Dmitry Itskov is the founder of Global Future 2045, which recently held its first conference. The Russian entrepreneur gathered scientists from around the world to discuss many topics that will help achieve one goal: life extension.
I recently discussed the GF2045 congress briefly, and although I do not want to extend my life for hundreds of years (the thought of having to do laundry for 300 years does not appeal to me), I am very curious about the main project discussed at the GF2045 congress, the Avatar project, because the people behind the project are actively trying to turn science fiction into science fact. To find out more, I interviewed Dmitry Itskov about the project, GF2045, and his vision of the future. Please remember that Mr. Itskov’s first language is Russian.
SF: I understand that this was the first Global Future 2045 conference. Did it meet your expectations?
DI: It was even more than I expected because the participants were extremely involved in the process of discussion of the global problems. After the conference, we exchanged several emails, and it is clear we have started a community which is going to continue working together and to form possible future strategy for our society and for numerous crises we are facing now.
SF: What are your goals for the GF2045?
DI: The primary goals were presented in the newest developments in the fields of cognitive sciences, robotics, and model of living systems, and the potential for transforming planetary civilization in light of the rapid pace of technological development, and then analyzing possible scenarios for the development of this civilization in context of new concepts regarding the universal history of Big History. A group of scientists from Big History attended the congress, and once more the goal was to discuss strategic problems in a dynamically changing world. If you ask me to summarize it, the main goal, and the main result of the congress is understanding that humanity has to evolve and the evolution can be both the evolution of the body and of the consciousness.
SF: What is your background? How did you go from Russia 2045 to GF 2045?
DI: The main idea of the project and my mission is to help people, to eliminate disease and death probably in the future, to overcome the limitations of our body, and to help humanity grow out of the crisis. As for my personal background, I have always been in the IT business, internet technologies. I published a few internet newspapers in Russia, I produce internet TV channel, a kind of blog service, email service, so being in this business I have always been interested in science and technologies that can extend life. Of course, like anybody, I have seen death and diseases in my family, my grandparents have gone, I’ve always been thinking how can I personally help. I’ve also been interested in science and I’ve seen an example of scientists who haven’t gone, who are with us, like Stephan Hawking. He can’t even move, he can’t even normally talk to people, so this experience inspired me, this made me think how can I participate and help people. I decided to launch such an initiative with the help of Russian scientists who I knew like me. What helped me was that talking to them I was pretty sure that if we launched a kind of a big technical project, a big social initiative, if we work together, if we make our thinking global, and if we are able to launch a global network, then there is a very big chance we make our dreams come true.
SF: I noticed in your answer you discussed extending life and eliminating death and disease. One of your projects is the Avatar project. Could you explain more about the Avatar project?
DI: It is the main technological project of the initiative which consists of four steps. One is human-like robot controlled by brain-computer interface. Such technology can help people like Stephan Hawking because he can’t move at all, and he can only speak one word a minute. He used to use some interfaces which helped him communicate with people and the world. The only technology that can help him is brain-computer interface. Our Avatar A project, the first step, we concentrate much of our attention on resources and developing perfect brain-computer interface which will help to control the robot totally—to hear what robot hears, to see what robot sees. Even let some feelings go through the interface to feel exactly what robot feels. I have to mention that just a few weeks ago we got news from Japan that Professor Tachi developed his TELESAR V robot which is not human-like like we want to produce, but even now allows you to see and hear and feel a little bit from the android he produced.
So the second part is about producing life support system for the human brain. It is based on the theory that our brain can live 200 to 300 years. We all know that most people die not from the death of their brain but from different diseases and because their organs die. The idea is to help those people on the edge of dying and who want to choose extending their life by saving their brain and personality. We want to connect second Avatar, Avatar B, to first Avatar so those people who decide to increase their lifespan by keeping their brain alive. We want to make them a real part of society by using the first Avatar as their real body.
The third part is reverse engineering for the brain. This is a long-term project, we have already launched it. We have gathered a group of ten Russian scientists; we are going to increase the number of scientists to 21 on the first stage, and I think in 10 years humanity can invent a kind of artificial brain and to think about transferring his reality into it to increase their lives dramatically. Personally I know about 10 projects which somehow are connected with the idea of reverse brain engineering in the world, and I think this issue is quite pressing for the humanity because this will help fight numerous diseases of the brain. Once more it will help us to understand how the brain works and what is consciousness. I think understanding what is consciousness is one of the most challenging goals of the whole humanity.
