Dmitry Itskov on Singularity 1 on 1: It’s Time To Think About Who We Are And What Is Our Place In The Universe

Yesterday I was very fortunate to get a rare English language interview from Dmitry Itskov – the elusive Russian entrepreneur spearheading project Avatar and Global Future 2045.

The first time I saw Itskov was at the recent Singularity Summit where he revealed his uniquely ambitious project. I don’t know Dmitry well but he may just turn out to be one of those soft-spoken, under-the-radar and camera-shy people who actually make things happen. I was impressed by his breadth of knowledge and courage to conduct our interview entirely in English. Itskov also impressed me as a very thorough person who makes the effort to respect all sides and points of view yet without sacrificing his personal integrity and commitments. That is why I will follow his progress with interest.

During our discussion with Dmitry we cover topics such as: his humanitarian motivation and the interesting fact that he initially was not even familiar with the concept of the singularity; the ongoing goals and recent success of the Global Future 2045 congress recently launched in Moscow; his project Avatar – its goals, timeline and benchmarks; brain and head transplantation and the 1960’s experiments of Dr. R. J. White and his Soviet counterparts; our fear of the future and his advice to focus on the benefits and dream more often rather than the risks only; the general resolution that he is working on submitting to the UN general assembly; religion and Dmitry’s genuine desire to engage all major traditions in discussing the project and especially its political and ethical implications.

(As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.)

YouTube Preview Image

 

Dmitry Itskov: Welcome to the Global Future 2045

YouTube Preview Image

 

Ray Kurzweil about GF2045 and ‘Avatar’

YouTube Preview Image

 

Who is Dmitry Itskov?

Dmitry & Ray at GF2045

Dmitry Itskov is the founder and President of New Media Stars. He attended the top economics university in Russia and has 13+ years of work experience in media projects.

Itskov heard about life-extension with the use of cybernetic technology and immediately realized how he could apply his experience and resources to create a social movement in support of such life-saving technology. Since then he has collaborated and partnered with many of the world’s leading scientists, physicists, philosophers, and religious leaders to create life-extension products that will be affordable and available to all of humanity.

Dmitry has initiated a conversation with the UN about life-extension technology (which was the purpose of the recent GF2045 congress in Moscow) and hopes to spark global discussion on its ethical and political implications.

  • http://cmstewartwrite.wordpress.com/ CMStewart

    I’m glad Itskov is so focused on the humanitarian applications of medical transplantation, machine-body integration, and avatar technology. His wish to “stop separating science and religion” is, however, overly optimistic, in my opinion. An attitude of respecting religious traditions seems counter-intuitive within a framework of scientific reasoning and technological progress. But if he can successfully pull that off, hooray for him- he’ll be the the first one to do so in the history of civilization.

    I enjoyed the accompanying videos as well. “Technology is too important to leave to the technologists.” -Ray Kurzweil. All forward-thinking people must get involved!

  • http://www.singularityweblog.com/ Socrates

    Greetings Cynthia,

    as a hardcore atheist myself I have the same doubts as you do. In fact, I think it is pretty much impossible to reconcile science and major religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Buddhism can) because everything in the major 3 starts with faith and in science everything starts with doubt and curiosity… It is refreshing however to see people who genuinely think it is possible, or at least worth trying.

  • Pingback: 2045: A New Era for Humanity (Video)

  • Pingback: Global Future 2045 Congress in New York Gives 10% Off To Singularity Weblog Readers

  • Joshua Smith

    I just saw this story on NYT, and, being the type of person who’s been thinking about these issues since my teens or so, I found most the comments at the bottom of the page kind of funny. Comments are now closed, but I’ll put a smattering here, with my thoughts.

