Disrupting death: Could we really live forever in digital form?

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Virtual reality, robots, chatbots and holograms could allow us to exist perpetually. Whether we should choose the option is a different story.

In 2016, Jang Ji-sung’s young daughter Nayeon passed away from a blood-related disease. But in February, the South Korean mother was reunited with her daughter in virtual reality. Experts constructed a version of her child using motion capture technology for a documentary. Wearing a VR headset and haptic gloves, Jang was able to walk, talk and play with this digital version of her daughter.

“Maybe it’s a real paradise,” Jang said of the moment the two met in VR. “I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it’s a very happy time. I think I’ve had the dream I’ve always wanted.”

Once largely the concern of science fiction, more people are now interested in immortality — whether that’s keeping your body or mind alive forever (as explored in the new Amazon Prime comedy Upload), or in creating some kind of living memorial, like an AI-based robot or chatbot version of yourself, or of your loved one. The question is — should we do that? And if we do, what should it look like?

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Would you want immortal life as a cyborg?

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Transhumanism can mean uploading one’s mind into cyberspace. But some transhumanists hope to slowly morph into “immortal cyborgs” with endlessly replaceable parts.

Five years ago, we were told, we were all turning into cyborgs:

Did you recently welcome a child into the world? Congratulations! An upstanding responsible parent such as yourself is surely doing all you can to prepare your little one for all the pitfalls life has in store. However, thanks to technology, children born in 2014 may face a far different set of issues than you ever had to. And we’re not talking about simply learning to master a new generation of digital doohickeys, we’re talking about living in a world in which the very definition of “human” becomes blurred.

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What are the ethical consequences of immortality technology?

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Detail from The Fountain of Youth (1546) by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Courtesy Wikipedia

Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment – both intellectual and financial – by philosophers, scientists and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be ‘cryopreserved’ in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative ‘solutions’ being mooted?

Of course, we don’t currently have the means of achieving human immortality, nor is it clear that we ever will. But two hypothetical options have so far attracted the most interest and attention: rejuvenation technology, and mind uploading.

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Disrupting death: Technologists explore ways to digitize life

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New technologies are opening the door to near-everlasting life as well as a myriad of ethical and philosophical questions.

Technologists are working on a variety of ways to avoid death — including uploading your brain to a computer.

Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond are attempting to disrupt what has long been seen as one of the only inevitabilities of life: death.

Computer scientists and artificial intelligence specialists are developing programs that allow people to theoretically avoid death, opening the door to near-everlasting life as well as a myriad of ethical and philosophical questions.

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If you upload your mind to a computer, are you immortal or just a bot?

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Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment—both intellectual and financial—by philosophers, scientists, and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be “cryopreserved” in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative “solutions” being mooted?

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An End to Aging: Can Science Allow Humans to To Become Immortal?

AGING — A LAW OR A SUGGESTION?

The inevitability of aging may be no more than yet another biological theory that scientific advances will retire in the near future. Some scientists today say that longevity is a societal concept that we may no longer need to uphold as a static law of nature, but instead, as one that can be rewritten to our benefit.

Researchers from fields spanning genetics to artificial intelligence (AI) are working towards a future where we will have to stop using a “midlife crisis” to justify our ill-advised decisions (but is it really ever the wrong time to buy a Porsche?).

While there have been innumerable theoretical ideas and initiatives for dodging the Grim Reaper, many actual strategies that are being developed today fall into one of two camps: biomedical or technological.

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Futurist Ray Kurzweil’s radical plan to be the first man to achieve immortality

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s engineering director, is famous for the strides he has made in machine learning, speech recognition and music technology. But he would rather be known for achieving immortality.

 

 

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56% of Americans not interested in immortality: Study

Scene from “Elysium”

In Elysium, a recently released sci-fi film, we’re presented with a new kind of machine-assisted healthcare that can cure cancer and reconstruct body parts. It’s a development that could make many humans virtually immortal. But as medical science and technology converge, we’re increasingly finding ourselves asking the question as a species: Do we really want to be immortal?

 

 

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Singularity: When man and machine merge to achieve immortality

Merging man and machine.

Many future followers predict the pace of technological progression in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution by around mid-century. Advances that provide a forever youthful and healthy state of being could be realized.

 

 

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