Wednesday, June 5, 2013

He's not a cyborg...yet




"There are quotes from people like Arthur C. Clarke and Gandhi saying that when people come up with new ideas they’re called ‘nuts.’ Then everybody starts believing in the idea and nobody can remember a time when it seemed strange.”

That is a quote from Dmitry Itskovy in this New York Times article about the 2045 Initiative.

This project, simply put, is one that aspires to have lifelike, cybernetic duplicates available to people at low cost.  The consumer would then be able to upload their mind into the avatar, personality, memories and all.  Truly transhuman.  But you can see why Itskov gets his share of "you gotta be nuts" comments.

For a millionaire like Itovsky, it's all about immortality.  While that may sound vain, the man's ambition has the attention of a few of the most foremost authorities on cybernetics in the world.  We're talking about people from places like Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and M.I.T.  He's also attracting scientists from the disciplines of molecular genetics and neuroprosthesis.

As the NYT article snarks on, the inevitable invocation of Kurzweil and The Singularity arrives.  Despite the prognostications of Kurzweil, the idea of uploading one's consciousness into a cyborg body is still treated as a fanciful pipe dream, "even in this crowd" as the author puts it, the "crowd" being academics and researchers.  Itskov is thankfully undeterred.  Already completed is a replica mold of his face that will go onto his eventual machine, granting it a more lifelike and personal appearance.  More than that, it will be a highly sophisticated face.  Most robot replicas of humans have 20 motors in the face.  Itvosky's will have 36.

Naturally, this leads to the paradisaical speech of the transhuman; what this will do for problems such as world hunger and individuals dependent upon getting organ transplants, etc.  I share this enthusiasm.  Hell, I've been hoping for it.  In fact, I hope it goes beyond simple transference of consciousness and an end to the failings of the flesh and all those rude questions of survival.  I truly want to shut off my emotions.  Here's to hoping.

These all sound like science fiction solutions to life and death problems, plumbed from the most obscure hadals of warped imaginations.  But maybe that's what we need.  Perhaps that sort of creative thinking is what has been lacking.  I'm not expecting a mad rush of people wanting to swap out for cyborg bodies.  The allures of the flesh are too strong, even though Itvosky has assured that these avatars will be able to have sex...and feel it.  I don't know.  As tempting as all of that is, I'm still most looking forward to an end to incessant depression.

Who says human is the best way to be anyway?  I honestly think it sucks.

Link to the 2045 Initiative.


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