    “The serendipity of Mr. Itzkov’s industry will no doubt be welcomed by artificial organ recipients everywhere. But any simulacrum created will be no more a continuation of the life of this quixotic millionaire than will his tombstone.”
    And a similar one:
    “Even if there where some way to “scan” or “copy-and-paste” the unimaginably complex signatures from the biological brain to an artificial surrogate or medium, and thus achieve a conscious “copy” of the original, the resulting being would not be “you,” who are reading this right now, but just that – a copy. “You” are bound-up with the constantly functioning and changing processes that, running from birth to death, constitute the epiphenomenon that is “consciousness.” To sever this bond, as with a brain deprived of oxygen, which either causes irreparable damage or indeed brain-death, would be the end of the conscious, thinking, feeling individual.”
    Or like when someone comes out of a coma or general anesthetic? Is it a different person because the continuity of consciousness was severed?

    My view on this (based on Hume, as well as on modern cognitive science) is that identity – including personal identity – is a fiction. The Ship of Theseus problem certainly applies to neuroscience just as much as to anything else. But there’s a certain point at which one could replicate ENOUGH of the meat self to be satisfied on a personal, colloquial level at being the same person. (How much is enough would probably vary by individual, just as individuals might disagree as to when the Ship of Theseus became a different ship, if it ever did at all.)

    “Immortality can’t be bought, Mr. Itskov. It has to be earned. It was earned by a few great minds and spirits like Shakespeare, Beethoven and Einstein. But not by narcissistic fools like yourself.”
    All of those guys are totally dead as shit.

    “I’m having a tough time wrapping my brain around the concept of having my mind uploaded into a cyborg, but if my avatar would permit enjoying sex, cartoons and chocolate, sure, sign me up. Of course, being the type that would make nitwit human pleasures a priority would probably instantly eliminate me from being selected to live forever in a nonbiological carrier.”
    You could certainly enjoy all of those things in theory. You could also simulate the sensation of pooping or picking at a zit on your forehead if you wanted to. Some people might choose to replicate some of these things to the best of the technology’s current capacity, and others might decide to intentionally shut off ancestral drives for music, sex, and cookies. But there’s no right answer, and either way (or any combination in between) implies great freedom and an unprecedented level of personal agency.

    “Survival, on a most basic level, always involves taking the life of something else, whether that be meat or vegetable. That’s a cruel setup, and one we’re seemingly stuck with. Could a kinder society be created with mechanical bodies that didn’t need food? Say it’s possible to upload our minds to a computer. Our thought patterns would still be based on the original cruel system. Society’s ills and hoarding would just take different forms. To have a kinder world, we would need different thought patterns, and then we wouldn’t be humans; we’d be something else.”
    This person almost gets it. The thing is, by simulating the wetware, we might have an unprecedented ability to direct our own thought processes far beyond what meditation, therapy, and self-help books are capable of now. And the dynamics behind things like war, which have a lot to do with scarcity and the perceived need to control others, would almost certainly change too without dependence on physical things (aside from energy).

    “Assuming that it is possible to download our consciousness in a machine, what would then be the need for a human-like body?”
    There wouldn’t be one; it would be a matter of individual choice. Others could put themselves in a spaceship (alone or with many other simulated consciousnesses) or an underground bunker, with drones (or, for those less horrified of a virtual existence, the Internet!) for eyes, ears, and hands.

    “Humans already have a way of “cloning” themselves in a separate being that goes on to live its own separate life (and carrying their DNA into the future): it’s called having kids. Maybe if this guy had one, he would have a better understanding of why his project is considered impossible.”
    Of course the ad hominems have to start flying somewhere.

  • Joshua Smith

    I also agree, but as you basically said, various flavors of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism are much more compatible with these ideas than the Abrahamic religions, which – what can I say? – will just have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, as they were with respect to the firmament, geocentrism, the necessity of pain in childbirth, and a whole slew of human rights issues, many of which (gay marriage coming to mind) continue to rage, with the conservative sects almost certainly on the losing side as usual.

  • http://www.singularityweblog.com/ Socrates

    Great points Joshua – I really appreciate your thoughtful contribution here! ;-)

  • Terrence Lee Reed

    “You” are constantly changing, and changing from a biological medium to a non-biological or hybrid medium will be another change, a change that will mark the most profound step in evolution since the development of consciousness itself.

  • Pingback: Transhumanism Goes to Campus