TJ Larson

Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov has decided to put his sizable fortune where his mouth is. The 31-year-old Itskov is collaborating with several scientists on a project called The 2045 Initiative. The project, which began in 2011, is aimed at infinite life extension--immortality.

Like a page out of an Isaac Asimov novel, Itskov has enlisted the expertise of 30 Russian scientists to develop the technology and deploy it upon completion. A timeline has been set and the predicted date of completion is 2045.

Though this is not the first project by anyone on immortality, this is the first time someone with resources as substantial as Itskov's has agreed to provide funding on such a level. The project is divided into four phases with the the first projected to be completed possibly as soon as 2015. Phase one consists of developing a robotic body that can be controlled by a human brain. The next phase involves implantation of a human brain into the robotic body. The third and final phases will be the implantation of a human consciousness into the so-called "avatar" and finally a sentient hologram-like avatar; a ghost if you will.

Despite what might seem like some daunting technological hurdles to cross, the project is continuing and scientists participating are confident they will complete the project. Although the plan may appear somewhat farfetched, the premise is based on solid theories. As medical science advances and computing power increases as hardware size decreases, such an approach is now possibly attainable... at least in theory.

Life extension and immortality has seemingly been a preoccupation with mankind since ancient times when sorcerers, alchemists and the like pondered on the character of the immortal soul, believed by some to reside within each of us. Over the centuries, humanity developed several practices and rituals it believed would somehow extend life or grant immortality. The fabled Fountain of Youth was thought to have power to grant eternal youth, hence immortality. Other cultures took to the grisly practice of consuming the blood and/or internal organs of enemies and others, in a bid for immortality.

Presently, the only proven method of life extension has come with the advent of modern medicine. However, current medical knowledge is woefully limited when it comes to immortality. One of the problems is the frailty of the human body. If this technology is perfected, it would eliminate this problem. Of course, unless this "avatar" is an extremely complex mechanism, it seems likely users may lose the ability to engage in certain functions. For example, how would this mechanism reproduce? The avatar would also have to be complex enough to simulate human senses. In order to do this, its computing power would likely need to be well above that of any supercomputer in existence today.

For practicality's sake let us now assume that the entire project is a technical success. Man has created the first of a new race of humanity. Now comes the big questions. The first question that comes to mind is: How long is forever? One dictionary's definition is, "For everlasting time; eternally." Please keep that in mind as we will return to this shortly.

What will become of the rest of the population? Will it be for all or just a select few? Who will decide who receives this "gift" of everlasting life? If it is made available to all, then what will happen to the human race? Will there be a cap set on global population?

The next and probably most important question is: What effect would immortality have on the physical human psyche? Would our minds be capable of bearing the monotony of the years and remain sane?

Finally we return to the definition of forever and these last questions: What good will immortality be when no earth is here to live on? Even the universe itself with all its longevity isn't eternal. What will happen to this immortal human consciousness when all the planets and stars in the universe are gone? For some reason the thought of drifting ceaselessly through an eternal void doesn't seem too appealing. In fact it would seem that bereft of all the things that might make us want to live forever, it would be a decidedly hellish existence. An undying human consciousness... deprived of feeling, speech, and all human interactions... adrift in a sea of nothingness... for eternity.

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'" {1 Corinthians 3:19-20}