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Russian media mogul and multi-millionaire Dmitry Itskov has a simple goal: use technology to live forever. To accomplish this he is spearheading a science-based project called the '2045 Initiative' which aims to 'upload' a human consciousness into an online avatar that can survive for eternity.
Itskov, creator of the Moscow-based media firm New Media Stars, has so far poured millions of dollars into the pioneering research in the years since the initiative launched. His team, made up by a slew of sponsored scientists, believe the human brain is extremely similar to a computer and will eventually be able to be transferred to a number of upgradable 'bodies'.
Yet now, Itskov claims he has upped the urgency of his research. "If there is no immortality technology, I'll be dead in the next 35 years," he says in an upcoming BBC Horizon documentary, The Immortalist, set to be broadcast on 16 March. "The ultimate goal of my plan is to transfer someone's personality into the new artificial carrier. Different scientists call it uploading or they call it mind transfer. I prefer to call it personality transfer."
His research team has reportedly been paying close attention to the ongoing case of Erik Sorto – a quadriplegic that who is part of California Institute of Technology research into a similar form of 'uploading'. The research is attempting to use computers to determine what Sorto is thinking and is even part of a trial to merge his brain with a robotic limb.
"Eternity is when unlimited creative possibilities are present in life, when there are no limits or boundaries for development, learning, culture and creativity" Itskov told The Sunday Times. "I want all of this to be available to every person, including myself. And to a lesser degree I am motivated by the fear of death and the wish to postpone [that] moment."
The 'uploading' process
The 2045 Initiative is an ambitious project. The first stage aims to create a robotic human that can be controlled by the brain and is scheduled to be completed by 2020. By the last phase of development, in 2045, Itskov is hoping to have transferred a full human consciousness into a holographic or robotic avatar.
"The whole problem with humanity is that we don't currently plan for the future," he told the New York Times in 2013. "Our leaders are focused on stability. We don't have something which will unite the whole of humanity. The initiative will inspire people. It's about changing the whole picture, and it's not just a science-fiction book. It's a strategy already being developed by scientists."