Science fiction has long depicted the existence of androids, cyborgs, sentient holograms, and other technologically based life. Interpretations on what life would be like with these beings vary greatly depending upon who creates the fiction. Some portray these tech based life forms as cold, unfeeling, and even threatening. On the flipside, others conjure up images of these beings with vibrant personalities that can live, socialize, and develop meaningful relationships. These concepts in fiction are engaging and stimulating, but what if it wasn’t fiction?
I recently read an article that describes how a very wealthy Russian wants to turn the concepts captured by science fiction and make it a reality. It is a bold move to be sure. However, according to an article on Mashable, a sincere effort is underway that would allow humans to make a transition from their biological form to a technology based form. The end goal is said to be achieving an indefinite existence and transcend the limitations of humanity’s physical form.
Dmitry Itskov is aiming to have humans capable of merging with technology in four separate stages. The transference will start by allowing a robotic body to be controlled by the brain. The following three stages involve transplanting a brain into a synthetic body, replacing the organic brain with an artificial copy, and ultimately transfer the human conscience into a pool of collective thoughts that can take holographic form at will.
The project that Itskov is looking to see for the future of humanity begs questions regarding the issue of whether it is even possible, ethical, and would spur endless philosophical discussion. The question I would like to pose brings the issue a lot closer to home. If the technology existed, would people do it?
People may reject this kind of embrace of technology. It can be argued that people are who they are because of their physiology. Our bodies are constantly subjected to chemical reactions and hormonal production. To take it a step further, one may argue that our personality is a product of the decisions we make because of or despite those reactions. Take away the biology and what does one become? The radical change that a person would go through might make them very different. The change might be compared to a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly.
Itskov states that his goal is immortality. For the spiritual and the religious, this type of transformation may only introduce another set of boundaries restricting spiritual transcendence. The new existence in technology might look like a prison, preventing a different kind of moving on.
To play the devil’s advocate, a variety of technology has become so much apart of every day life many would be lost without it. The widespread popularity and use of social media may indicate that many would welcome the idea of being a more intimate part of a network of minds and personalities. Cell phones are in constant use and are rarely outside of arms reach. So many feel a deep need to be connected to others, information, or stimulus. In this light, Itskov’s vision would almost certainly be embraced.
Right now there is no way of knowing if a feat like the avatar project is even possible. Further more, the article indicates that Itskov has not gotten the support among his peers that he was vying for. Regardless of whether or not this, or something like it, comes to pass it still begs the questionâ€¦ Would you be willing to merge with technology?