Saturday, July 6, 2013

What if your brain would never die?

Recently, I watched an interview on the Charlie Rose show about the future of robotic avatars. Before I go any further, here is a link to that interview. You'll have to skip to the 18:30 mark, because it's a two part show.

Charlie Rose Interviews Robotics designer David Hanson & Dmitry Itskov, founder and chair, 2045 initiative on robotics and avatars of the future

I wanted to give you a chance to watch this interview before you read my opinion on it, because these plans and ideas are somewhat controversial. I thought you should get a chance to make up your mind before reading the rest of this post.

I found the interview really thought provoking. It made me think of Frankenstein and The Stepford Wives, and neither of those stories ended too well. I could tell that the men being interviewed meant well, and there probably are some positive purposes for these avatars. I got a little nervous when they started talking brain implants, though.

I imagined what it might be like to be the only human left on Earth, surrounded by a planet full of these creations. I thought a little about Cassandra from Doctor Who - that thinly stretched piece of skin who was the last technical "human" left on a future planet Earth. At what point is something not human anymore? People who have had endless amounts of plastic surgery are still human, as are people with artificial limbs.

Cassandra was still composed of human parts, and definitely had a working brain. Where she stored it, I couldn't tell you! It must have been flat. Oh wait! I just checked Cassandra's Wikipedia Page and it turns out she stored her brain in a "designer jar" that was connected to her skin/eyes/mouth self. That Wikipedia page is really worth a read.

An eye-rolling Cassandra

So would the creation these men proposed (a robotic body created in the form of someone who once lived and encasing their original brain) still be human? 

They brought an example of their work to the interview, but it wasn't passing as a living human yet. It was still pretty impressive in the way its eyes and lips moved. They got the human mannerisms right! If you watch one of the men being interviewed and the robotic creation, you'll see the facial mannerisms are similar. They'd designed their creation so it could mimic facial movements.

I've been thinking about the future, should this experiment actually come to be. I would think that the human race would basically end at just one generation and never reproduce. Reproduction would probably not be the best plan, because I could see overpopulation being a problem if no one ever died.

The men on Charlie Rose were basically talking immortality. Would you go for this option? I mean, if you were near the end of your life and very old, would you like your brain to be placed in a robotic replica of your former self? Or I suppose you could have it placed in a body that was the replica of a movie star's. The body options would be endless!


  1. The first thing that pops into my mind when I think of this subject is the heads in the jars on 'Futurama'. :)

    I haven't had a chance to watch the entire video yet, but I thought the comment about being careful what you wish for, and that you might be sorry for the consequences of immortality, really sums up my thoughts on the subject. In all of nature, there's a cycle of birth, death, birth, death... I think we'd go crazy if we just hung around and everything became static. Besides, there might be a new adventure waiting beyond death that we'll miss if we live forever. Who knows. :)

  2. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Yeah? I guess I haven't watched enough Futurama to know about that. I've probably only watched two episodes ever, which is weird since I thought those episodes were really funny.

    I don't think I'd even wish for immortality, but I guess a person really doesn't know how they feel about that until it's an issue. Hypothetically, I can't see myself as an elderly person wanting my brain to live on in a robot.

    Static is right. I'm just imagining our stagnant society with the same old people sticking around, especially some of these old politicians. There are some things in society I would like to see change, and I doubt they will until we get a new generation of leaders and thinkers in general.

    In my opinion, there's a bigger adventure waiting in the afterlife than there is here!

  3. Yeah, the more I think about it, the more hellish it sounds. Maybe that is Hell... a time when humans just exist forever in stasis.

  4. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Hmm... Well, that does sound pretty terrible. Hellish as it sounds to us, I just know there are people out there who would jump at this opportunity! A lot of people have a fear of death.

    Similarly, I've always thought it would be depressing to be a vampire. It sounds like something that would be cool for a little while and then get boring. After a point you'd just be existing while the rest of the world moves forward!