This past weekend in New York arguably the most important conference of the year, Global Future 2045, was held. This might sound like an overstatement but no other conference exists that states grander goals, and then tries to chart the path to those goals through science.
The researchers who have courageously aligned themselves with those goals in the face of many who would try to detract from them deserve kudos for their work. Even so, not every talk was immune to logical criticism — like the idea that transferring even a perfectly transcribed connectome to an avatar would create an identical consciousness, for example — but contrary to what now only the fearful might presuppose, it is not a fetish, or a mental disorder, to have a desire to live and grow beyond the brief term that you were given.
It is perhaps just a little unfortunate that mind uploading to a machine took center stage this year, at the expense of more biologically-oriented mind preserving efforts. That it did so may be only because of some of the tremendous advances we have recently witnessed in creating life-like avatar copies. Although the avatar for the main organizer of the conference, Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov, was not quite ready for the show, that of famed designer Hiroshi Ishiguro was on display.
The questionable avatar route to post-biological bliss has gained a bit of credence, in the eyes of some, through the attendance of the proud owner of one of the most successful cyborg arms available today. The “terminator arm” in the video above has a surprising range of grips and motions that are presently controlled only through the signals extracted from just a couple of muscles in the arm.
A few comments, and sometimes a lack thereof, from a couple of the fairly big names in hard scientific research suggest that there is still some confusion in the air about what happens, or rather doesn’t happen, when a perfect copy of a brain is theoretically produced. Only through soft, fuzzy thinking could one arrive at the conclusion that any kind of “transfer” of consciousness would be fundamentally different from a destructively made copy. When a copy is pinched, you don’t flinch. That is OK though — there is no single prophet and that was a key point of the conference. There are many paths to future and the only wrong path is the one not explored.
Many proponents support various mind and body preservation concepts, and they are truly noble and humane efforts. Considering the alternatives, any form of structural preservation — crystal-controlled freezing, vitrification, or plastination — would be preferable to decay six feet under. While these provisions would make for a great physical sidekick to any electronic legacy, ultimately, next to the singularly-expanding individuals still alive, these endearing remnants would persist only as amber-encased flies in a museum cabinet hoping to regain what they have lost, but unable to ever catch up. The only viable path then to longevity, is continuity through preservation and expansion of existing living tissue, and augmentation through merger with machine component.
Realization of this goal is an open-ended invitation to those inclined to follow. On the individual scale the problem is making it to 2045 (or thereabouts), but on the global scale, the challenge is getting things in order from a humanitarian perspective in the limited amount of time before reality begins to explode.