If you were offered the chance to live forever, would you take it? What about if your chance at immortality came from a 31-year-old Russian national with a penchant for robotics and a plan? Some might call it a scheme, but that’s exactly what Dmitry Itskov’s course of action is for the now-Internet-famous 2045 Initiative, a project bringing together 30 top Russian scientists to develop technology that would ultimately lead to eternal life. And by Itskov’s estimation, it’ll be here in about 33 years.
To be sure, this isn’t some kind of viral marketing for an upcoming blockbuster or hit TV show. The 2045 Initiative is very real, recently launching an extensive social media campaign to raise awareness about their goals and revealing plans to open an office in San Francisco before summer’s end. Additionally, in an example that seems to illustrate their plans for longevity, Itskov and company will be hosting a Global Future Congress meeting next year in New York City.
Working since February 2011, members of the 2045 Initiative hope to develop completely functional, robo-holographic human forms dubbed Avatars that would, at some point, house artificial brains. On those brains, of course, will be the whole of a person’s consciousness; everything, in essence, that makes them, them. But it wouldn’t stop there—in fact, Itskov’s men have developed a four-phase plan that maps out man’s path to the immortal, from androids by 2020 to full-hologram Avatars by 2045.
That’s an exceedingly ambitious timeline, to be sure—after all, something this massive in scope would lead to the upheaval of all things ethical, social and political in today’s world—but Itskov has wasted no time in getting the financing started. He’s already eyed up the 1,266 fat cats on Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list, having sent out an open letter for funding to members back in mid-July. The 2045 Initiative, naturally, plans to coordinate donors’ immortality programs free-of-charge.
The cash-grabbiness of hitting up the world’s billionaires on an open forum for a funding handout notwithstanding, the 2045 Initiative does represent a massive opportunity for human beings as a species to achieve something truly great: a virtual mastery of existence itself. Not only would the program’s goals prevent expiration from old age, but also from disease and physical injury as well. We, or those of us who could afford it, anyway, would be totally immune to death in any form (besides self-inflicted, one would assume) thanks to a combo of neuroscience, nanotechnology and android robotics.
Achieving Itskov’s goal of immortality would be humanity’s scientific magnum opus, our own species-wide 9th Symphony. To overcome death would be a literal summation of all human science leading to the abandonment of our limited physical forms to completely master—or possibly recreate—our surrounding environment on more amicable terms. Surely if one of our defining characteristics as humans is our technology, then melding so closely with it would make us super human—some amorphous mixture of technology and organic form that transcends the traditional definition of humanity.
Famed futurist Ray Kurzweil calls this the “transhuman singularity,” or the point at which human beings “cross over the line and become immortal.” In that sense, the 2045 Initiative is our first direct attempt to take our development into our own hands and force a change in that arena; it is, in effect, our next step. We would control and facilitate our own evolution. Medical science, advanced though it is, still has a 100 percent mortality rate eventually, since all we’re doing with that is delaying the inevitable. The cybernetic immortality path described by Kurzweil, Itskov and many others is much more practical in terms of achieving the immortality goal through self-modification. At the very least, surely living forever in a streamlined, electronic form is miles more attractive than constantly trying to maintain a decaying organic machine with surgeries and vitamin pills.
We’ve been modifying our bodies since we had the technological capability to do so, seeming never to be happy with the result. So, at some point, why not just get rid of that form and exist on a higher—or at least more infinitely and easily customizable—level? Aren’t we just looking for a more optimal life in our existence? Are we worried that we’ll lose the incorporeals that we believe make us human? Should we care?
I don’t know, but if I’m a billionaire by 2045, I’d like to be the first in line to find out.