Russian tycoon wants to move mind to machine

Jun 16, 2013 by Peter Svensson
Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov speaks to the Global Future 2045 Congress, Saturday, June 15, 2013 at Lincoln Center in New York. Some of humanity's best brains are gathering in New York to discuss how our minds can outlive our bodies. The conference is funded by a Russian billionaire with an aggressive time schedule: immortality by 2045. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Can the City That Never Sleeps become the City That Never Dies? A Russian multimillionaire thinks so.

Dmitry Itskov gathered some of humanity's best brains—and a few robots—in New York City on Saturday to discuss how humans can get their minds to outlive their bodies. Itskov, who looks younger than his 32 years, has an aggressive timetable in which he'd like to see milestones toward that goal met:

— By 2020, robots we can control remotely with our brains.

— By 2025, a scenario familiar to watchers of cartoon show "Futurama:" the capability to transplant the brain into a life-support system, which could be a robot body. Essentially, a robot that can replace an ailing, perhaps dying body.

— By 2035, the ability to move the mind into a computer, eliminating the need for the robot bodies to carry around wet, messy brains.

— By 2045, technology nirvana in the form of artificial brains controlling insubstantial, hologram bodies.

The testimony of the neuroscience experts invited to Itskov's Global Future 2045 conference at Lincoln Center in the New York City's Manhattan borough indicate that Itskov's timetable is ambitious to the point of being unrealistic. But the gathering was a rare public airing of questions that will face us as technology progresses.

Is desirable, and if so, what's the best way to get there? Do we leave behind something essentially human if we leave our bodies behind? If you send your robot copy to work, do you get paid?

Japanese robotics researcher Hiroshi Ishiguro's presentation started out with a life-size, like-like robot representation of himself on stage.

The robot moved its lips, nodded and moved it eyes while a hidden loudspeaker played up Ishiguro's voice. Apart from a stiff posture and a curious splay of the hands, the robot could be mistaken for a human, at least 10 rows from the stage.

Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov speaks at the Global Future 2045 Congress, Saturday, June 15, 2013 at Lincoln Center in New York. Some of humanity's best brains are gathering in New York to discuss how our minds can outlive our bodies. The conference is funded by a Russian billionaire with an aggressive time schedule: immortality by 2045. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Ishiguro uses this android or "Geminoid" (after the Latin word for "twin") to meet with students at a research institute two hours away from the laboratory where he also has an appointment. He controls it through the Internet, and sees his students through a webcam.

"The problem is, if I use this , the research institute says it cannot pay for me," Ishiguro said, to laughter from the audience of hundreds of journalists, academics, Buddhist monks and futurism enthusiasts.

Ishiguro flew to the U.S. with his robotic twin's head, the most valuable part, in the carry-on luggage. The body rode below, in the luggage compartment.

To Itskov, who made his money in the Russian Internet media business, the isolated achievements of inventors like Ishiguro are not enough. He wants to create a movement, involving governments and the United Nations, to work toward a common goal.

"We shouldn't just observe the wonderful entrepreneurs â€1/8 we need to move ahead systematically," Itskov said in an interview. "We are really at the time when technology can affect human evolution. I want us to shape the future, bring it up for public discussion, and avoid any scenario that could damage humanity."

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro's Geminoid,takes the stage during the Global Future 2045 Congress, Saturday, June 15, 2013 at Lincoln Center in New York. Some of humanity's best brains are gathering in New York to discuss how our minds can outlive our bodies. The conference is funded by a Russian billionaire with an aggressive time schedule: immortality by 2045. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Itskov says he tries to eliminate his "selfishness" day by day, and has spent about $3 million promoting his vision. He organized the first conference on the theme in Russia last year.

But in bringing the idea to the U.S., a cultural difference is apparent: Itskov's desire for a shared, guiding vision for humanity does not mesh well with the spirit of the American high-tech industry, which despises government involvement and prizes its freedom to pursue whatever projects it wants.

Space entrepreneur and X-Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis articulated that spirit at the conference; the freewheeling capitalist system, he said, is one of the strongest engines for effecting change.

"The rate of change is going so fast â€1/8 I do not believe any of our existing government systems can handle it," he said.

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro holds a model of a Telenoid as he addresses the Global Future 2045 Congress, Saturday, June 15, 2013 at Lincoln Center in New York. Some of humanity's best brains are gathering in New York to discuss how our minds can outlive our bodies. The conference is funded by a Russian billionaire with an aggressive time schedule: immortality by 2045. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Orthodox Church in America, who has a background in neurobiology and physics, offered another critique at the conference.

