Blog 32 Avatar is a way to immortality or extended lifespan by Mark Kingston Levin PhD award-winning author, adventurer and scientist.
Figure 1. Japanese airline company called All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Japanese airlines ANA is sponsoring the $10 million XPRIZE aiming for Robot Avatars. Will such a robot really be able to let a human see, hear, and feel by 2021? The goals are limited because they use human intelligence and not really machine intelligence.
Did you ever wish you could be in two places at the same time? The XPRIZE Foundation wants to make that a reality with a $10 million competition to build robot avatars that can be controlled from at least 100 kilometers away. This is not the only effort to develop advanced avatars. The Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov and his team are using avatars to reach a human form of immortality as shown below in their 4-step plan.
Figure 2. The plan to develop avatars A through D between 2016 to 2045.
Herodotus’s Fountain of Youth, Rowling’s Philosopher’s Stone, the Greek gods, Barrie’s Neverland, Ovid’s Cumaean Sibyl and many others have discussed immortality. The idea of immortality has been ingrained in our consciousness since our humble beginnings, long before the Greeks. Today, eternal youth has taken on a new posture using modern science and technology as opposed to religion, the immortality of the past.
Figure 3. The 2045 Initiative was founded by Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov in 2011.
Dmitry Itskov is expressing his goal as human immortality. Itskov will use a yet-to-be-defined method of uploading and transferring personalities into a carrier superior to the human body. I doubt this can be done in less than 1000 years; the brain is extremely complicated. We do not understand how to provide host to such brilliance and human personality in a computer. In fact, the best computer or the best robots are not much smarter than an ant. We have a ways to go, but there could be a breakthrough sometime. We cannot rule it out, but I am skeptical. In my view, we will increase health-span as well as human lifespan gradually over time.
The movement’s ideology is “to create technologies enabling the transfer of an individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality.” There are four main avenues that the 2045 Initiative is tracking in an attempt to achieve immortality, as discussed below. Each step reflects a chronological step in the proposed 2015 Initiative project, with each stage representing a further degree of advancement in robotics and humans uploading into a computer.
Avatar A aims to give the human brain control of a remote humanoid robot by using a brain-computer interface (BCI), which I have not seen vetted by experts. While this might seem far out, we must remember that controlling robots using thought was first demonstrated a decade ago. This technology has been accelerated by recent advancements in the field of prosthetics, which show that the human nervous system is capable of interfacing with prosthetic enhancements.
Avatar B, rather than controlling a body remotely, seeks to implant the brain into the body itself. This is not feasible at this time and will require a computer bigger and better than anything yet. Arthur C. Clarke predicted we would have this computer by 2001, but he is off by about 1,000 years, in my humble opinion. The process envisioned is to turn off the brain as it is relocated into a computer, and then transplant it. As the brain, theoretically, would be in a robotic body, this stage creates a consciousness inhabiting a body that could be modified, augmented, or updated. I have doubt this can be done before Quantum Computing is fully developed.
Avatar C, the next stage of embodiment, envisions a completely robotic body that the brain could be uploaded to. This is not well defined and will take much longer than that. Hypothetically, this would require hardware and software solutions that could allow consciousness to be uploaded. The brain would become computerized rather than remaining as fleshy matter controlling a machine. This would allow the brain itself to be customized and the sentient robot to survive what a human body could not. Unless they can show something technically with an animal.
Avatar D is not yet defined in detail, but the backbone of the idea is to create a “hologram-like avatar” or a “substance-independent mind.” This sounds like religion that promised the masses immortality if you prayed and accepted Jesus. I know the engineer will design something. Will it be that person’s complete mind in this century?
Figure 4. Eternal Youth may be a compromise. But can man and machine be combined?
Whether or not this technology will be actualized is a moot question: it will eventually come about, perhaps even as soon as 2045 — as Kurzweil has predicted. The more important question is: should or shouldn’t it arise. The possibility of immortality could have profound effects on the individual, as well as society.
There are both positives and negatives concerning the idea of eternal youth. Immortality could mean that we would no longer suffer the fear of death, we could do more with our lifetimes, and the world’s greatest minds could continue to develop their thoughts. However, there could also be a strain on resources, serious psychological problems associated with extreme age, and stress on societal structures such as marriage and parenthood.
This dilemma is reminiscent of Ovid’s Cumaean Sibyl: she asked for eternal life, not eternal youth. Apollo let her age, but kept her alive until she deteriorated into being kept in a jar. What is the moral of this story? Be careful what you wish for and what you develop to eternal life. It must be for a larger health-span first.
References: Science World Report, Ernest W. Adams’ Practical Problems of Immortality, The 2045 Initiative.
In my view, this transfer of humans to computers is not proven and could take a millennium. However, I think it could be possible someday after we have been able to simulate a living brain. What I think is most likely is increasing heath-span and lifespan. Bowhead whales live over 211 years, as one taken by the Native Alaskans was dated at that age. The sea urchin has been shown to be sexually active at 150 years old, during the studies of Bikini atoll. According to Wikipedia:
Red sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus) – 200 years
Ocean quahog clam (Arctica islandica) – 507 years; this is a common food source for humans
Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) – 4,713 years
Greenland Shark – 400 years.
The most immortal of all is the hydra, a fresh water animal related to jellyfish and coral. The hydra has amazing healing properties as well as telomeres that do not change, according to several top biologists.
Figure 5. Photo of Hydra an immortal animal see “The dynamic genome of Hydra“. Nature. 464 (7288): Pages 592–6. Credit Wikipedia
The literature tells us that the stem cells of Hydra have a capacity for indefinite self-renewal or immortality. The transcription factor, “forkhead box O” (FoxO) has been identified as the magic concoction of self-renewal. “A drastically reduced population growth resulted from FoxO down-regulation, so research findings do contribute to both a confirmation and an understanding of Hydra immortality.”
Figure 6. Some experts illustrated the Transcription factor as shown above.
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Dr. Levin was born and grew up in Vermont with many winters spent in Florida as a child. As a teenager he wrote poetry, served as a lifeguard and played football. He currently enjoys sailing, exploring underwater caves, snorkeling, writing science fiction and other pursuits. After working on the Apollo and Mars projects, he returned to school to study under Nobel Laureate Paul Dirac, obtaining his PhD in 2.5 years. Dr. Levin founded two companies and served the science policy apparatus in President Ford’s administration. He has been published over 44 times in scientific literature and was awarded over 32 US patents. The science fiction writer is now emerging with his first work, a trilogy entitled 30th Century. The first award-winning book, 30th Century: Escape, is currently available on Amazon. Book two in the series, 30th Century: Revived, should be released before the end of April 2018.