You'll no doubt recall the 2045 initiative backed by an enthusiastic high net worth Russian individual, which appears so far to be the opening stages of a serious long-term effort to convert a fraction of that net worth into the technologies needed for artificial, non-biological bodies capable of indefinitely supporting a human brain - and after that to move on to brain emulation and mind uploading.
I commented on this vision last year:
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.
I'm of the opinion that this is not the most optimal path towards the defeat of aging, based on my understanding of the relative difficulty of building a full-featured neural interface and life support system for the brain versus realizing rejuvenation biotechnology that can repair the biological chassis we have now - even leaving aside the issue that an uploaded or emulated copy of your mind is just a copy of you, not you. In the long run we will all be wholly artificial, of course, but it seems premature to be aiming for that now versus after the advent of molecular nanotechnology and the capacity to build functional replacements for biological components (e.g. blood cells, brain cells, and so forth) that are better than the original. It is, however, very important for the general future of engineered longevity to have a diversity of approaches, disagreement, and enthusiastic people with resources and vision. At the very least, in a world in which artificial bodies are being developed with the stated goal of preventing people from aging to death, it becomes that much easier to gather support for work on the biotechnologies that can repair the damage of aging.
In any case, the 2045 Initiative is back in the press again, and here are a couple of items:
First up is the development of robots that can be controlled by the human mind. After that, and ideally within 10 years, Itskov wants to develop robots that can actually host a flesh-and-blood human brain, via surgical transplant. In twenty years time, things get even more interesting: Itskov anticipates "uploading" the contents of the human brain into a robot, yielding eternal life via artificial body. By 2045, he'd like to replace those 'bots entirely - with holograms. Since February, Itskov has stayed plenty busy working on his "Avatar" plan ... With a lab of scientists reportedly already working on the program in Russia, Itskov has now branched out to the U.S, with plans to open a San Francisco office this summer and host a futurity conference - called Global Future Congress - in New York later this year.
His next step: Itskov has published an open letter to the world's richest people, urging them to back the initiative - and consider volunteering themselves as potential avatars. "I urge you to take note of the vital importance of funding scientific development in the field of cybernetic immortality and the artificial body. Such research has the potential to free you, as well as the majority of all people on our planet, from disease, old age and even death."
Earlier this year, a Russian media mogul named Dmitry Itskov formally announced his intention to disembody our conscious minds and upload them to a hologram - an avatar - by 2045. In other words he outlined a plan to achieve immortality, removing the human mind from the physical constraints presented by the biological human body. He was serious. And now, in a letter to the members of the Forbes World's Billionaire's List, he's offering up that immortality to the world's 1,266 richest people.
"Currently you invest in business projects that will bring you yet another billion," Itskov writes. "You also have the ability to finance the extension of your own life up to immortality. Our civilization has come very close to the creation of such technologies: it's not a science fiction fantasy. It is in your power to make sure that this goal will be achieved in your lifetime."
This last note is absolutely true with regard to the SENS vision of rejuvenation biotechnologies as well: the wealthiest people in the world have it in their grasp to build a way out of aging for everyone, given that the baseline medical technologies would probably cost in the ballpark of a billion dollars and ten years to demonstrate in laboratory animals. Yet so far, they are not showing much interest - wealth doesn't grant vision, sadly, so we should all be pleased when a high net worth visionary does turn up, even if he's not working to our own favored plan of action.