Google's new director of engineering and futurist Ray Kurzweil, said at the recent Global Future 2045 International Congress held in New York June 14-15, that by 2045 humans would have achieved digital immortality by uploading their minds to computers.
According to Kurzweil, by 2045, we will have reached what futurists and transhumanists term technological singularity, first used by the American mathematician John von Neumann in 1950s. It refers to the point in the history of technological advancement where machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence.
Many transhumanists and futurists use the term digital immortality in connection with the concept of technological singularity. Humans, according to the idea of digital immortality, will be able to upload their minds to computers and thus will overcome the need for a biological body for survival. Futurists who subscribe to the idea of digital immortality argue that advances in neural engineering and modeling of brain function will make it possible to reproduce human minds in a digital medium in the future.
Other futurists think of digital immortality in terms of the technological ability to replace parts of the human central nervous system, including the brain, with artificial parts. The thinking also covers the implementation of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). According to transhumanist thinkers, when technology has developed to the point in which our "frail biological parts" can be replaced by more durable or replaceable artificial devices, humans will be able to achieve immortality.
Futurists and transhumanists widely consider the cochlea implant, an electronic device attached to the brain's cochlear nerve, which stimulates it electronically to restore hearing, as the first true brain-computer/brain-machine interface.
Kurzweil said that "based on conservative estimates of the amount of computation you need to functionally simulate a human brain, we'll be able to expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold."
He based his argument on Moore's Law which says that on the average, computing power, or more precisely, the number of transistors on integrated circuits, doubles approximately every two years. He also cited the rate of advance in several technologies such as genetic sequencing and 3D printing and used a graph to show the exponential rate of growth in diverse fields of technology.
Kurzweil argued: "We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more. In fact the non-biological part - the machine part - will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part. So even if that biological part went away it wouldn't make any difference. We'll also have non-biological bodies - we can create bodies with nano technology, we can create virtual bodies and virtual reality in which the virtual reality will be as realistic as the actual reality. The virtual bodies will be as detailed and convincing as real bodies. We do need a body, our intelligence is directed towards a body but it doesn't have to be this frail, biological body that is subject to all kinds of failure modes. But I think we'll have a choice of bodies, we'll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body in something like Second Life, but it's just a picture on the screen.
"Research has shown that people actually begin to subjectively identify with their avatar. But in the future it's not going to be a little picture in a virtual environment you're looking at. It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality. So we'll be routinely able to change our bodies very quickly as well as our environments. If we had radical life extension only we would get profoundly bored and we would run out of things to do and new ideas.
"In addition to radical life extension we're going to have radical life expansion. We're going to have million of virtual environments to explore that we're going to literally expand our brains - right now we only have 300 million patterns organised in a grand hierarchy that we create ourselves.
"But we could make that 300 billion or 300 trillion. The last time we expanded it with the frontal cortex we created language and art and science. Just think of the qualitative leaps we can't even imagine today when we expand our near cortex again."
Another speaker at the conference was Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics Corp., who discussed the concept of "mindclones" which are digital versions of human individuals that live forever. According to Robhblatt, a "mindclone" can be created from a "mindfile," an online repository of an individual's personality many believe is already taking shape in the form of social media such as Facebook. "Mindfiles," according to Rothblatt, will run on a kind of consciousness software called "mindware." Rothblatt declared that the "first company that develops mindware will have a thousand Googles."
However, some mind theorists consider Rothblatt's ideas naive on the grounds that it assumes human sentience and consciousness can be reproduced digitally. Rothblatt insists on a reductionist view of "life" which defines it simply as a self-replicating code that resists the tendency to disorder as conditioned by the universal law of entropy. Although, only few argue that the human mind must have a biology matrix to function, many mind theorists have challenged thinkers such as Rothblatt to suggest in principle how sentience may be implemented using a digital code. How do you digitally define the sentient experience of an orgasm, or other less dramatic aspects of human sentient experience mind philosophers term qualia? How do you hope to digitally implement sentient consciousness without any theoretical understanding of its nature?
Rothblatt's critics argue that independent of a theoretical understanding of mind sentience, the best that her proposed "mindlcone" technology can achieve is a sophisticated robotic simulation of the individual.
Undaunted by these challenges, however, Rothblatt insists that digital mindlcones could represent the immortality of individual selves and allow human individuals to exist outside their biological matrix.
Digital Journal reported a robotic creation of Rothblatt's organization, Bina48, allegedly capable of independent thought and emotion. The humanoid robot was based on a "mindfile" which is a repository of data about the personality traits of a chosen person whose digital clone the robot represents. The robot, capable of learning, is allowed to advance on its own accord, using an artificial intelligence program.
Bina48 was created by uploading a compilation of memories, beliefs and feelings of a real-life person who was interviewed for about 20 hours. The conversation covered many topics in the person's life from her childhood to adulthood. The information was then transcribed and uploaded to an artificial intelligence database.
According to Digital Journal, Bina48 was created to model Rothblatt's belief that "immortality is accomplished by creating consciousness in self-replicating machine," and that in the future "we will be able to transfer the details of our minds — our memories, our beliefs, our thoughts and feelings into another biological or nanotechnological body, like a computer, or a robot."
The Huffington Post reports that the Global Future 2045 International Congress, which featured leading scientific thinkers, was organized by the Russian multimillionaire Dmitry Itskov.