A Real-Life-Avatar?


While researching the topic of evolution and how it was reflected in film, I decided to focus my attention on the movie Avatar. Not only was it a more recent film that addressed issues of evolution such as human superiority and human morality, but it also captured the attention of millions in the United States when it was nominated for best picture in 2010.

As I researched this movie, I began to dig deeper into the idea of putting ones mind and soul into another physical form. This thought provoked new questions: Do we have a soul? If we do, do animals as well? At what point in the human evolutionary chain did we develop the ability or the “humanity” to even ask such questions? And finally, the big question, what does it mean to be human?

Above is a link to an article about a man in Russia who is trying to create his own Avatar. His goal is to “upload” his brain and his emotions in to a hologram avatar before he dies, essentially becoming immortal. He wants to transplant his brain and his “human consciousness” into a robot body by 2045. He claims that by doing this, human bodies will become “empty husks as their owners ‘live on’ inside robots.”

This project not only attempts to defy death, the natural process that all living things must cycle through, but it also questions the idea of humanity and the concept of a soul by suggesting that ones existence can be simply transplanted into another body. Will he be successful in his endeavor? I doubt it. However, I think that this article brings up some interesting questions about science and its ability to explain and mimic human existence. Is a real-life avatar that retains the humanity and consciousness of human being possible? Do humans even have a soul?

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13 Responses to A Real-Life-Avatar?

  1. jps591 says:

    I have the same question that lnzgirl addresses in her post: Do humans have a soul? Religious individuals would claim that humans have a soul, a unique and separate part of one’s being that encompasses one’s personality, thoughts, beliefs, and morals and remains alive even if the physical body dies. But, what is science’s explanation or version of a soul? Some scientists have attempted to back up the theory of a soul through quantum physics (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/can-science-explain-the-s_b_675107.html), but I see soul as more of a manmade concept. I see one’s soul as the current mindset of one as a result of his or her lifetime collection of thoughts, experiences, and actions. That being said, if the soul isn’t an actual thing but rather a metaphor for one’s collection of thoughts, experience, and actions, then in theory there should be a small chance for this to work. However, it doesn’t address the need to express emotion, a feature that makes human’s unique from any other creature. Therefore, I am highly skeptical that this plan will work the way the Dmitry Itskov thinks it will.

    • greenDC says:

      I agree with jps591 in the sense that what I consider one’s soul to be is a collection of thoughts and memories. However, speaking from a scientific perspective, a human brain should not only be responsible for thought and controlling the body, but also every concept we attribute to the “soul” as psychologists would suggest. With this idea in mind, Itskov’s plan could succeed. What this view lacks is the thought that so much of what makes us human and gives us our identities are our physical and emotional human differences. I find it hard to believe that the robot could replicate these traits.

  2. freddie1994 says:

    I agree with jps591’s skeptical view of Dmitry Itskov’s experiment, and will go so far as to say I hope he doesn’t succeed. I’d say that before seeking immortality we should try and solve the slightly more important matter of Earth’s population, and what is sustainable. The UN has predicted that the world population in 2050 will be around 9.1 billion, with a possible high of 10.6 billion or low of 7.6 billion (http://www.overpopulation.com/articles/2005/latest-un-projections-world-population-will-reach-91-billion-by-2050/). Despite being 5 years after Itskov’s projected success, surely a distinct lack of planetary resources is not far behind a population increase of half. If humans become immortal then overpopulation will occur much quicker, due to no one dying. Surely resources could be better spent (in the short run at least) at solving this problem first.
    On a more personal living forever would seem a bit more exciting if it was possible to do it in a human body that doesn’t age, as opposed to a machine or a hologram. There would be much more fun to be had, but maybe that’s just me. In my opinion humans need to colonize another planet before seeking immortality.

    • I agree with freddie1994. First of all, I see cyborgs as a much more realistic future than implanting consciousness into a robot. Even if he were to be able to get his brain into a robot and it maintained functionality, would it maintain consciousness? I doubt this. Merging human and computer is much more realistic, probably slightly less scary, and probably even a little less immoral (we’re still part human). Debating the morality of the issue is tough, because God gave us free will, and can we really be blamed for trying to maximize our time here on Earth? If we’re able to do it and make a better world for ourselves, isn’t that what God would want? I don’t know, I don’t have a degree in divinity, I just wake up every morning and try and be the best person I can and get into Heaven. Aside from the digression, yes colonizing other planets is necessary and very likely at this point. I could also foresee people living in space stations in Earth’s atmosphere. Relating back to quantum physics and the theory of quantum entanglement, some scientists have furthered the research in the article above, they believe that if quantum entanglement is a real thing, that your consciousness already exists somewhere else in the universe, and you could possibly revert to that consciousness when you die (Heaven?). Before any of this happens, I honestly believe that the Singularity will occur, and I don’t really know what to think about it. Man and machine have been linked since the dawn of humanity, but what will happen when they’re synonymous?


