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The Scare Machine: How We Will Live Forever

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
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"Weird and creepy, this is. Merm hrm hrm hrm hrm!"
Mrs Speech switched me on the other day to an interesting article on a site called psfk.

In a nutshell, the boffins are going to cheat death for us. Not, in a someday-they'll-get-on-that-whole-thing-and-figure-it-out kind of way, but in so timely a manner, that if all goes to plan, I (Mr Speech) and the missus may actually experience it. So that's nice.

It's being financed by a Russian billionaire named Dmitry Itskov - of course it is! - and involves several stages, with the project advancing as technology does. From what I can tell, these are the basic stages.
  1. By 2020 - Teach a human brain to remotely control a robotic body
  2. By 2025 - Transplant of a human brain into a robotic body at the end of one's life.
  3. By 2035 - Transplant a human mind into a robotic body with an artificial brain at the end of one's life.
  4. By 2045 - Holographic bodies instead of robotic bodies.
I confess, I don't completely understand the last part. A hologram is just light refracted and dispersed and jumbled together, to form an object. It doesn't contain real matter per se, Star Trek notwithstanding. You need a projector to form the image.

I'm not sure how a person would interact with the world as a hologram unless there were projectors all over every building in every street, maintaining your hologram as you walk around. And what if you walked passed a building without a working projector? Would you disappear for a bit until you walked past a building whose machine ain't on the fritz?

But I digress.

It's odd seeing this kind of inventioneering; anyone who's seen the Jetsons has been disappointed in the lack of advancement. Where's my rocket pack? So I can get to my house on the moon? And drive my flying car?

This is the best they've come up with so far? I should have a villa on that there ridge by now.
So it' s nice to see some epic ambition. I was beginning to think we had artificially limited ourselves to 'New Gatorade! Now with 15% more hydrolitic energy!' kind of advances.

I've always been fascinated with the 'fi' in sci-fi. The fiction, the dream, the boundless ideas. Pre-JFK you'd have been called a buffoon if you'd suggested bouncing around on the big white cheesey ball. But the great man himself has just passed and the (rightful) focus on his achievements remind us that great things are possible.

But ay, here's the rub: should we? Or to quote Jeff Golblum (Jurassic Park):

"You were so busy trying to see if you could do it that you didn’t stop to think about whether you should."

I know Mrs Speech is concerned about the robotic bodies and the humans who aren't quite human. Because what they are talking about is digitising a human mind and putting it in a robot.

And then eventually dispensing with the robot and transferring the mind to a digital body.

Wherein lieth the ethics? Will the ethics evolve as we all become accustomed to the convenience of not dying? Will we simply option our digital life sooner? Shuffle off this mortal coil, to be replaced by an electronic one?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not wringing my hands in panic. I think reaching for the stars is good. Achieving is good.

But this thing advocated by Mr Itskov, is a half-finished idea. When a mind can be digitised, it can be stored in any electrical device with an appropriate capacity.

When your mind is stored on a server somewhere, and the real world has been done away with, and the only consciousness you know is in a digital world stored on another server, are things really better? Isn't this where we're headed? Why maintain an actual body, when a holographic body will do?

Why maintain an actual world, when one can be created a la The Matrix and humans can simply play at 'real' instead of experiencing it?

I'm excited by the initial application of this project. Life is good. More life is better. Eternal life on this world...I don't know.

And then there's the unconvincingly muted joy of the video. This guy needs a girlfriend.

Then leave the first comment!