The fourth stage of the Avatar project is actually our dream. It is about future evolving of human bodies like in our scheme we suppose that once personality transferred to their artificial brain is real the next concern of humanity will be the evolution of their artificial body. People will start with human-like robots like Avatar A and then they will continue with nano-robots which will change their form by the power of their mind, and the process of body evolution people will go to a body which will be hologram-like.
I have mentioned all four stages of Avatar project. That is it.
SF: That is ambitious. If the Avatar project becomes a reality, what do you think society will be like in the future?
DI: To make this dream come true, we have think not only about radical life extension and evolution of our bodies but we have to think about new ethics, new paradigm for the development of humanity, new culture and we have to develop and investigate these issues. What I personally think is we have to rely on the experience of some spiritual traditions and try to combine science and spiritual experience. We have to think about evolution of our society to save our humanity, to save our race we have to change.
Something more concrete: In the future there will be numerous robots helping people in different works and there will be flying cars and there will be different energy and political system and different economics, completely different. I think the world will look like a kind of utopia like from the most ambitious and boldest movies in which we have flying cars, new green energy, and bodies of different forms. I think in the future we will have great cosmic expansion, and people will live not only on Earth but on the Moon and Mars, even fly out of the solar system. The technologies will be completely different.
SF: When do you see people going into the synthetic body? Do you want to eliminate the reproductive cycle? Do you see us in human bodies and becoming robots later in life? I’m just trying to figure out how the Avatar project fits into the life cycle.
DI: I don’t want to force people to change their bodies. I want people to continue living if they want to and that’s why I’m not going to eliminate biological bodies. I want people to live their normal life and then at the end of their life when they understand they actually face the limits of their original body, they have to make a decision. I want them to have the choice to save their personality to continue living. I want to mention that we are not going to be robots after such transformation. We are going to stay same humans but in different bodies with same feelings. As for reproduction, new bodies can be programmed and designed to have even reproduction.
SF: I’m trying to understand your viewpoint. Whenever someone wants to change society, I want to make sure that person has thought of the things others might question. A large part of my country unfortunately doesn’t embrace science like we do, and they might say that this is against God’s will. Have you thought about that argument?
DI: I have had no chance to ask God what He thinks about it. (Laughs) To be serious, what I think is necessary is to initiate dialogue between the representatives. I think it is necessary for those who believe in God should participate in the strategy for making new humanity; they should participate in setting goals for science because all main spiritual traditions all have at their base good principles. Proper dialogue will definitely help to avoid misunderstandings in this society. My point is that we shouldn’t blame the science before participating in dialogue.
SF: That’s very logical. I just hope there will be people open to that discussion.
DI: I’m sorry to interrupt, but there were 7000 people that during the initiative even without much advertising, they clicked the “Join” button on the Russia 2045 website. As time goes I see there are many bright people in this world who are actually interested. I’m pretty sure as time goes there will be more such people.
SF: Me too. I’m curious. Energy is a problem now. Energy would be needed to power this technology. How are you going to address the energy needs for this technology?
DI: I am worried about that because I think the problem of energy is a pressing issue for humanity now. We have to go away from oil and gas. I think that developing such projects like Avatar will raise the question of necessity of developing new energy supplies. That’s why I invited specialist in new energy to the congress. My personal prognosis is that the next step will be a kind of nuclear battery, a safe nuclear energy source.
SF: My other concern is that if we have biological and synthetic humans, then there will be more people than there are now. Are you concerned about overpopulation?
DI: The problem of overpopulation is also because of lack of resources now, and we are afraid of experiencing lack of water, of fuel resources, and fresh air. First of all, Avatar-like technology will help people deal with those problems which we face. As to the new race of people that will probably appear, I would say they can live in space; they can make their settlements on the Moon, on different planets. Because of the fact they will use completely different resources to support their life, I think they won’t interfere with those who will stay biological. We have a lot of space on the Earth; we just have a lack of resources. Outer space is almost unlimited; we can use it.
SF: That would be interesting. You would have your life on Earth, and then you reach a certain point so you live on Mars. Experience a new life.
SF: I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about this project. I have to admit that I have a background in biology so I think I would not put myself in a synthetic body, but I’m open to participating in the dialogue about what you are proposing.
DI: Thank you. I hope to see you at our next congress, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue.
The next Global Future 2045 conference will be next year in New York City. You can find out more at GF2045.com.