  3. roberly2 says:

    While Inzgirl brings up an interesting point about humanity and the human souls, one that both jps591 and Freddie1994 augment nicely, that is not the question we should be asking.

    It is not a matter of having a soul; the question is do we have the right?

    artificial engineering is a topic of intense debate among scientists and philosophers alike; we have the technology to do quite a lot of things with genetic manipulation. but that doesn’t give us the right to use every tool in the box to try and enhance our own position or ability to adapt. We have nuclear weapons, thousands of them; we don’t detonate them to break up riots.

    It may seem trite to compare genetic engineering to mass destruction, but the truth is we have advanced so much in the last couple of decades even that suddenly the problems only ever seen in science fiction movies seem much more real. In fact, a BBC article recently suggested that new studies show we have advanced so far in robotic engineering that soon they could potentially demand rights (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6200005.stm).

    Itskov has every right to want to live forever, to be a guinea pig in the test to see if humanity can be transferred outside the body. Who doesn’t have the right to do so are the scientist developing this technology for him.

    We might have a soul. We might not. The question isn’t one of religion but ethic; who are we to play god? Who are we to circumvent nature?

    • lnzgirl says:

      I agree with you that scientists should not implement all types of genetic engineering into society simply because they have the ability to do so. However, I would have to disagree with you about rights. I think that both Itskov, his scientists, as well as anyone else has a right to experiment with science and the possibility of immortality. People still question the ethics of scientists to tamper with stem cells to find cures for diseases but they have a right to do research as long as they don’t injure others in the process. Just as cloning has proven faulty, turning out sterile clones with short lifespans, this attempt at immortality will surely fail as well. A brain cannot function without the nutrition brought on by the circulation of blood and nutrients in the body. I don’t think this brain will work because it will no longer be attached to a living organism. Nevertheless, I think anyone has the right to attempt to overcome a scientific hurdle, such as overcoming death, as long as neither the experiment nor the result has detrimental consequences for others.

  4. tksekf says:

    While the post, the article and the comments are all very interesting, there was one practical problem that came into my mind with this real-life avatar plan: what if someone erased the ‘human consciousness’ data by accident with one click on erase button? This is actually related to the current issues in information storage. Nowadays, we see less and less ‘physical storages’ like CDs and tapes. Information is more and more stored under codes in hard drives. The problem with such type of storage is that it is also so much easier to lose or erase the data by accident.

    I believe one’s body and mind is related and should not be parted: one’s physical state affects one’s mind and vice versa. As Buddha says “To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Dmitry Itskov’s plan therefore does not seem to be a wise one to me.

  5. phillykid888 says:

    My dad is a playwright and he is actually currently working on a play–called Uncanny Valley–about a man who has uploaded his consciousness into a robot, essentially the same process described in the article posted by Inzgirl. He took his inspiration for the play from a company that he had been researching called LifeNaut, which gives customers the opportunity to upload important information about their lives into a “mind file” so that the information can eventually be transferred to an avatar and the person will essentially become immortal (https://www.lifenaut.com/ for those who are interested). They have actually created an avatar for the now deceased Bina Aspen, an important figure in the field. The robot, which they call Bina48, is artificially intelligent and apparently has a similar personality to the person it represents. Here is the link to a video about Bina48; it is fascinating to watch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaDB4HmV8yk). This is only the beginning for LifeNaut; it is fascinating to imagine the possibilities that the future will hold for this company.

    • shoutoutjfk says:

      This concept of immortality via an artificial avatar has always interested me. It must have interested others as well because this idea was featured on an episode of The X-Files. The episode is about a computer program which was designed to capture people and essentially take over their thoughts and characteristics. The characters consider what exactly constitutes immortality. They come to the conclusion that it must be love, and decide to build a device that captured their conscious conception of love. This strongly reminded me of one of my favorite poems by poet Alfred Noyes. It is called Immortal Sails (link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/177032). In the episode and the poem, love is shown to be the only quality than can transcend time. From an evolutionary perspective, it is definitely important to leave a lasting impact on the world as an individual. This is featured using the existence of reproduction. A romanticized view of this necessity is the base of romanticism in general: love.

