Do Russian multimillionaires dream of synthetic brains?

Jun 7, 2013

Russian multimillionaire Dmitry Itskov has a plan to mass-produce human-like avatars that would grant immortality by uploading people’s brains and personalities for after they die.

A June 1 New York Times interview with Itskov explained more about the details and thoughts behind this unusual and costly endeavor into the research field of cyborgs and immortality:

Itskov made his fortune building the Russian media empire New Media Stars with partner and Kremlin-supporter Konstantin Rykov, but sold his shares during a midlife crisis in his mid-20s in order to focus on the more spiritual side of life.

Itskov founded the 2045 Initiative to promote research in the field of creating avatars and synthetic brains, dreaming of a future world where these avatars are cheap and plenty, allowing everyone the option of eternal life.

The website has categories that include the topics “rebrain” and “interfaith dialog.” If you click on the “interfaith dialog” page, you are met with a picture of the smiling Dalai Lama showing his support for the venture.

Itskov is planning a conference around the idea for later this month with speakers from diverse fields ranging from genetics professors to religious leaders. Some speakers – though not all – are optimistic about the prospect of replacement avatars.

Upcoming conference speaker Martine A. Rothblatt of the cardiovascular biotech company United Therapeutics compared the current perception of avatars to that of transplants. “This is no more wild than in the early ‘60s, when we saw the advent of liver and kidney transplants. People said at the time, ‘This is totally crazy.’ Now, about 400 people have organs transplanted every day,” she told the New York Times.

Itskov hopes the future creation of these cyborgs would not only prolong life, but also would rid life of suffering, potentially end world hunger and introduce a more spiritual way of life, according to the interview.

Itskov registered a new political party in Russiain 2012 called Evolution 2045, in conjunction with his 2045 Initiative, which urges other countries to develop their own version of the party in support of “cybernetic evolution.”

The website for Evolution 2045 has high aspirations for its future technology, featuring this powerful message on its homepage:

“We will start a new era of mega-projects and open up the era of great and glorious deeds. We will lift, not just Russia, but all of humanity from its knees. We will help humanity out of its dull, downward spiral. And we will help it to become strong, confident, optimistic, prosperous and immortal — ready to rush to new heights! We will exceed the very limited organic nature of the human species and escape from the shackles of worldly gravity to neo-humanity.”

About the Author

Molly Jane Zuckerman

Molly Zuckerman is an editorial intern at Transitions Online. She attends Wesleyan University and plans to jointly major in Russian Studies and Comparative Politics.
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