More Background on the Russia 2045 Initiative
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I first noticed the Russia 2045 initiative late last year, and remarked on it as a contrasting approach to achieving agelessness. A diversity of initiatives is a good thing in any field of human endeavor:

To my eyes, the most interesting aspect of this Russia 2045 initiative is that, unlike any other serious proposal I'm aware of, their focus is on getting out of biology and into machine bodies as rapidly as possible. ... In essence, this is a course to throw away as much of the body as possible as soon as possible - a path based on a different set of preconceptions about difficulty and efficiency on the road leading to an artificial brain hosting a once-biological human mind. If aiming for life spans of thousands of years, this is the exactly same place we'll get to in the end even if we start out by maintaining our biological bodies and brains for as long as possible through rejuvenation biotechnologies.

In essence the Russia 2045 strategy swaps most of the challenges and research goals of rejuvenation biotechnology for a different set of challenges and research goals regarding brain-machine interfaces, supporting the brain outside the body, and maintaining the brain against aging while doing it. Whether this makes for an easier problem space is very open to debate.

But on with the more recent news: there was a Global Future 2045 conference last month, organized by the same group:

"Global Future 2045" is a nonprofit organization with the goal of creating a network community with the world's leading scientists in the field of life extension and to support them as an investment hub, contributing to various projects.

You should peruse the presentation videos, as they give a fair idea as to the focus: to transcend biology as rapidly as possible, and outline the details of that path in much the same spirit as the SENS platform discusses how to retain one's biology in good working condition for as long as desired.

A Wired article provides a little more background on this organization and its backer:

Dmitry Itskov, a 31-year-old Russian media mogul, [has] a massive, sci-fi-esque venture of his own ... Itskov's plan: Construct robots that'll (within 10 years, he hopes) actually store a human's mind and keep that consciousness working. Forever. "This project is leading down the road to immortality," Itskov, who founded New Media Stars, a Russian company that runs several online news outlets, tells Danger Room. "A person with a perfect Avatar will be able to remain part of society. People don't want to die."

...

Until now, most of the work on Itskov's Avatar has taken place in Russia, where he claims to have hired 30 researchers - all of them paid out of his own deep pockets. Now, Itskov plans to take the mission global. "I want to collaborate with scientists from around the world," he says. "This is a new strategy for the future; for humanity."

As a technology program that requires a great deal of research, this project will succeed for the long term only if it expands out into the broader scientific community: relationships built, knowledge exchanged, interest spurred. Pointed, narrow-focus programs within well-funded small groups can achieve their milestones, but they cannot build enough to change the world without large numbers of other participants joining in, competing, filling in the gaps, and building on top of the foundations. This is true of all ventures that aim that high - if the first step is vision, and the second step obtaining resources, then the last is persuasion.

In any case, I look forward to seeing how this develops. The world needs more earnest, vocal people out to build their slice of the science fiction future and persuade as many others as will listen.

Comments

I see three stages for the future of longevity, the first of which is the prolongation of life through biotechnology, the second being pervasive integration with electronic components through mind-machine interfaces and the third arising from the wired mind regaining its connection to the body under new terms.

Mind-machine interfaces have a counterpart in "computer-body interfaces" whereby a computer controls the human body as a complex sensor and effector. These two together enable the connection between mind and body to be bridged digitally. The scale of current animal husbandry shows that there is no essential resource limitation on rearing human-like biological bodies for this purpose. The body could then come to be regarded something like an article of clothing rather than an inherent part of the self. With advanced robotics for all the heavy lifting, its primary functions would be aesthetic and recreational.

Posted by: Jose at March 2, 2012 12:20 AM

Preserving human identity is important.
The physical law of continuity requires that the body must exist continuously while some molecules may be interchanged with environment.
If they can make multiple copies of synthetic body, while the original body is destoyed - they would have created an immortal robot but killed the patient.
The principle of conservation of original identity must be maintained .

Posted by: nikki at March 2, 2012 5:29 PM

@nikki: There is no reason to think any other organ than the brain is involved in the core identity of a person. If the brain can control a synthetic body or even a biological body different from its original one, every important feature of identity is still preserved. If the genome, extracellular matrix constituents or supporting cells of the brain are altered (for instance to adapt the brain to a synthetic housing) but the essential connectivity is maintained, there is once again no reason to believe this subverts personal identity.

Posted by: Jose at March 2, 2012 7:15 PM

Very interesting. I've spent some serious amounts of time thinking about the longevity opportunities and challenges/advantages and disadvantages related to both maintaining the brain out of the body and regarding migrating the consciousness from the brain to an artificial digital device - which requires some abilities that the brain currently doesn't use and apparently have. Mechanical/digital bodies are attractive from a maintenance simplicity standpoint over a cellular biological systems.
However, we first need to be able to sense the artificial "brain" device as an extension of our biological brain - not unlike a computer sensing and external drive. Converting thought processes to digitized information may eventually allow the willful migration of thought processes from the brain to the artificial device - consciousness, identity, memory, etc. intact - copying the files over as it were a computer. Obviously a gigantic oversimplification. And, that's just where real additional challenges begin.

While no other part of the body may house our identity (by enlarge mostly memories of the experience of being who we are) the personality of the identity is a complex integrated manipulated dance between the brain and several organs that produce mind and personality altering chemicals. Testosterone and estrogen being to good examples of identity creating hormones - essential to the gender component of personality for example. They aren't just simple reproductive drivers, but also account for large components of our personal identities (ambition, aggressiveness, persistence, stamina,etc.) as biological organisms.

With out the equivalent inputs in a digital electronic brain - we wouldn't have equivalent reactions to external stimuli - the same personality, or a complete identity as we do as biological entities. While it may be possible to program the affects of these hormones and others into an artificial digital based "brain," it seems a daunting task regarding getting it to function with the external stimuli that also activate and regulate these and other chemical messengers and all the subtleties that they impart on to what makes us individuals biologically - not impossible, but far from simple.

Posted by: dduggerbiocepts at March 4, 2012 5:44 PM

I have read more of the 2045 materials, and I must say I find the first part of the strategy (development of a sophisticated android body and transfer of a human brain into it) interesting but the second part pretty bizarre and laughable.

Having a holographic body would be incredibly boring and it doesn't really offer any advantages. Any society capable of the sort of infrastructure needed to support "distributed" consciousness is also capable of rendering it unnecessary and wasteful by simply reducing catastrophic risks. Most fatal accidents are transportation related, and the need for routine transportation is reduced greatly by the telepresence technology that would be available. Intimacy would become the only reason to value close physical proximity. A variety of miniaturized sensors to monitor structural integrity and operating parameters of critical infrastructure together with a public safety expert system would cut down other risks.

Their slideshow talks about the importance of ethics but then goes on to suggest the development of "clusters" of animal brains as supercomputers. Linked by mind-machine interfaces these could easily outstrip humans in intelligence (number of cortical neurons, degree of topological interconnectedness). With all biological imperatives and intrinsic motivations intact, I would vote such a cluster "most likely to eradicate the human race" far above any kind of AI doomsday scenario. Also, it's profoundly unethical to treat sapient beings as tools (slaves) in this way.

Posted by: Jose at March 8, 2012 5:36 AM
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