The singularity is near?

The Maes–Garreau law is the statement that “most favorable predictions about future technology will fall within the Maes–Garreau point”, defined as “the latest possible date a prediction can come true and still remain in the lifetime of the person making it”. Specifically, it relates to predictions of a technological singularity or other radical future technologies.

This phenomenon is known as the Maes-Garreau law.

In his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Raymond Kurzweil proposed a coming technological singularity, whereby 21st century advancements in genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (including artificial intelligence) would precede the ability to augment the human body and mind with technology.

31 year old  Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov is intent on making Kurzweil’s prediction a reality by 2045.

The ultimate goal of Itskov’s 2045 Initiative is to create a new vision of human development that meets global challenges humanity faces today by realising the possibility of a radical extension of human life by means of cybernetic technology.

In short, they want to make humans immortal.

The 31-year-old media mogul has sent an open letter to the Forbes richest list, in search of support and funding, writing: “Currently you invest in business projects that will bring you yet another billion.”

“You also have the ability to finance the extension of your own life up to immortality. Our civilisation 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.”

The 2045 initiative is set to involve four phases:

2012-2015

The emergence and widespread use of affordable android “avatars” controlled by a “brain-computer” inferface. These avatars will give people the ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations and more.

2020-2025

Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning bodily life. 2045 scientists hope that this new technology will create a new IT revolution, making all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.

2030-2035

Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness onto an artificial carrier. This is the point that cybernetic immortality would become a possibility.

2045

By this stage, the initiative proposes, substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. This would usher in a new era for humanity, with the potential for us to “eventually become a new species”.

“I’m Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I approve this message”

At present, the exponential growth of technology is dependant on the ability of human species to continue to develop it. From a rational perspective, handing humans the power of immortality (moreover, at an affordable price) presents a number of issues. In a world that is already starting to feel the effects of over population, pollution (dare I say it, global warming?), etc. – is providing the key to eternal life really such a good idea?

Who’s to say that the technological predictions made by the 2045 Initiative’s founder will ever occur? Let alone in the time frame he has provided. Itskov is a businessman afterall, not a scientist. And one can’t help but find it all too convenient that the completion date for the project falls well within his expected lifespan – as the Maes-Garreau law dictates.

So what’s your verdict? Is providing humans the key to immortality a recipe for disaster? Or simply the next step in human development?

Post your thoughts below!

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2 comments

  1. I think it is an interesting concept but I can’t help but think we don’t have the resources to enable humans to become immortal considering we can’t even sustain a good quality of life for every human in the current global population.

    1. That’s a good point Rohana – the ability to create “a new species” is one thing, but having a world for these beings to live in alongside humans and their man-made destruction is quite another.

      There are ethical implications, too, in the notion of living forever. Is it even the right thing to do? For all that we know about science, we really have very little understand of what is actually means to be an individual with a finite lifespan. Perhaps there is a very good reason that life, in its current state, is bookended by birth and death within an extremely small time frame.

      Then again: with people living “forever” (or at least for much longer than they currently do), perhaps there would exist the opportunity for people to really gain a long-term perspective on the actions they take. The men (for they were men, then) who pushed the Industrial Revolution had no way of knowing that it would eventually lead to the environmental, social, and economic problems that it has done. Maybe if we lived for longer, we’d think a little harder about how our actions impact on the world around us.

      Either way, I think the issue of singularity is incredibly interesting. Watch Transcendent Man if you haven’t already. If you’re at all interested in the cultural implications of artificial existence, my PhD supervisor Tama Leaver released a book last year that might be worth a read (pretty sure UWA has a copy): http://www.tamaleaver.net/artificial-culture/

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