More Press for the 2045 Initiative

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:

Russian Mogul to 'Forbes' Billionaires: Limitless Lifespans Can Be Yours

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."

Billionaires: Russian Mogul Wants to Upload Your Brains Into Immortality

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.


Am I the only one who realizes that even if mind uploading is possible (definitely won't be possible by 2045), it will be just a copy of me?!

Posted by: Anonymous at July 19th, 2012 10:26 PM

"The baseline medical technologies would probably cost in the ballpark of a billion dollars and ten years to demonstrate in laboratory animals". This was in 2004. Have we made no progress at all since then? Some money HAS been invested in relevant medical technology. Hard to draw in investors if we don't change this estimate and show that we are moving forward.

Posted by: Barbara at July 20th, 2012 1:42 AM

@Barbara: A few million dollars have gone into direct research that I know of - the SENS foundation currently has a million-dollar yearly budget, give or take - and probably ten times that into peripherally relevant line items from unaffiliated research groups that happen to touch on some of the foundational technology. That's a rounding error against the overall development cost estimate.

Basically it is still the case that very little work is being done on rejuvenation biotechnologies per the SENS vision, in comparison to what needs to be happening. There remains a great deal of work to be done in pulling in funding.

In terms of actual progress in detail on the science, you might look at the annual reports for the SENS Foundation:

Posted by: Reason at July 20th, 2012 5:51 AM

De Grey really needs to address this point. He's been saying we're ten years away from achieving results in mice for nearly ten years. This is completely unacceptable. Obviously his prediction has always been dependent on adequate funding, but he HAS been funded in part and he often talks about how fast progress is occurring. That the predicted number literally hasn't changed for close to a decade means his claims simply don't add up. Either progress is happening quickly and we're closer to our goal, or progress is static and we aren't. Which one is it?

Posted by: Ben at July 20th, 2012 8:50 AM

@Ben: development doesn't work that way. The big picture estimate of costs can't really be changed by an expenditure of 1% of the amount required to get to the goals, except by discovering information that lets you change the estimate - which hasn't yet happened for SENS. Everything accomplished by the SENS Foundation and their allies to date pretty much fits in with what was expected from the outset.

What the 1% expenditure does is further validate the big picture, which is what has happened.

For people who already bought into the big picture and the plan of development, that looks like nothing much has changed, but they are not the target audience for the results of initial investments in research, technology validation and progress towards very early goals (e.g. technologies that can be licensed for therapies, such as the bioremediation research). That target audience is the more conservative, larger funding sources, and the public at large.

Posted by: Reason at July 20th, 2012 9:12 AM

Anonymous: "Am I the only one who realizes that even if mind uploading is possible (definitely won't be possible by 2045), it will be just a copy of me?!"

Reason: "even leaving aside the issue that an uploaded or emulated copy of your mind is just a copy of you, not you."

I find comments like this incredibly frustrating and counterproductive. A copy of you is you. If you make a copy of yourself, you are you, and your copy is you. There are now two of you. If you emulate yourself instead, the emulation is you, and there are still two of you.

No, they don't have telepathy, and yes, they are separate, isolated entities. But they are still you, as much as you are you, and to claim that "a copy of your mind is just a copy, not the real you" goes against what we know of computational theory and physics. You are your data, routines, and process; duplicating that makes another instance of you, an instance that is you as much as you are you.

For it to be otherwise, you must either 1) privilege one copy over another by some arbitrary criteria (such as "this one was the master"), or 2) postulate the existence of some uncopyable structure such as a soul.

If you want to declare that you're giving privilege to a particular instance of you, that's fine; but I see no reason to do so, any more than the universe should prefer one relativistic reference frame over any other.

Posted by: Dentin at July 20th, 2012 3:42 PM

Dentin - who I am is based on me experiencing the world as me. A copy will experience the world differently, for a variety of reasons aka different circumstances. Therefore, they are a separate entity and not me - not a copy of me, not me at all. Subjective experience is the key differentiator.

Posted by: Leon at July 21st, 2012 12:02 PM


That's an objection to the idea of multiple copies existing at once, but I don't see at is much of an objection when it comes to uploading after, say, cryonic suspension. In those kinds of instances you'd have complete continuity of subjective experience.