  6. running95 says:

    To answer Inzgirl’s question, no, I do not believe that it is even possible to engineer an avatar with real human consciousness, emotions, and mentalities. Not only is it immoral to replicate a human with technology, it is also impossible for a machine to be in any regards human. Human beings are extremely complex creatures. We think differently from other animals form what we can ascertain and we behave differently from them as well. Humans do have souls as do other animals and it is absolutely inconceivable to believe that a person can manufacture a soul with computer technology. Not to be overly religious but in my opinion, we simply do not have the capabilities (nor will we ever) to possess power like that. Moreover, it is simply immoral to even propose that we can manufacture human beings. It may seem hysterical, but we simply cannot allow robots to exist in our society, well not human ones at least. Human robots are frankly dangerous creations and in my view, Itskov is jus playing with fire in this scenario. Itskof is already a billionaire and despite his fortune, he does not need anymore money, which makes greed the prime force in his ideas. All in all, we simply cannot allow Itskof to generate his inventions.

  7. phishmonkees says:

    I was amazed by Dmitry Itsokov’s plan to create a hologram body that he can live in forever. As I read the article I felt that his plan seemed not only improbable but also slightly immoral. For those that have their religious faith based on Western religious ideologies, eternal life on earth is not possible; your soul goes to heaven or hell depending on the religious affiliation. Some of the Eastern religions believe that you can be reincarnated in another form, but no religion recognizes the hologram as a viable eternal life. Personally I am not avidly religious, yet at almost every fundamental level I believe that Itsokov’s plan is simply wrong. I can’t imagine living through a robot, to me that would be worse than being dead. A New York Times article, “Human Culture, an Evolutionary Force”, (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/science/02evo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) speaks about how humans have altered their own evolution through culture. In regards to evolution theory, robots with human intelligence, feelings and memories, roaming the earth, would undoubtedly create an instance where humans would bring about a change in their own evolutionary progress. However, the real question is whether this type of invention would completely change the fundamental theory of evolution. Robots are a form of technology, and technology is adaptable. Therefore the robots would be able to adapt to their environment and theoretically spur new features, which would completely contradict Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In a way it would make the theory of evolution based on natural selection obsolete, because the changes in robots would not be “inherited traits”, the robots would simply adapt as necessary.

  8. ojc31084 says:

    I think that what makes us human is our ability to think and have morals and values and learn from our past experiences. I believe that these are the qualities that make up the concept of a “soul”. If these qualities could be transported into a human like hologram or avatar then it would function as a human. However, the idea of transporting raw emotions, or morals, or values, or a human thought process into another body seems wildly unrealistic. Additionally, this concept seems very immoral. If this idea worked, and people were able to immortalize themselves in these robotic and everlasting bodies, it would come at a great price that not everyone could afford. How moral or ethical is it to allow some people to live forever while others are not given this opportunity? I find it really disappointing that a significant amount of time, money, and effort is being put into this unrealistic endeavor. Instead, scientists should be researching how to better maintain the human bodies we have now or, instead, how to create replacement organs so that patients do not have to rely on organ donations or everlasting bodies.

  9. foldervral says:

    I think lnzgirl is right to be skeptical of the possibility of transferring something that humans don’t even know exist into a remote avatar. First is the question whether the soul exists, how to ling the soul to a computer, then finally how to contain that soul in an inorganic host. I do not think this will ever be possible. On the other hand is the point of view of creating a complex AI that completely replicates the existing mannerisms and personality of someone. If that AI is given the capability to grow and change in personality in a similar manner to which the original person would have than it is possible have an fake immortality. There would be no way to tell a difference between the AI and the actual person, but it would not be the actual person. They would die, but to everyone else it would be as if they existed forever. At this point humans would become obsolete because that means that AI could evolve in such a complex manner that they would be the equivalent of humans if not more advanced. The process ojc31084 mentions when saying that the human body should be made to last longer is also not attainable at this time. Without a greater understanding of the brain an immortal body will be torture to the person trapped inside. Over time most people lose their earlier memories and succumb to some sort of mental degradation. At some point the mind will not be able to completely cope with all of the information thrust upon it. I am not saying that it is not possible to extend life in this way and this method could potentially save many lives, but immortality should never be the goal. I personally believe that immortality is a horrible prospect, especially in a modern world where everyone is held accountable for every action they have ever made. Not to mention overpopulation, at least in the hologram method discussed by the Russian there will be no strain on resources besides energy and all of reality could actually be an extremely complex and ever expanding computer program. At the end of the day we have no clue when we will leave this earth so must cherish each day as if it was our last, so one should never be bothered with what may come or what has past. It is the now that matters.

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