Colors represent how many years a person born in 2013 can expect to live, by U.S. county. Map based on data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation—Popular Science combined figures for women and men to obtain a total average life expectancy at birth.
Who Needs A Body Anyway?
Martine Rothblatt is many things—CEO of biotech company United Therapeutics, founder of Sirius Radio, inventor, lawyer, and medical ethicist—but foremost, she is a futurist. Specifically, Rothblatt believes in transhumanism, or the indefinite extension of human life through technology.
As a result of the growing ubiquity of digital devices, I believe that all of our mannerisms, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes—everything about our lives—will be collected and stored in the cloud. We are creating a simulacrum of ourselves outside our bodies. I call this our “mindfile.”
At the same time, we’re developing ever-better digital assistants that use voice recognition and artificial intelligence. They even have different personalities, like Siri. I call this software “mindware.” And I think the convergence of mindfiles and mindware will produce a seemingly conscious replica of any person—a “mindclone.”
One of the projects my company has been working on is a cognitive enabler for Alzheimer’s disease. An individual beginning to suffer would be able to store enough personality and recollections digitally that, when combined with a camera and voice recognition, he or she can interact with friends and family through the technology—even once no longer able to do so through his or her own brain.
This very naturally leads to the question, how good does an enabler have to be before it is considered part and parcel with the person itself? And when the person’s body finally succumbs, does the enabler claim legal rights?
People have always been afraid of things that are different and weird. But when the weirdness of cyberconsciousness blends with the love for family members, people will see cyberconsciousness as innocuous. By 2030, I believe there will be a social movement of people whose grandmother, sister, or friend has a fatal disease, and who say their mindclones should be legally recognized as a continuation of themselves.
Ultimately, the Internet of Things will enable mindclones to travel, present themselves ever more freely and with greater ubiquity, and even transcend legal death. —As told to Matt Giles