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Science Will Make Human Life Immortal?

June 26, AD 2013 21 Comments

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.)

milestones_small_en

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 materialism.

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.

Hello, and thank you for reading. I am a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. I write from my tiny office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge. Read more about me here, with pictures. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. "Like" my Facebook page Science Was Born of Christianity to follow updates about my book. God bless you!

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  • benedict1

    I am stunned by the arrogance of these fools! Once again, as Nagel put it so well at the end of “Mind and Cosmos”, “…..a magnificent triumph of ideology over common sense….” God gave them the protoplasm to play around with and they are making the most of it. (In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram….and everything else!)

    Don’t forget dear friends that Descartes wrote the prescription for this “Cogito ergo sum.” Of course he got it backwards—”I am, therefore I think” would have been correct. God got thrown out and he opened the way forevermore for fools to trap themselves in their head and deny common sense. I also just read the SCOTUS decision on DOMA. Too early in the morning for a drink so I will pray the Rosary, with fervor.

  • Ben @ Two Catholic Men

    Theologian Frank Sheed once spoke of the brain vs. the intellect in terms of “offspring” (I forget which book). Basically, material things can only produce other material things. A tree can make another tree or a fruit; an organ can make a hormone or chemical signal. The brain can make electro-chemical signals. A thought is a non-material thing and the brain cannot produce an “offspring” so unlike itself. Our thoughts are the “offspring” of our intellect which is part of our soul (both are non-material). The brain is the material tool we use to think just like the eyes are the material the tool we use to see. In other words the brain is the tool, not the source of human
    thought.

    • da Boss

      lots of religious nuts here, claiming common sense. Look people, these guys are not promising anything anytime soon. 2045 is a LONG time away. It’s not as if they said we’re gonna be immortal by 2020 or something. 32 years from now, some shits gonna change. I’ve seen all the crap they’re doing now, absolutely amazing. But to say this is impossible, now who’s being naive? Nothing is impossible, and these men understand that. Just know, that even if we won’t be around for this for whatever reason, mankind will reach the singularity and immortality, i can guarantee that.

      • Jeff_McLeod

        You say you’ve seen all the crap they’re doing now?

        Fun story for you: I’ve DONE the crap they’re doing now. I know this subject matter from the inside out, in the details, from the level of the bits and bytes.

        We Catholics are not predicting that their utopian fantasy won’t work. It’s much more serious than that. We’re saying that what they are doing is conceptually incoherent.

        We Catholics look at their enthusiasm the way we look at a precious child saying, hey I’m gonna prove that 1 = 2. (By the way, it can be done, but only if you surreptitiously break a rule in the proof, in this case by allowing the denominator to be 0 without it being obvious to your audience).

        We pat such children on the head and give them a cookie, saying God bless them for their childlike confidence. Same thing with utopian scientists. Bless their hearts. We’ll be here to encourage them when their utopia fails to materialize, as all utopias do.

        We Catholics live in real-ville.

        As benedict1 said in another comment in this thread, the whole thing came unraveled when Decartes began his inquiry with “mental contents”, rather than objective reality. The whole enterprise from that time on has been hopelessly naive because it is based on an objectively incorrect depiction of the mind.

        • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

          “We Catholics live in real-ville.”

          ^^^Can I get that on a sticker for my truck? It would make a great book title Catholics in Real-ville.

          Perfect!

        • da Boss

          Nobody cares what Catholics think. Religion isn’t real. I only care about what science says, and science says we are a lot closer to this than you think. I’m not sure if you’re being a pessimist, or you think you’ll be dead before this shit goes down. Either way, that’s your problem. I also believe in reality, and that is why i have alot of faith in this, in the long run. This isn’t just some wishful thinking, or some bullshit, this can be alot realer than you know. Now you can embrace the future, as most have, or you can hide behind your religion and the past. Either way, time and the rest of mankind will progress without you and we will achieve this. And it has nothing to do with utopias or anything. This is just the next evolution in biomediicne, a necessary step in human progress. Keep your religious bullshit at home please.

          • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

            And you keep your filthy language and insults off my website. See my comment policy.

            http://stacytrasancos.com/my-comment-policy-in-a-nutshell/

            I don’t like to ban people, but this is your only warning. Use your manners or the blacklist button will be “alot realer” than you may think.

          • da Boss

            What “filthy” language? Telling her to keep her religious bullshit at home, that’s the “filthy” language? What are you, a kindergarten teacher? I apologize for the filth, but I was just trying to make a point. When there is scientific talk about a possible reality, religion has absolutely no business being involved in those talks. I just think it’s unproductive and a waste of time. Not good critical thinking, but i’ll try to keep the “insults” at a minimum.

          • da Boss

            And i like your comment policy, very informative and to the point.

