The dream of the fountain of youth has been ever-present in the human experience. Humans have a finite life. And most people believe life is good – who wants to get old and die? So the dream of immortality has been the ultimate dream for most humans. For millennia religion often has given paths to this immortality through belief systems that are often not based on science or technology. But recently, there has been a move by some to think that perhaps humans can themselves obtain immorality through science or technology.
As with any good academic, there is a name for almost everything nowadays. Transhumanism is a philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the current condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings. The 2045 Initiative is one such transhumanist effort.
The 2045 Initiative is a nonprofit organization to create a network community with the world’s leading scientists in the field of life extension by means of cybernetic technologies and to support them as an investment hub, contributing to various projects. It was founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs, and systems. Annual congresses have been organized by the Initiative to give a platform for discussing mankind’s evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics, and economies of the future.
The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimal conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on five principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science, and high technologies. 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. You can see the four steps to achieve this goal in the feature photo of this article – it looks like they might be a bit behind schedule. See a summary video below:
It may soon be possible to clone humans and make an exact physical replica via genome sequencing – they have done it in animals already. But would this replica have the same brain, with all the personality, memory, and thinking ability as the replica? Most likely not. Hence, one will need to reverse engineer the brain and make a “re-brain sequencing” (perhaps via the map of synaptic clefts) in a similar way as genome sequencing. With these two maps, it is postulated that one could make an exact replica in both mind and body of a human. If all this were possible, the sky would be the limit in terms of possibilities:
- Transmit people via a digital network – “beam up, Scottie.” This would make travel vehicles, both terrestrial and space, useless at the speed of light – via de-materializers and materializers of the body container at both ends.
- Real-time backups of these maps would allow you to live again in case of an accident or disease – cybernetic immortality.
- Duplicate the more desirable cybernetic humans to improve their productivity exponentially.
- Live double lives, to be later merged, or not, into the original cybernetic human.
- Brain filters to alter our state of mind – for just about any reason.
- Identity argumentation via cybernetic design or copying from more desirable cybernetic humans.
- Why even bother with the physical body? One could just live in a virtual world, where travel can be obtained at the speed of thought.
One could think of many more possibilities (put your ideas in the comment section of this article). One can quickly also see that there would be a plethora of moral issues in the cybernetic wonderland. If one duplicates a cybernetic human and merged them into one, or not, is that not murdering another? What about copying cybernetic code from one to the other cybernetic humans? Would this make all cybernetic humans end up being the same? What if one, or more, is hacked and we become a race of monsters? What would this world look like? Would we lose our humanity?
Of course, all this is predicated on whether any of this is even possible. Are humans ALL just a mere product of the natural world and can be reduced to “ones and zeros.” Or is the human brain metaphysical? What is human consciousness? Do we have a metaphysical soul that can not be re-brained?
Thoughts turn to whether there is a difference between humans and animals. It has been said that the only real difference between apes and humans is the number of neurons in the brain. Mark Twain said, “Man is the only animal that blushes – and the only animal that needs to!” An animal may be only a set of thousands, maybe millions, of subroutines that get activated by environmental inputs and/or a random number generator that gives it the appearance of a certain level of personality and intelligence. And, yes, can remember events via memory, and even moderately create temporary variant subroutines that have a wide variety of respondent actions and personalities. This kind of conscientious, however, can be easily simulated in a complex computer program – given enough time (being a programmer, one can attest to this assertion).
We know that even a chess program can be made to appear to have a personality (conservative or aggressive style of play) in its approach and be quite effective in its ability. But can a consciousness such as this; innovate, think abstractly to create even further subroutines well beyond its own potentially pre-designed set of subroutines? An animal may have to live within a “finite” window of possibilities and can not go beyond this level of “consciousness.” Humans, however, may not have this restriction and can have an “infinite” level of possibilities of innovative creation capabilities.
This brings us into a potential, metaphysical aspect of the brain. Furthermore, this also opens the door to philosophy and religion. How is it possible that a god of a Bible ignored this subject? Well, perhaps it did not. The Biblical text specifically mentions God breathing life into Adam (Genesis 2:7) but makes no mention of doing the same for animals. For animals, the program start button was perhaps merely pushed on their “finite” genetic brain programs. The notion of breathing life into man is the idea that a metaphysical soul was impregnated into man’s brain. In Psalm 8:4-5, the author David, wonders about the purpose of the creation of man. We read, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.” In this verse, the Hebrew word for “angels” is “Elohim,” which means “God.” The difference between God and man is beyond the scope of this article, but the point here is that the reasoning ability of man is similar to God’s – we are supposed to be the children of God after all. In other words, both God and man have the power of intellect to make abstract reasoned choices, well beyond the natural world.
The most common Biblical term used to describe this is called the “spirit in man.” It is often mentioned in Biblical writings. For example, Ecclesiastes 12:7 mentions this spirit, saying that the spirit of man returns to God upon death. Why does God take it back? Is it a perfect recording of each person’s entire life? Perhaps all the person’s memories, actions, words, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, victories, defeats, decisions, and plans are recorded by this spirit in man. Many religious folks believe, wait and yearn for a resurrection – believing we will have our spirit of man, returned to us in a new body (or even a different type of body), and it will be as if we had never died (Ezekiel 37:5-10) via a resurrection. See further in John 3:3-8, I Corinthians 15:35-49, and I John 3:2. The Biblical text seems to imply some condition, order, and reason to this returning of the spirit in man to us – the good, the bad, and ones in the middle. The intent of this article is not to preach any theology, rather expose you to possibilities for you to research further and/or ponder – it is a Sunday Thought after all.
Is the transhumanist trying to play and replace God? This Biblical text sounds eerily similar to what the transhumanist searches for, except for reasons that are different, and perhaps using a different technology that is not of this earth. Is God an extraterrestrial that merely left some technology behind in their passing – leaving old Biblical scholars to write about it? Perhaps the 2045 Initiative has already been done.
In debates on the metaphysical brain (a soul) and evolution, I have been asked whether I am closed-minded in my own beliefs. Would there be anything that could cause me to change a belief in a god? If the answer would be “no,” then it may, in fact, prove that I am being led by feelings and not truth – closed-minded. But my answer is “yes.” What would be the answer if I asked you the same question in reverse? Is there anything that could get you to reject the teachings of atheism and evolution that could change your mind?
There are several issues that could change my mind on a belief of a god and evolution, and this is one of them. If the cybernetic human could be made, it would be a significant step to prove that everything in this world is a product of the natural world – i.e., God does not exist, and there is no soul in man. But equally, until proven wrong, one must entertain the potential that a metaphysical world does exist, driven by forces we do not yet understand. By all means, do your research and experiments, but until you have actual proof, we both need to remain agnostic on the issue of cybernetic humans. And certainly, we should not make government policy on the assumption that one is more right than the other. Please add your further thoughts in the comment section of this article.