"A lot of this stuff can't be done," he said.

If it can be done, that's not necessarily a good thing either, the robed and bearded patriarch believes.

"I'm not too fond of the idea of immortality, because I think it will be deathly boring," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. Giving up our bodies could also be problematic, he said.

"There's a lot of stuff in them that makes us human. I'm not sure they can be built into machines," Puhalo said.

Itskov acknowledges that his vision would leave part of the human experience behind. But he believes it would be worth it.

"We're always losing something for what we're doing. We're always paying," Itskov said.

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djr
3.1 / 5 (8) Jun 16, 2013
"A lot of this stuff can't be done," he said.

If it can be done, that's not necessarily a good thing either, the robed and bearded patriarch believes.

Look at the contradiction in those two statements. So typical of the thinking of our dominant culture - "progress can't happen, but if it could happen - we don't want it." Fear of losing their control of the reigns - keeps us all held back. What a stark contrast between Itskov, and Puhalo. The future talking to the past. We need more Itskov, and no more Puhalo.
vmircea
5 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2013
Agreed... if this Lazar Puhalo want to not used this tehnology is his choise...
Feldagast
1 / 5 (14) Jun 16, 2013
Steve Jobs would have done this already if it were possible.
Jarfi
3.8 / 5 (12) Jun 16, 2013
Steve Jobs would have done this already if it were possible.

Are you trolling or fucking retarded?
M_-_SS_E____3CT
1 / 5 (5) Jun 16, 2013
Ok. Your consciousness can never outlive the brain.The brain is an very complicated organic machinery, though.You can copy everything to a computer your behaviour patherns , perhaps thought pathways. In essence it can be you in every way if you copy everything. But the copy of you is what lives on, but not you in general, you will pass away as soon as the brain dies.
consciousness is based on a physical structure not magical or not pure energy, it requires chemical reactions to happen in order for something to be store/processed ect.
the best way to prolong life, would be to clone your body, transplant the brain somehow, and if some wonders in growing neurological pathways, will be develped in the future, it might be doable.
Maybe it is also possible to extract, brain fluids, and to import them into the clones,Brain, by extracing the exsisting brain fluid, and injecting the memory fluid. Then you'd have your memories in a compleetly new brains without maybe faulty errors.
Shakescene21
3.3 / 5 (7) Jun 16, 2013
Right on, Itskov!
I wish we had a few dozen billionaires funding this type of research. Someone on this site suggested that most billionaires don't fund this research because they're too old to benefit (eg. Warren Buffet). Perhaps we need more 32-year-old billionaires like Itskov.
Protoplasmix
1 / 5 (5) Jun 16, 2013
Who does their best thinking/work with an axe of economic pressure hanging over their head? How many quarters did Kirk drop in the slot to get food out of the replicator? And what sick planet was it he visited that put him in a ring to compete and wagered 'quatloos' on the outcome?
Sanescience
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2013
Society would benefit greatly if people could live longer healthy vital lives via cellular/DNA therapies. Some of the best wisest and kindest and caring people I know are over 70. Imagine if we could harness all that collective wisdom and sincere goodwill toward mankind. And they would know better about being stewards for the environment because it needs to last for people who are going to be living much longer.

As for over-population, that is going to happen anyways if we don't get the world's quality of living up to first world standards for everyone. Those nations that do have high standards of living have generally declining populations. Japan needs people to liver longer healthy lives *badly*

And as humanity expands into the solar system, we are going to have jobs and space for trillions of people.

All with durable *biological* bodies. A classically mechanical body just isn't going to capture the nuances of all the chemicals and structure to be "us".
antialias_physorg
2.7 / 5 (10) Jun 17, 2013
Ok. Your consciousness can never outlive the brain.

I would argue against that. Our consciousness develops as the brain develops. Neurons die and are replaced all the time. In a sense the brain (and with it consciousness) migrates ever so slowly our entire lives. The brain isn't a static "this is the brain which houses the mind" entity.

