The Russian Eccentric Who Wants to Make Surrogates a Reality

In preparation for the upcoming Global Futures 2045 conference, the New York Times has put together a quick preview, including a biopic of its ambitious founder, the Russian entrepreneur and 'immortalist,' Dmitry Itskov.

Armed with the tagline, "Towards a new strategy for human evolution," GF2045 will be taking place in New York City during the weekend of June 15-16 — and I'll be there covering it for io9.

The list of speakers include futurist Ray Kurzweil, biologist George Church, mathematician Roger Penrose, mind theorist Marvin Minsky, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis, and many, many others.

The congress is the brainchild of Dmitry Itskov, a 32-year-old businessman who foresees the day when we'll be able to produce lifelike, low-cost avatars that can be uploaded with the contents of the human brain — including all the particulars of consciousness and personality.

David Segal writes:

At the age of 25, he started to have the symptoms of a midlife crisis. He anticipated the regrets he might have as an old man — the musical instruments unlearned, the books unread. The standard span of 80 or so years suddenly seemed woefully inadequate. He soon was seeking out leaders from almost every religion, in a search for purpose and peace.

The more he contemplated the world, the more broken it seemed.

“Look at this,” he said, opening his laptop on the table and starting a slide show with one heartbreaking statistic after another: Almost one billion people are now starving. Forty-nine countries are currently involved in military conflict. Ten percent of people are disabled. And so on.

“That is the picture of this world that we created, with the minds we have today, with our set of values, with our egotism, our selfishness, our aggression,” he went on. “Most of the world is suffering. What we’re doing here does not look like the behavior of grown-ups. We’re killing the planet and killing ourselves.”

TO change that picture, he reasons, we must change our minds, or give them a chance to “evolve,” to use one of his favorite words. Before our minds can evolve, though, we need a new paradigm of what it means to be human. That requires a transition to a world where most people aren’t consumed by the basic questions of survival.

Hence, avatars. They may sound like an improbable way to solve the real problems on Mr. Itskov’s laptop, or like the perfect gift for the superrich of the future. But the laws of supply and demand abide in Mr. Itskov’s utopia, and he assumes that once production of avatars is ramped up, costs will plunge. He also assumes that charities now devoted to feeding, clothing and healing the poor will focus on the goal of making and distributing affordable bodies, which in this case means machines.

Read the entire article at the New York Times.