Can Avatars Make Us Immortal? This Multimillionaire Says It Could Happen

Dmitry Itskov is perfectly sane.

The Russian multimillionaire and former media magnate appears to be like any other 32-year-old man — even rather reserved by most standards — but with a rather unique hobby. Itskov pursues immortality through the development of avatars which carry the entire contents of the human brain. He calls it the 2045 Initiative.

Basically, Itskov dreams of continuing conscious life outside the biological sphere in the form of a relatively inexpensive non-biological carrier. Despite the fact that this goal aligns with some of the most popular sci-fi hits (think Avatar), this Itskov has some heavy-weight supporters in the scientific community, including scientists from Harvard, M.I.T, and Berkeley. Later this month, roughly 30 of the scientists who see at least some rationale in Itskov’s pursue will speak at the second annual 2045 Global Future Conference in Manhattan. This conference, much like the ones featured in the Iron Man movies, are more of a technological showcase than actual conference. Tickets go for $750 a piece.

Most of these researchers are not looking to upload our brains contents to computers through a complicated theory of the “quantum nature of consciousness” by Sir Roger Penrose, but the idea of artificial intelligence replacing biological forms sparks questions about the nature of life itself.

Itskov truly believes this project harbors altruistic measures. These avatars would not feature some of what we refer to as disabilities or limitations; there would be no congenital heart defects or missing limbs. He believes that avatars will ultimately reduce world hunger (machines only need maintenance) and that charities will eventually be structured to provide inexpensive avatars to the poor. It’s a nice dream, really; one filled with longevity.

But is that what we really want?

Do we define life as mere consciousness? Most biologists would argue that we would not. Additionally, what does this mean about our relationship with technology? While many casually exaggerate that they are ‘addicted’ to their smart phones, in the case of avatars or robots, we would literally depend on machines to keep our thoughts and conscious presence meaningful.

In my opinion, a key part of our time on earth are the things we feel and the relationships we cultivate. It’s about wiggling our toes in the grass and enjoying the sun on our skin. It’s about building our families, learning new ideas, and experiencing culture that can’t quite captured through a camera lens. It’s about the faith we feel, or don’t, and about forcing ourselves to live in the present because we never know when we’ll have that moment again.

Either way, the rapid pace at which technology develops and the financial resources available mean that this idea could potentially become a reality for the mega-rich in the next 50 years or so. Itskov now spends most of his time traveling to meet new scientists who may be able to help him with his mission, and speaking to the public about what he views as his solution to the end of suffering. When he is not traveling, he meditates and claims to live like a monk.

What do you think? Would avatars be the best way to eliminate future pain and continue the human race? Or is this idea too much of a real-life science fiction blockbuster?  

Original article available on Policy Mic.

7 Government-Sponsored Inventions You Didn’t Know About

In a recent article published in the New York Times, 50 Nobel laureates wrote to Congress asking them to refrain from making government research-and-development spending cuts. The federal government supports both basic and applied research through a variety of agencies. We’ve all heard about the big spinoff inventions from government research and development, but what about some of the lesser known products?

The following are technologies that have come from just NASA alone:

1. New and Improved Ice Free Switch

Developed at the Ames Research Center in Canton, Ohio, NASA scientists created a biodegradable anti-freeze solution in order to combat the ice on wings that prohibits planes and shuttles from flying. The technology, licensed by the Midwest Industrial supply, was added in 2012 to the Ice Free Switch to prevent train switches from freezing over. The new IFS is easier to apply and stays on vertical areas better than the old model.

2. Twin-City Fans

In 2010, NASA created an alloy four times stronger than regular aluminum to be used in high-temperature combustion engines. NASA patented the technology, and has licensed it to the Twin City Fan. This fan meets European safety standards and functions in tunnels at temperatures up to 752 degrees Fahrenheit. The fan currently comes in three sizes, and its compact design lowers construction costs.

3. “Thermocules”

Outlast Technologies, Inc. licensed NASA’s dry heat-capturing technology used in space suits to help maintain astronaut’s body temperatures. Outlast technologies uses this 2004 technology in outdoor gear ranging from boots, pants, and jackets to socks and underwear.

4. Dichroic glass

Regular clear coatings do nothing to protect astronauts from the harmful levels of radiation that exist in space. In the Johnson Space Center in Pennsylvania, NASA scientists created a transparent, ultra-thin metal coating that can prevent radiation from reaching the human body. J.L. Crystal Artistry, a California company that has designed crystal pieces for former U.S. and Pope John Paul II, uses this technology to enhance its art by giving it additional texture and hues.

5. The Low Plasticity Burnishing Process

Developed in Cincinnati, Ohio, this process was originally intended to create a longer lifespan for engine components. However, this process has been used in hip replacements to make sure that patients don’t need to go in for future replacements.

6. Cleaning Bacteria

Ever wonder how resources are conserved on the International Space Station? NASA has developed a photosynthetic bacteria capable of breaking down toxic chemicals astronauts could encounter on the ISS, and through the Small Business Innovation Research Program contracts, this strain of bacteria was adapted to be able to clean up crude oil spills. It can also be used to clean and filter wastewater with organic wastes.

7. G-Trainer Treadmills

When in space, astronauts may suffer muscle degeneration from lack of use. NASA scientists at the Ames Research Center found a way to use air pressure to add force, so that even in space astronauts could exercise. The same technology has been applied to rehabilitation treadmills that minimize impact for injured athletes.

Original article available from PolicyMic