A new science fiction writer inspired by Philip K. Dick and George Orwell’s dystopian versions of a more sinister, police controlled, scientfic future has a word to say on what the future will look like after the research taking place in Russia today: A new world where the rich can cheat death and put their brains in Robots when their body ceases to function.
I was surprised to discover recently that a team of scientists from Russia has embarked on the very real mission to put a human brain in a robotic body in the next ten years. Ten years after that, they would create a real life avatar, presumably not the big blue thing that runs around the jungle, but something more Russian, perhaps staggering around Moscow drunk on Vodka, not smiling much, and in search of cheap Albanian prostitutes.
But seriously, what is this guy’s problem? Thirty one year old Dmitry Itskov is the leader of a new scientific cult and media entrepreneur. He has approached a number of billionaires to fund and support his vision of robots and avatars and claims, “This project is leading to immortality, a person with a perfect Avatar will be able to remain part of society. People don’t want to die.” Right.
Few of us want to die, but the real emphasis for me here is on people who don’t want to die, not robots, not astronauts, nor winged fairies, but people. Because that’s the point, whatever other mechanical or technological vessel you upload yourself into, it’s anything but human and that strips us from our birthright. It takes away who and what we are. I for one believe in the soul and the fundamental importance it plays in one’s life. Taking the brain away from that and separating the spirit from man and having him operate in a kind of shell-like mask is just dangerous. And the idea scientists have that a hyper-rational robot would want to still conduct himself in a ‘normal’ society, a society that is already crumbling at the roots – Why would it? Why wouldn’t it want to instead just go round smashing shit up? I would if I was a robot. I mean, what would stifle my new hard drive with morals anyway? It wouldn’t really be me inside the metal overcoat. If it was I’d probably be very old, tired of life and the last thing my wet brain robot would want to do is wait in line at the post office to claim my state pension until the end of days.
I guess my argument is somewhat futile, because after all, it wouldn’t be your average man like me that could afford the luxury of running around as iron man. No, it would only be paid for and introduced to the elite rich few who can afford a unique brand of lifelong immortality. And just like anything else they can afford to do in the real life, it would be permanently exclusive to them forever, and good luck to them. Itskov was trying to say many people would benefit from his new science if faced with death or suffering from ill health, but that just looks like a publicity stunt to me. We shouldn’t be under an illusion that any of these services will be available to all.
Like all those suffering from delusions of grandeur, I see no division with the way the super wealthy exploit their riches. No, it remains to be seen whether true humility could not even shine through only as a hologram (another idea Itskov has for the last stage of after life). But sadly, and like all of us whether rich, poor, robot or pig, we all gotta go sometime. Still, we are hopeless approaching the idea of death and can’t stand the thought of it. Maybe with a bit of luck the world will big bang itself getting rid of robots, scientists, and every other make believer. Like dinosaurs before us, you can’t protect against all universal catastrophes. I am still a fond believer that we are of the earth, but it was not made for man alone. It has the power to dispose of us at any given point it chooses.
Robots with brains are another effort to stop death in its track, play god, and distill fate. The sad irony is that it only serves to highlight the flaws that science has to offer and its never ending task to cheat death, turning fantasy into fiction rather than simply enjoying the here and now. Alas, that’s all we have. Even if we could cheat it, would we then claim refuge or clarity? Would we find solace in knowing we could live forever? I think not. Basic human struggles would still remain and happiness can’t be wrought for an idea.
Itskov goes on to talk about the final stage of his holographic dream. He says, ‘Remember in Star Wars, Obi-Wan’s hologram? That was pretty amazing.’ Yes mate, but that was a film and for a reason. It only highlights that scientists, as great as they are, need to put the comics down, detox on the si-fi, and get out more.
I love good fiction and some science fiction as well. For me the notion of it playing host to what determines my finality offends me. I don’t like the idea of fiction crossing into the real world. It’s weird and creepy. Some things are best left to the imagination. In this world and the next, science cannot replace the magic of our own story.