Let's say we were to interface with the brain in a way that would mimick this dying/respawning of neurons - just not with biological neurons but with technological entities (electonic or photonic). I think we could migrate the brain over into a fully artificial substrate (ever so slowly) - while keeping the singular consciousness intact. When eventually the last brain cell dies you'd still be you (and not a copy)

(And if you want to be biological again one could think about doing the reverse at some point)
Moebius
1 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2013
A copy is still just a copy. In this case a copy without the original hardware (the brain) is like listening to an unchanging CD instead of the real band which will make new music. Unless we can duplicate the brain and it's functions this idea is just you on 6 DVD's.
antialias_physorg
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 17, 2013
Well, I'd argue it's not a copy in this case (though once you have gone fully electronic you could then make copies rather easily if you wanted to).
It's the old "Ship of Theseus" issue
http://en.wikiped..._Theseus
(and the part on four dimensionalism in the link is the kind of view I would argue for)

Much like with beaming on Star Trek. Take a person apart atom by atom and reassemble elsewhere. Does it matter if you use all the original atoms, or is it OK to substitute all hydrogen atoms (which are indistingusihable from one another in any case) from the source with hydrogen atoms from the destination (dito for carbon, etc. )?

Is the important part the matter or is it the pattern?
(This gets especially biazrre once people say that the 'soul' or an 'essence' is lost in the process - which makes no sense as the soul isn't supposed to be made up of matter at all)
cicurel
1 / 5 (4) Jun 17, 2013
This assumes a futur digital computer could fully simulate the human brain. That is not the case, a computer is a mechanism a brain an organism. In a mechanism you can separate software from hardware, this is not the case for an organism who evolved and was never built. These kind of ideas are the result of the mechanistic paradigm who is false.
antialias_physorg
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2013
his assumes a futur digital computer could fully simulate the human brain.

No. It only needs to simulate the relevant parts. e.g. there's probably no point in simulating the immune system, the nutrient transport (though the neurotransmitter transport is important), and the like).

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck...
At some point something that behaves like a brain and passes all the tests for consciousness we can come up with will have to be pronounced conscious.

That is not the case, a computer is a mechanism a brain an organism.

Don't confuse that hardware with the software. Software does not need to be fully mechanistic/deterministic it can evolve, too. That you can separate the two in a computer and not in a brain doesn't mean that you can't get the same result,. (Take a pot of blue paint and a pot of yellow paint. It will allow you to make green just as well - and indistinguishable from - as if you took a pot of green paint to start with)
qitana
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2013
Well, I think a 'computer' could be conscious, but suppose you would have this computer ready to transfer your being into it, are you then in the computer? Doesn't seem so to me. I don't know if it could be possible. It might very well be possible. But very hard nonetheless.
antialias_physorg
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2013
ready to transfer your being into it, are you then in the computer?

Depends on how fastthe transition occurs.
You probably have less than 1% of the atoms in your body that you had as a 10 year old. Are you still the same person? Or are you just a copy of that 10 year old. I'd argue you are still that person - only gradually changed.

I see no fundamental difference in exchanging (slowly) functional biological cells with functional artificial systems if the crucial functionality is retained.
hangman04
1 / 5 (4) Jun 17, 2013
this is quite the debate. regarding matter we change every moment we eliminate atoms and get new ones. i once read that statistically we change all atoms every 5 years or so.

But the main questions is the fact that we don't fully understand how the brain works in most aspects. We see chemical reactions, we suspect their role but we are yet to see the bigger picture. This might be a milestone in medicine for the next 50 years or so. The brain or better said the central neural system is the missing piece of the puzzle.

But if we basically want to have a longer life spam a key would be the ability to slow the rate our system degrades, or just widen the curve of our metabolism somehow...
Requiem
1 / 5 (6) Jun 18, 2013
I wonder what it would feel like to go down a swap hole. I bet it would suck.
nxtr
1 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2013
People arguing against this technology are simply short-sighted. They assign their mind's simplistic limitations based on current tech and their limited ability to extrapolate the future. This tech will become reality, and concurrently will compete with AI for the ultimate position at the top of the food chain, and the rest of humanity will look like ants to the winner.

I was amused by the Archbishop's take on immortality, i.e. heaven, as boring. I agree with him that heaven would be boring. Fortunately or unfortunately, only a single winner is going to emerge from the power struggle that will be the next phase of evolution -godlike super brain advancement. Don't expect that entity to cherish us.
Requiem
1 / 5 (5) Jun 21, 2013
The smallest feature size in the human brain is about 10 microns, so if we actually understood how it works we could already replace each one with thousands of transistors, assuming we wouldn't just build custom gates and keep as much of it analog as possible for performance reasons.

In either case, it seems that the only dealbreaking hurdle holding us back from doing such a thing is that we have no idea what that wafer die would look like. And of course the dynamic connections. But even simulating an existing brain with static connections would be quite an accomplishment, and still very useful.
Shootist
1 / 5 (5) Jul 09, 2013
Steve Jobs would have done this already if it were possible.


You give the toyman more credit than he's due.

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