the bodily nature of the human being, and make them immortal, free, playful, independent of limitations of space and time,” Itskov enthuses. “These transformations will not restrict the individuality and freedom of each separate person, but on the contrary will ensure maximum creative development and reveal their unlimited potential.”
Since starting the 2045 Initiative, Itskov has faced dismissal and ridicule from many. They’ve labeled him as an eccentric and his vision as a fantasy.
But the skeptics might want to hold off on the derision for a little while longer, because the 2045 Initiative’s first prediction about the development of mind-controlled robots has come true.
As we recently reported right here , researchers in the United States have developed a tiny unmanned helicopter that can be completely controlled by a human pilot through a brain-computer interface. This merging of human and machine represents a significant scientific breakthrough and it occurred in the approximate time frame predicted by 2045 Initiative leadership.
To move this science along even further, the XPRIZE Foundation is sponsoring a $10 million competition that will award cash prizes to inventors who create robot avatars that can be controlled from at least 100 kilometres away. The connection between robot and controller should be sensory-inclusive, so the controller can see, hear, feel and interact with the surrounding environment, as if they were actually there inside the robot avatar’s body.
While the goals of the 2045 Initiative may seem pie-in-the-sky to some, progress is being made and many scientists are deeply interested in exploring the limits of man-machine interconnections.
Is the 2045 Initiative Heaven? Or is it Hell?
There are two problems that could derail the 2045 Initiative. First, it is relying on science that remains mostly grounded in the speculative stage. While effective brain-computer interfaces have been developed, the other steps on the road to immortality envisioned by Itskov’s group are nowhere near realization. Itskov has deep pockets, but all the money in the world won’t push the science two or three generations beyond where its ready to go.
The other problem with the 2045 Initiative is that its concepts about what mind, brain and consciousness are, and how they function, may be built on a house of cards.
The mind-as-computer model is widely accepted among a certain group of materialist scientists, who believe it is only a matter of time before artificial intelligence is developed that is fully conscious and self-aware. But their reductionist approach to the mystery of consciousness might reveal more about their personal biases than about how minds and brains actually work. Scientific attempts to prove the brain functions like a computer have failed to produce results , leaving the brain-as-computer model hanging on by the skin of its teeth.
But even if they turned out to be right on the science, what the 2045 Initiative is aiming for would not be immortality in the classic sense. A perfect recreation of a person’s consciousness would be the equivalent of cloning, not life preservation. Even if an individual’s memories and personality lived on in digital form, the original copy of that person would still be deceased.
Actual immortality may not be achievable on this plane of existence. And if there is such a thing as an afterlife, the search for immortality would in reality be a complete waste of time. It would be the height of irony if those most desperate to preserve their lives indefinitely ended up trapped inside computers, unable to exist in anything more than hologram form, while the rest of us were set free to pass on to more glorious and exciting realms.
Top image: Immortal man. Credit: quickshooting / Adobe Stock
By Nathan Falde
The main goal of the 2045 Initiative, as stated on its website, is "to create technologies enabling the transfer of an individual's personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality.
At a price tag of $80,000, it's less than half the cost of preserving your whole body. “That requires a minimum of $200,000, which isn't as much as it sounds, because most people pay with life insurance,” More said. In fact, such a business model is pretty consistent in the nonprofit cryonics community.
Immortality. In his 2005 book, The Singularity Is Near, Kurzweil suggests that medical advances would allow people to protect their bodies from the effects of aging, making the life expectancy limitless.