I understand that. Truly I do. Developing technologies is hard. But at a certain point I have to question how useful it is for Aubrey and others to continually trot out the 'in 10 years' canard when ultimately that's all it is. Yes, caveats about funding are typically provided, but these predictions have to start reflecting the reality. I don't want to know when the cure for aging will arrive if circumstances are suddenly completely optimal, because they're not, they're not going to be, and it's irrelevant. I want to know when it is likely to arrive REALISTICALLY and what can be done to REALISTICALLY improve upon those time frames.

This movement has a decade of predicting a very specific, short term outcome under it's belt with no improvement in time-frames. I fear it damages the credibility of the science keep saying the same thing over and over again with no realistic prospect of near term results, absent a sudden and massive influx of money.

Posted by: Ben at July 21st, 2012 3:53 PM

Dentin, your view is ultra materialistic and hence - wrong. If you consider yourself some kind of a biological machine - fine, but I can't think the same about myself. The (presumably uploaded) copy of me will be me for itself and the observers, but what about the I? That is why I don't see any practical (and moral) use of mind uploading (the possibility of which I doubt, but not reject). When I die it won't matter if I copied myself or not. I will be dead with or without mind uploading.

Posted by: Anonymous at July 21st, 2012 10:45 PM


You say that my view is "ultra materialistic" and therefore wrong, but I don't see that you've proposed any alternative. We are machinery, collections of ordinary particles held together by ordinary forces under ordinary and well understood laws of physics. If you propose that we are something more, please state what that "something more" is, and why it cannot be copied, duplicated, or emulated.

If you are unable to think of yourself as a machine, perhaps thinking harder would be a more effective way to make progress than proposing changes to the laws of physics.

Posted by: Dentin at July 23rd, 2012 3:57 PM

Ben, I would also like better information on SENS progress. I've come to the conclusion that a modified Warren Buffett strategy may be best here; use my ability to generate and compound wealth, then apply it when it will do the most good. It's a tough tradeoff to make when we don't have decent models or information about the rate of progress.

Research is hard.

Posted by: Dentin at July 23rd, 2012 4:00 PM

Dentin, the truth is that we don't quite understand what we are. I'm not necessarily talking about a soul (I'm not religious, but I'm not ruling out the possibility to exists something like that, although not in the Biblical sense.). I also find the endeavors of people like Dawkins to make people nothing more than biological machines controlled by their programs (genes) to be absurd. We are no ants.

Since we don't know much about a lot of things, all that talking about mind uploading is far-fetched. All that stuff comes mainly from Kurzweil and he can't be taken seriously for so many reasons and is refuted too many times, including on mind uploading.

Posted by: Anonymous at July 23rd, 2012 9:48 PM


While it's true that we don't understand everything about how our brains and bodies work, one thing is extremely clear: no new physics is required for brains, bodies, and thought to work. Everything that we are and do can be reduced down to extremely well understood particles and forces.

I didn't arrive at an "ultra materialistic" viewpoint because I read Kurzweil or other authors. I arrived at my viewpoint because I learned physics, and "ultra materialism" is what you get when you realize that everything in the universe is built on top of extremely simple rules. It's not a viewpoint you acquire from other people; it's simply the obvious, trivial result of physics.

To put it another way, souls and "uncopyable consciousness" require a change to the laws of physics as they are currently known to be possible. Brain uploading, no matter how technologically infeasible right now, requires a change to the laws of physics as they are currently known to be impossible.

The probability difference between these two statements isn't just large; it's ridiculously, absurdly huge, because physics as we know it today is ridiculously, absurdly accurate and powerful.

I've found it extremely hard for me to impress upon people just how much stuff physics explains. The only places left where there are real questions are at the TeV particle physics scale, quantum gravity, and large scale cosmology. None of these materially affect anything you or I will actually encounter within a normal human lifetime.

