On Cyborgs, Singularities, and the 2045 Initiative

Oh, you vodka-soaked Russian bastards, what madness are you cooking up this time?

Dmitry Itskov, a mad Russian billionaire, has decided its high time humans cast off their mortal shells in favor of a sleeker, digital form. He believes its time we push our technology to the limits to create a method of immortality for the personality, a freeing of consciousness from the fleshy sac it’s currently attached to.

Itskov’s baby is the 2045 Initiative, a grand plan to create machines complex enough to house a human personality, paving the way for the technological singularity (rise of superintelligence through technology).

It’s like he’s never read his O.C. Bible. “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.” That ringing any bells, buddy?

The 2045 Initiative is comprised of four phases (avatars):

Avatar A (2020)

Using a brain-machine interface, a human will control a robotic human replica. While it’s not as impressive as killing someone with your brain, I suppose it’s something.

Avatar B (2025)

Okay, here’s where things start to get freaky. The second phase of Itskov’s plan involves planting a human mind into a machine at the end of his/her life, effectively granting him/her immortality. But this immortality will come at a terrible price- at this stage, emotions and personality will be lost in the transfer.

I’ve seen this before. Now, where was it…

OH YEAH. They’ve already done this shit on Doctor Who:

You will be upgraded.

A recurring baddie on the long-running British show are the Cybermen, machines who take humans and “upgrade” them by making them into emotionless robotic beings.

And Itskov wants to start them up here on Earth? WAY TO GO… wait, if it means a certain blue police box is going to appear on a street somewhere, I say fucking go for it. Robotize the masses, Itskov. I’d love to meet The Doctor.

Avatar C (2035)

At this point, Itskov figures we’ll have successfully created a computer model of human consciousness, so we’ll now be able to move a human personality (emotions, memories, and all) into a machine.

Oh yeah, that’s never ended badly:

Oh… it’s you.

Avatar D (2045)

The final stage of Itskov’s master plan is to free humanity completely from physical forms. Humans will be digital creatures, living online in a kind of hive mind, with individual personalities surfacing as holographic avatars to interact with the physical world.

Why?

I guess that’s my main question here. While I (like many people) have always been fascinated by the idea of downloading a human personality into a machine (along with the ethical quandaries surrounding such a notion), this final stage just seems ridiculous to me. Something you read about in a good (or utterly awful) sci-fi novel, ponder for a bit, then promptly dismiss.

Then again, if all this goes down, I could be a digital Kerrigan. And all you bitches can be my zerglings. Mwa ha ha.

Mine is an evil laugh.

To be completely honest, I guess the final stage of the 2045 Initiative is so repulsive to me because it seems utterly impossible to create an internet-based “hive mind” scenario that still maintains the individuality of the personalities within it. There’s a reason every goddamn swarm/hive mind of sci-fi is comprised of unemotional, non-individualistic creatures- group/hive consciousnesses are essentially one consciousness. There can be no real individuality because every unit within the hive is just a piece of the same whole, a cog in the same machine. Personalities get in the way of this kind of collective consciousness, impeding the group (by daring to dissent or have new ideas) and never achieving the snap decisions and power of many individuals acting as one singular unit.

There is a power in collective consciousness, but it’s a power that comes at the cost of individuality. We see this scenario play out time and time again in the sci-fi world. Halo’s flood, Starcraft’s Zerg, Star Trek’s Borg, Doctor Who’s Ood… The list goes on.

Now, in fiction, we see a handful of these group conscious that allow for the retention of some individuality. But could such a thing occur in a digital world? When we are all electric signals, bytes of memory, moving around the globe through the same channels, exchanging information and interacting at unbelievable speeds… would there be any real way to preserve individual consciousnesses? Or would we all eventually merge into one collective, global consciousness, humanity becoming one massive superintelligence?

Of course, Itskov faces a great many obstacles on this path. Technology is currently not progressing at the rate he would like, and it’s going to take more than just his billions to fund this venture. Personally, I don’t think he’ll ever raise the necessary monies to push this plan along according to his timeline. But if the money is found and that major hurdle is no longer standing in his way…

I ask you, galleons, to think about this idea. What kind of man would even put forth such an idea? This man would:

Look at him, galleons. I’m pretty sure this guy’s a goddamn robot already. He’s a Cyberman in disguise, trying to make us all a crazy, digital consciousness to suit his alien creators. Look at those dead, soulless eyes.

DON’T LET HIM GET YOUR DELICIOUS HUMAN MEATS, WORLD.

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