It’s called cybernetic immortality, a neo-humanity where we take control of our own evolution and evolve human life beyond human life.
The growing movement called the Global Future 2045 (GF2045) just met in New York City. These neuroscientists, neuroengineers, and businessmen are on a quest for everlasting life. Forbes magazine reports that the Russian entrepreneur and billionaire, Dmitry Itskov who founded GF2045, has a plan to replace the need for the body altogether. He’s asking other billionaires to help fund this project. The New York Times reports that he’s already spent $3 million, and he has the support of the Dalai Lama.
The project has four milestones. (BCI means brain-machine interface.)
Here’s the summary: Humanity is facing a dark age of degradation and affliction, our resources are depleting, our population is growing. What we need is a new model for civilization — a new mankind. We need a technological revolution. We need social transformation. Cognitive technology will allow us unprecedented developments in human cognition, a way to transfer a personality to an artificial carrier. To do this we need a new paradigm, a new philosophy, a new ethics, a new culture, a new psychology, a new metaphysics. We must reset our limits, go beyond ourselves, beyond the earth, beyond the solar system, to a new reality, a new infinite man of pure inner life. If spiritual ideals help us avoid going astray, then by 2045 man will become a hologram avatar, that is, an disembodied spirit living forever in a man-made heaven.
His quest to solve mankind’s problems is admirable, but there is just one problem and this problem is going too far. It’s the same problem that philosophers and theologians have already addressed in antiquity and in the modern day. It’s the same problem Mortimer J. Adler called the “angelic fallacy” in his book The Angels and Us. It’s the same problem a child can refute. It’s the same problem that led a top neuroscientist to say that he could someday divine a mobile phone with a consciousness that couldn’t be reduced back to matter. It’s the same problem that causes scientists and politicians to see people as a utilitarian or sexual objects rather than people with intelligence and free will.
It’s an assumed axiom, not demonstrated, an unreasonable faith in something proven. People believe in materialism to avoid the question of the human soul and of God.
If materialism is true, we have no soul and our minds are only emergent fields from the matter in our heads which can be computationally modelled. If it is true — and only if it is true — then it is conceivable that scientists could make a robotic copy of a human body that is controlled by a computer. It is conceivable that a human brain could be uploaded into a computer and then transplanted into a robotic body. It is possible that people would have the option to upload their brains to an avatar before the body dies and become, not body and emergent mind, but chosen avatar and uploaded computer. And if that’s possible, then it is possible to exchange the material body for a hologram body and it is possible for human civilization to become an angelic realm existing anywhere in the universe. The resource problems we face now would end, there would be no food shortage or famine (we wouldn’t need food), no healthcare crisis or disease (only maintenance on the computer brains), no war or discrimination (everyone would be happy and there would be no such thing as skin color).
Science would finally become God, the religion of scientism the one true faith.
However, if materialism is not true and man is really body and soul, then none of it is possible because no matter how much the material brain is computerized, the immaterial soul with the powers of free will and free thought can never be reduced to atoms on a substrate. What happens then? These billionaires and neuroscientists could soon claim that they are able to upload a mind before death, and convince people to pay great sums to ensure their own immortality. After all, if you claim to upload a mind and the person dies, then how is he going to tell the world that the computer mind is not him, that the project didn’t really work. Everyone gullible enough to believe the scientists would be duped. The rich would get richer. In a way, this is the modern day equivalent of the 1970′s television evangelist asking people for money to heal them or redeem them. Despite the seemingly good intent, this project is another desperate grasp at science to save us and prove that we are our own gods.
Maybe the most desperate grasp yet.