Posted by: Dentin at July 24th, 2012 9:40 AM

Your plan may work for dogs, but will it work for humans? We know physics and still don't have ultimate theory about the consciousness, so you can't claim that consciousness is based on the physics we already know. It is not proved! What if consciousness is based on some particle that we don't know yet or something entirely different (not talking about God)? The assumption that one knows everything (what is possible and what is not possiblr) was repeatedly proved to be wrong in the past by what is know as scientific progress.

Worth noting is that mind uploading is related to (real) AI. If one is possible, then the other will be possible too (maybe not by copying, but by conversion). I don't see (real) AI coming anytime soon. Everything we have now are just toys that impress only people who don't know much about computers. HAL is too far away and even researches in the field doubt that it is possible. Besides, one should make distinction between simulating something in a computer and the real thing.

Anyway, you may be right or wrong, the future will tell, but my issue is not whether is possible or not to copy the human mind, but whether the copy will be the subjective me? How can you prove that? The common sense tells that the copy will be like an image in the mirror. And if that is so, then why would we need mind uploading? Because science is lacking at this time, a concept like mind uploading and its use for life extension is just a curious paradox that can not be resolved at that time and hence we are losing our time writing articles about it and commenting them.

Posted by: Anonymous at July 24th, 2012 10:02 PM

We have not yet 'proved' that the sun uses nuclear fusion. We have not 'proved' that gravity will continue to work tomorrow morning at 6:36 am. We have not 'proved' that jupiter isn't hollow. We have not 'proved' that consciousness is a simple side effect of a complex information processing system.

However, each of these things is incredibly likely, and each requires a change to the laws of physics to be impossible. Be careful where you use the word prove, because science has never claimed to prove anything.

On the alternate hand, for consciousness to be based on a new particle or some other as-yet-undiscovered thing, does require a change to the laws of physics. A really, really big change.

I think the crux of the issue is that you wish to consider consciousness and self awareness to be 'special' somehow. Everything we know about physics and information processing so far tells us that it isn't. It's merely one of the many interesting things you can do with an information processing system.

Why do you cling so tightly to the idea that consciousness and self awareness must be special? Why can't they be copied? Would it really be a problem if they were? Would it devalue your ego as a self-aware creature to know that your consciousness, everything you are and could be, is simply particles and forces that can be easily duplicated? We are not, after all, that special in the grand scheme of things.

Posted by: Dentin at July 25th, 2012 12:01 PM

I completely agree, especially with you argument about scientific proves, except with your reliance on our understanding (in that case physics). My point revolves around logic and past patterns - we don't understand something, hence we can't make claims about it. We don't understand consciousness, hence we can't claim that it is possible to upload it and live forever that way. Yes, maybe our current understanding of how the world works allows this. In the past people were also very reliant on their understanding and the Sun revolved around Earth. We don't live in some special time were we have great understanding of everything, on the contrary - we now realize how many things we don't understand, especially since God died. Someone once said that the answer of one questions brings ten new questions and we increasingly know less and less about more and more.

Anyway, even if this is possible, I don't see it coming during this century and maybe the next, except if you don't believe in all that singularity crap. Still not worth discussing.

Posted by: Anonymous at July 25th, 2012 9:45 PM

Much as i'd love to believe in mind uploading to computer, it is fantasy.

That the brain processes information does not entail that it is an information processor. The brain is a very different device from a computer and, while many functions can be understood using information system theory, sentience cannot. I don't doubt that, given the development of AGI, a suitably programmed robot would duplicate our abilities and, of course, could be much better equipped - with a wider range of sensors, stronger, faster... more intelligent. The problem is that the lights may be on and burning brighter than ours, but there's no-one in: the android is not conscious.

Posted by: Richard the sceptic at August 1st, 2012 5:03 AM

2045 initiative - Immortality - mind uploading, hologram body-avatar-nothing is impossible.But we must understand our limitation in the 3rd dimension.We must be able to access the different dimensions whereby we can understand the whole mystries of life.Unless we are able to move beyond the 3D it will be like studying the four boundaries of a box. We need to come out of it. We must also admit that the so called highest scientific discoveries are mere toys compared to the vastness beyond. The need for 'initiative' on this level lies the DOOR.

Posted by: Amar Singh Deori at May 30th, 2013 5:42 AM

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