The idea and lure of immortality has been imprinted into human desires ever since our humble beginnings. But now, it may be possible that eternal youth becomes a reality.
A movement founded by Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov in 2011 aims to make humans immortal by transferring their personalities to a carrier that is superior to the human body. It is called the 2045 movement.
Ideologically, the movement aims to “create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality”.
There are four main milestones that the movement is looking to surpass by the year 2045, and each one reflects a chronological step that signifies a further degree of disembodiment.
By 2020 Avatar A aims to give the human brain control of a remote human, in the form of a robot, using a brain-computer interface (BCI). This is less outlandish than you might think as controlling robots with our minds has been possible for the last 10 years.
Now that this technology has been accompanied by advancements in the field of human prosthetics, a new dimension has been opened.
Avatar B seeks to move the control of the body from remote access to implantation. This would require turning off the brain, relocating it in the new carrier, and then transplanting it. Now that the brain theoretically would be in a robotic body, this would create a consciousness inhabiting a body that could be modified, augmented, or updated.
By the time we reach Avatar C, there will be a completely robotic body that the brain could simply be uploaded to. This would theoretically require hardware and software that would allow consciousness to be uploaded and then inserted into a body, or potentially many bodies.
At this point the brain would become computerised, allowing it to be customised and the sentient robot, as a whole, could survive what a human body could not.
Avatar D leaves most to the imagination, but the idea is to great a “hologram like avatar” or a “substance-independent mind”.
UPSIDE AND DOWNSIDE TO ETERNAL YOUTH
One can be confident saying that it is a pointless debate as to whether this technology should exist, it will. Whether it is as soon as 2045 or not, that is a different question.
But the more important question is, should or shouldn’t it arise?
This possibility of immortality will have profound effects on the individual and society as a whole. Immortality could mean that we no longer suffer from the fear of death, allowing us to do more with our lifetimes; the world’s greatest minds could perpetually continue to develop their thoughts.
But there could be a huge strain on resources, and serious psychological problems associated with extreme age, and huge stressors on traditional societal structures like marriage and parenthood.
This dilemma is reminiscent of Ovid’s Cumaean Sibyl: She asked for eternal life rather than eternal youth. Apollo, therefore, let her rot — but kept her alive until she deteriorated into being kept in a jar, when she became only a voice.
It is a question of whether this journey to immortality is a positive gain, or if it is simply to squash the fear of dying. Hopefully it is the former, or else we run the risk of being nothing more than a voice in a jar, an imitation of life.