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Ask the Expert

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Danny Tyree: Is the human race ready for immortality?

Posted: August 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 30, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Phrases such as “Nobody lives forever” and “death and taxes” could become quaint relics in just a few decades, according to ABC News, Business Insider and other sources.

Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov and 30 top Russian scientists have formed a collective — called “The 2045 Initiative” — with the goal of designing a future in which humans will be routinely upgraded to androids/hologram avatars. Shortly before death, a person’s personality/thought patterns/consciousness would be uploaded into a super-powered artificial body. In other words, over the next 33 years, the human race would achieve IMMORTALITY!

Itskov has sent an open letter to the 1,266 individuals on the Forbes World Billionaires list, challenging them to fund the project (for profit and for the betterment of the species).

Anybody else foresee problems here, starting with “til death us do part” controversies, Earth’s finite resources and the question of what sort of jobs will remain? And either we will have a new caste system with avatars living alongside mere mortals who can’t afford an avatar or flesh-and-blood folks will stop reproducing and leave a single generation “frozen in amber” as it were.

The 2045 people have the pie-in-the-sky notion that cranking out the avatars will somehow eradicate war. No, more likely, major confrontations will erupt over who gets the good hologram models and who gets the Naked Randy Travis model.

The new paradigm will supposedly free mankind for projects of self-improvement and Higher Spiritual Evolution. Oh, yes, the achieving of a major goal like immortality will work just like the major goal of winning the hand of your Special Someone in marriage. Look for avatars lounging about with raggedy underwear, unshaven armpits, anniversary amnesia and a predilection for flatulence.

The scientists seem to assume that if a human soul even exists, it will magically be transferred into the avatar without stepping on any Divine Entity toes. Yes, the researchers are playing God, and you have to wonder, if you stripped away their billions, would they even be qualified to play Chutes and Ladders?

The fact that this project began in Russia sets off clanging alarm bells for me. Do we really want Vladimir Putin going strong a thousand years from now, regaling anyone who’ll listen with stories that begin “Back in my millennium, we jailed female punk rock groups five times a day in heavy snow...uphill both ways”?

I’ve accumulated more books and DVDs than I’ll ever be able to enjoy, so it is indeed tempting to think of having forever to catch up; but then I think of Burgess Meredith’s hapless bookworm character in the “All The Time In The World” episode of “The Twilight Zone.” At best, all our literary genres will become less and less relevant as time goes by. Who needs murder mysteries if they all end with “The butler tried to do it — but nanotechnology repaired all the damage”?

I fear that Itskov’s hubris will lull participants into a false sense of security. Too bad the consciousness-transferring didn’t start with earlier notables. Nineteenth-century poet Emily Dickinson could really teach us a thing or two with poems such as “Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly SENT A BIG HONKIN’ ASTEROID CRASHING INTO THE EARTH AND WIPING OUT THE 2045 INITIATIVE MASTER RACE!!!”

Danny Tyree’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.

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