Motherboard recently caught up with Itskov, who opened up on immortality, spirituality, and the coming age of cybernetic, avatar-based living.
Humanity is more or less doomed, unless we put our brains into immortal robot bodies by 2045. So rang the warning at the second annual Global Future 2045 Congress, organized by 32-year-old Russian multimillionaire Dmitry Itskov and attended by the who’s who of the robotics and AI industry, including Dr. James Martin, Peter Diamandis, and Ray Kurzweil.
Itskov's goal is to bring robotic telepresence to the masses, and eventually allow humans to download digital copies of themselves into android bodies, which he calls avatars. While that future was taken as a given by most conference attendees, whether or not the tech required will be widely available, or even popular, by 2045 remains to be seen.
Held at the Lincoln Center and attended by hundreds of futurists, scientists, and journalists, the conference was both a celebration of science and transhumanism—in which we merge with machines—as well as a sales pitch to the general public on this human-controlled form of evolution.
Evolution is Itskov's own term, as he describes his plan for increased longevity through the use of artificial avatars as a "new evolutionary strategy." It's referential of his own blend of science, philosophy, and spirituality. The conference featured religious figures and yogis alongside renowned futurists and scientists, all of which fit into Itskov's ideal of making better humans. To Itskov, the project is less about escaping death and more about letting people enjoy more life.
Of course, there's still a current of futurist pragmatism underpinning the movement. Aside from living as long as you want, the main selling point for synthetic bodies is that they can survive the various catastrophes that will befall our civilization by 2045. The possibilities are relatively endless. For example, we could use them to colonize Mars, too, because Earth will no longer be able to sustain us.
Onstage Saturday morning, Dr. James Martin—described by the conference as a “visionary tech entrepreneur—called these society-ending upheavals that will destroy everything we know in less than 50 years “crunches,” and there are many crunches coming. The rate at which we consume the Earth's resources requires the need for another planet for us to call home, and unless we reverse current consumption trends Earth's climate “will be irreversibly damaged,” with extreme weather wrecking havoc on cities, and severe famine and water shortages killing off the poor at rates unprecedented in history.
Based off his mathematical models, Dr. Martin also predicts terrorists will deploy a nuke before 2045, and called the 21st century the “make or break century” because if we don't address these issues the world will “collapse into extreme chaos” before millennials get to be cranky 75-year-olds. Robot bodies that don't age, however, could survive starvation, dehydration, extreme weather, nuclear war, and even the cold vacuum of space.