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  • Larrt

    The name of this article is funny, I already thought we were Immortal .

  • Jeff_McLeod

    Does anybody speak New Age? I can’t understand this:

    “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.”

    A classic book by Etienne Gilson called Being and Some Philosophers, does a nice job of calling out this kind of post-Cartesian nonsense. The trick is, after Descartes, there was never again talk of things that really are. The category of being lost all currency. The emphasis is now on ideas alone. One cannot establish being. In the modern world view, there is nothing whatsoever to distinguish between the idea of an egg, and the actual existing egg, or, say, the idea of General MacArthur, and the actually existing General MacArthur. In the “modern” view, being is no longer a quality of things. The idea alone is as far as one can go. Nothing could ever logically differentiate the wax figure of MacArthur, perfectly constructed, from the actual General MacArthur.

    We in the world of sanity, of course, know this is nuts. Descartes ruined everything.

    This sounds an awful lot like Gilson’s problem. Could you replicate everything that is entailed by any given person? I suppose in a utopian world you could do a good job on the virtual image. But what one can never, ever do is bring that virtual copy into being as the person of General MacArthur.

    The idea of General MacArthur is not General MacArthur. There was a day not long ago where this did not have to be pointed out. True story!

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  • magus

    what evidence is there for a soul?

  • SmithGreg

    It seems that there are a number of things wrong with this concept. Let’s proceed from the most basic problems to the more complex:

    1) The premise is faulty. We don’t, in fact, live in a Malthusian world of exploding population and shrinking resources. In the industrialized world, the problem is depopulation and the cost of aging demographics. Spending even more on seniors in bankrupt health care systems to give them robot bodies in a depopulation curve solves what problem, exactly? Who wants to pay for this? Giving a few billionaire white people (Richard Branson, etc) cyborg bodies is not going to be a compelling vision in those places on the planet where uneven distribution of resources due to political and cultural instability has led to abject poverty and starvation. Can you see the urban poor of Bangladesh getting excited about George Soros or Bill Gates or Hillary Clinton getting fresh cyborg bodies so they can rule as an international, immortal nobility over everyone else?

    2) We’re assuming that this technology will work. Yes, “top men” are working on it. In my lifetime, they’ve been working on the soon-to-come flying cars, undersea cities, space colonies, ESP-controlled devices, cold fusion, etc. Maybe this will work, maybe not. Sounds like the kind of shiny thing that gets dangled to get research funding. Frankly, I’ll remain healthily skeptical until I actually see it.

    3) We haven’t factored in the law of unintended consequences. I’ve read enough Michael Crichton and other science fiction books to imagine all the stuff that could go wrong with this “plan.” For crying out loud, there’s a big brouhaha over the supposed unintended consequences of giving kids vaccines, and someone thinks we’re gonna give some people robot bodies and it won’t backfire somehow? Actually, all I can imagine is the Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns.” I would think this involves all manners of his “unknown unknowns.”

    4) Did anyone read “The Portrait of Dorian Grey?” Even if this could work, what happens when an old, corrupt mind can turn its body for a new model every few years? How would that twist the mind, its sense of self, of entitlement, of greed and sensuality, and moral compass? How would it not lead to an oligarchy or plutocracy of those who can afford immortal bodies without consequences oppressing those who serve them? Geez, did anyone read HG Well’s “The Time Machine?” Who are the Morlocks that don’t get cyborg bodies in this future?

    5) Does anyone remember Icarus? Does anyone remember the Serpent’s lie to Adam and Eve? We cannot cease to be human, and if we try it will lead to misery. Lots of science fiction/fantasy books have speculated about those who become immortal through this or other means. What a lonely, horrible existence it becomes. Disconnected from all you love, watching others die, with no arc to one’s life story.

    6) As others have noted, this is ultimately futile. Even if you could transfer a brain or consciousness into a cyborg body, it wouldn’t be human anymore. There are other powers in this universe, dark powers and principalities and beings that are not human. I know we should not open that Pandora’s Box.

  • The Buddish Ways

    Dear all mortals and all the things in this space and all universes,

    Everything is possible.
    But all thus have the begin and the end in all everything.
    Those all will be beginning.
    Those all will be ending.
    All will be in cycling non-stopingly.
    We all must be out from this cycling. All the things in this cycling shall not be in wanted.
    Only Buddah can help us all from this endless cycle.

    The Buddish Ways

    • The Buddish Ways

      Agree with The Buddish Ways.
      Only buddish Ways can help us all.

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  • davcatdav

    Marx never said religion is the opiate of the masses, he called it the sigh of the oppressed. Catholicism isn’t foolishness, it’s the sigh of those who fate has commanded must die.

    • http://stacytrasancos.com/ Stacy Trasancos

      What? Or were you just being poetic.

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