The religion of artificial intelligence immortality

Artificial intelligence—AI—is being pursued as a means to immortality, with its own religious belief system.

A few years ago I got a chance to chat with the strangely brilliant Martine Rothblatt, the Florida near-billionaire who founded Sirius Satellite Radio, now SiriusXM Satellite Radio. 

Like a lot of tech entrepreneurs, Rothblatt harbors multidirectional science and technology interests, has a lot of money to pursue them, and has, I believe, a screw loose.

I suppose it comes with being a wealthy, genius visionary, always smarter and richer than anyone in the room. Who’s going to tell you you’re wrong? Who’re you going to respect enough to believe when they tell you you’re wrong? Also: Maybe you’re right. Genius is genius.

Having unleashed the full fury of Howard Stern and Steven Van Zandt on the entire world, Rothblatt turned her attention to medical science, funding research to address certain fatal diseases.

Then she must have thought: Why not just address death itself? She turned to development and worship—there’s really no other word for it—of artificial intelligence as a way to cheat death.

Rothblatt is pursuing AI as a means of achieving human immortality. My shorthand, inadequate, simplistic understanding of her mission: She is convinced the full being of an individual can be programmed into a robot, essentially transferring that person from a mortal carbon-based vessel to a more durable and sustainable silicon-based one.

When you define someone’s full being as a sum of all of one person’s experiences, perceptions, judgments, values, and goals, presumably those can be catalogued. If so, they can be written into code. They can be transferred.

That provokes theological-philosophical debate, right? 

Rothblatt went there too. She also founded a religion—or a “spiritual rider” to religion—called Terasem. I don’t know how many people believe in Terasem now, but I’ve met more than one. Okay, two. I’ve met two. They say they have regular services.

Here is the “Terasem Hypotheses,” as spelled out by the Terasem Movement Foundation:

“A conscious analog of a person may be created by combining sufficiently detailed data about the person (a “mindfile”) using future consciousness software (“mindware”), and that such a conscious analog can be downloaded into a biological or nanotechnological body to provide life experiences comparable to those of a typically birthed human.”

Does a soul come with it?

Says the Terasem Movement Foundation: “We call this event Transferred Consciousness.”

So we have a tech entrepreneur pouring money into AI research with the focused goal of creating a way to transfer the human psyche into a more durable body, while also promoting a religion to provide a spiritual foundation for immortality.

Sounds like the basis of a fascinating story. Who wants it?

You’re welcome.

One Comment

  1. Fascinating stuff, Scott.
    So would the newly transferred “self” retain all the thoughts, emotions, tics, etc. of the old self? Would it still “think” of itself as it always has?
    I’m not sure we’re anywhere near this level of tech, because the most powerful computers in the world are as dumb as a box of rocks when compared to the most simple-minded human. But maybe I misunderstand what she’s contemplating.
    As to the question of a “soul,” no one has ever provided me with a reasonable definition of what a soul is, so I can’t say such a thing even exists. If soul is consciousness, then yes, it exists.
    What if you copy the consciousness of an individual and download (upload?) it to the new host, leaving the old host unchanged, still alive, and still conscious? Then there are two identical “Bobs” coexisting in the world, possibly with completely different bodies. Do you invite the other over for Thanksgiving?
    Is it moral to transfer consciousness from one body to another? I don’t know, but I can’t really think of a reason why not. Other than if we start, we better figure out how to feed and house 100 billion people. But if it can be done, someone will do it.

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