Friday, August 10, 2012


                                                                              ...OR NOT TO BE

A week or so ago a savvy friend asked my opinion of this: the 2045 Initiative. (You may want to begin here or, better here, where they give the idea in a nutshell: “Human immortality could be possible by 2045, say Russian scientists.”)  She asked me a simple question: “Who’s in?”

My quick, first thought was that Anne McCaffrey must have been some kind of Jules Verne or Robert Heinlein because she came up with brainships decades ago – that’s where Zen Hugs came from: you can’t give the ‘brain’ a hug. (I found the illustraiton above when I googled images for Zen Hugs. It's kind of nebulously apt.)

A quick answer to “who’s in?” - 1. not me! I’ve don’t nothing in my life that needs continuation – except to be able to read more books. And I’ve lots to do When I Get to Heaven. I’d like to see such continuation of ‘life’ be subject to a consensus of the public: we might not want some of the rich to be able to go on doing certain things they may be doing now. One never knows.
And - 2. Bill Gates? nah. Warren Buffet? I doubt it. So who do you think is in?

When I read the blurb on Dmitry Iskov’s address to the members of the Forbes Richest List – he’s pitching his ideas to the very wealthy, asking them to fund the research - this bit struck me: It is only when we have to part with life do we realize just how much we have not done, that we have not had enough time to do what we really wanted or to address something we’ve done wrong.  Perhaps some of the elite do feel they’d like to do what they’ve not been able to do, or address something they’ve done wrong.  I really don’t think many of them, with rare exception, have lead lives that contributed greatly to anything – other than their bank balances.  Now, I’d really like to see the elite contribute to the preservation of the brain of someone like Stephen Hawking.

What would happen to the remainder of the population if only the elite could afford to become ‘immortal’? Would they (I say ‘they’ because I won’t be around to see it) – would the rest become slaves caregivers to these ‘borgs’? (that's my idea of them – thank you Star Trek) Or would the rest of them just go on as they do today, not really thinking about the elite, except in those moments when they wish their bank balances were larger? Perhaps one day everyone will be ‘borged’.  That would certainly do it for population control.  I remember waaaay back when only the wealthy few had calculators (there went the slide rule!) or the then-clunky cell phones – now they’re ubiquitous. Will it be the same with such immortality?

From The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

How will they connect up all the wires?
Will they even want to connect them all?
What would you not connect?
I’d say this is beyond the borgs: the goal is to transfer not the brain, but the consciousness.  Good luck to them in trying to locate and transfer consciousness.  I’ve been interested in “brain things” since I was in high school. The story: my father was injured during the Battle of the Bulge and the injury resulted in a cerebral cortical atrophy, where the covering of the brain shrunk and brain tissue was lost. The kicker: during his last days the medicos at the Brooklyn V.A. Hospital gave him a battery of intelligence tests. You must remember that this impressed me greatly during my teen years:  he scored “in the upper brackets of human intelligence.” Their words, not mine. They autopsied him after his death and were astounded because there was little brain tissue left. So where, they wanted to know, and I want to know, where was consciousness, intelligence, or memory?  They related all this to my mother, and she, wanting us to be well informed, told the three of us kids – and we’ve been interested in “brain things” ever since.

When I think about all this – and I assure you my thoughts go off in many directions – I wonder: Iskov may have the science, but will he have the legislation to handle the results? As with new discoveries about the brain’s wiring, as I’ve written in Haywire, a “brain thing”, These latest discoveries about our biological makeup are opening up a huge can of worms. We’d think that intellectually, likely taught as youngsters, criminals would know right from wrong. What they know and how they behave are two different things – but should they be punished for how they act? How their brains are wired? The worlds of medicine, law, and ethics are going to have to hash this out.”

An Avatar, as they are calling these ultimate future beings, will have no human body, no ‘in actu corpus’ or even a ‘corpus delicti’, so will they get phantom pains, can they fall in love, can they have orgasms, can they be arrested, can they be ‘killed’?  

Inquiring minds – no pun intended – want to know. I think therefore I am – what if all that’s left of me is the thinking part – am I “I am” still?

It does seem like something out of science fiction, and it does seem too early in the path of human evolution for this to be possible. As a race, as a species, we’ve a lot to settle before we become mere consciousness embodied in a hologram. They call it a “new model for human development” - and people are worried about genetically-engineered foods?  Some of us had better start worrying about Avatar 2045.

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