Human immortality could be possible by 2045, say Russian scientists

by Lauren O’Neil from cbc.ca

If Dmitry Itskov’s 2045 initiative plays out as planned, humans will have the option of living forever with the help of machines in only 33 years.

It may sound ridiculous, but the 31-year-old Russian mogul is dead serious about neuroscience, android robotics, and cybernetic immortality.

He has already pulled together a team of leading Russian scientists intent on creating fully functional holographic human avatars that house artificial brains which contain a person’s complete consciousness – in other words, a humanoid robot.

Together, they’ve laid out an ambitious course of action that would see the team transplant a human brain into an artificial body (or ‘avatar’) in as little as seven years time.

Now, Itskov is asking the world’s richest people for help in financing the project.

In exchange, he’s offered to coordinate their own personal immortality projects for free.

“I urge you to take note of the vital importance of funding scientific development in the field of cybernetic immortality and the artificial body,” he writes in an open letter to members of the Forbes World’s Billionaires List.

“Such research has the potential to free you, as well as the majority of all people on our planet, from disease, old age and even death.”

Itskov goes on to offer skeptics a meeting with “a team of the world’s leading scientists working in this field ” to prove the viability of the concept of cybernetic immortality.

And while many are skeptical that such a plan could ever come to fruition, Popular
Science Magazine points that phase one — creating a robot controlled by a human brain — is already well within reach.

“DARPA is already working on it via a program called “Avatar” (which, incidentally, is also the name of Itskov’s project) through which the Pentagon hopes to create a brain-machine interface that will allow soldiers to control bipedal human surrogate machines remotely with their minds,” writes PopSci’s Clay Dillow.

“And of course there are all the ongoing medical prosthesis projects that have shown that the human nervous system can interface with prosthetic enhancements, manipulating them via thought. Itskov draws a clear arc from what we have now to the consciousness-containing holograms that he envisions. All we have to do is attack the technological obstacles in between, one at a time, until we get there.”

Discovery’s Alyssa Danigelis takes an opposing stance to the very idea.

“There’s a world of difference between pursuing a brain-controlled exoskeleton to help paraplegics regain control and wanting to essentially upload a human brain into an artificial body,” she writes.

“I read a sci-fi novel involving disembodied live brains once. It didn’t turn out well”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE


Well… this guy is awesome

Jason Silva. Futurist… and self proclaimed Ecstatic Truth Lover and Techno Optimist.

More at http://vimeo.com/jasonsilva


Scientists Reconstruct Brains’ Visions Into Digital Video In Historic Experiment

UC Berkeley scientists have developed a system to capture visual activity in human brains and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Eventually, this process will allow you to record and reconstruct your own dreams on a computer screen.

I just can’t believe this is happening for real, but according to Professor Jack Gallant—UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the research published today in the journal Current Biology—”this is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.”

Indeed, it’s mindblowing. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. This is how it works:
They used three different subjects for the experiments—incidentally, they were part of the research team because it requires being inside a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging system for hours at a time. The subjects were exposed to two different groups of Hollywood movie trailers as the fMRI system recorded the brain’s blood flow through their brains’ visual cortex.

The readings were fed into a computer program in which they were divided into three-dimensional pixels units called voxels (volumetric pixels). This process effectively decodes the brain signals generated by moving pictures, connecting the shape and motion information from the movies to specific brain actions. As the sessions progressed, the computer learned more and more about how the visual activity presented on the screen corresponded to the brain activity.

An 18-million-second picture palette

After recording this information, another group of clips was used to reconstruct the videos shown to the subjects. The computer analyzed 18 million seconds of random YouTube video, building a database of potential brain activity for each clip. From all these videos, the software picked the one hundred clips that caused a brain activity more similar to the ones the subject watched, combining them into one final movie. Although the resulting fukn is low resolution and blurry, it clearly matched the actual clips watched by the subjects.

Think about those 18 million seconds of random videos as a painter’s color palette. A painter sees a red rose in real life and tries to reproduce the color using the different kinds of reds available in his palette, combining them to match what he’s seeing. The software is the painter and the 18 million seconds of random video is its color palette. It analyzes how the brain reacts to certain stimuli, compares it to the brain reactions to the 18-million-second palette, and picks what more closely matches those brain reactions. Then it combines the clips into a new one that matches what the subject was seeing. Notice that the 18 million seconds of motion video are not what the subject is seeing. They are random bits used just to compose the brain image.

Given a big enough database of video material and enough computing power, the system would be able to match any images in your brain.

In this other video you can see how this process worked in the three experimental targets. On the top left square you can see the movie the subjects were watching while they were in the fMRI machine. Right below you can see the movie “extracted” from their brain activity. It shows that this technique gives consistent results independent of what’s being watched—or who’s watching. The three lines of clips next to the left column show the random movies that the computer program used to reconstruct the visual information.

Right now, the resulting quality is not good, but the potential is enormous. Lead research author—and one of the lab test bunnies—Shinji Nishimoto thinks this is the first step to tap directly into what our brain sees and imagines:

Our natural visual experience is like watching a movie. In order for this technology to have wide applicability, we must understand how the brain processes these dynamic visual experiences.

The brain recorders of the future

Imagine that. Capturing your visual memories, your dreams, the wild ramblings of your imagination into a video that you and others can watch with your own eyes.

This is the first time in history that we have been able to decode brain activity and reconstruct motion pictures in a computer screen. The path that this research opens boggles the mind. It reminds me of Brainstorm, the cult movie in which a group of scientists lead by Christopher Walken develops a machine capable of recording the five senses of a human being and then play them back into the brain itself.

This new development brings us closer to that goal which, I have no doubt, will happen at one point. Given the exponential increase in computing power and our understanding of human biology, I think this will arrive sooner than most mortals expect. Perhaps one day you would be able to go to sleep with a flexible band around your skull labeled Sony Dreamcam, wirelessly connected to your iPad 7.

Original article from gizmodo can be found here.

UC Berkeley article


Fred Alan Wolf: The Dreaming Universe (excerpt)

Physicist Fred Wolf speculates on the nature of human consciousness, its relationship to the brain and to the world of dreaming. In this highly entertaining program, he presents evidence suggesting that the world of dreams is ontologically real, discussing the “dreamtime” of the Australian aborigines, evidence for dream telepathy and the different levels of lucid dreaming.

Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., received the American Book Award in science for Taking the Quantum Leap. He is also author of The Eagle’s Quest, The Dreaming Universe and The Spiritual Universe.

NOTE: This is an excerpt from the two-part, 60-minute DVD.
http://www.thinkingallowed.com/2fwolf.html


Why We Get Fat

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Some well documented research on diet and obesity.


Oxygen: Part 1

So it has been an extremely long time since I’ve posted a blog post so I figured today I would end the drought. This is going to be extremely simplified but I hope I explain it enough to where the average joe can take something from this.

I am just about to graduate with my BSc so my posts will revolve around interesting topics in biology/medical sciences from here on out.

~

So everyone knows we need oxygen to live. Oxygen is a clear colourless gas (O2) that makes up ~ 21% of our atmosphere. Humans are extremely sensitive to anoxia (complete absence of oxygen) and your brain tissue will die under anoxic conditions in about two minutes.

It is common knowledge if you don’t breathe air (and consume oxygen) for a short period of time, you will die. Now I wanted to talk about something more interesting (and less obvious) as to why and how oxygen is also killing us, but as I wrote this I realized that you need to know how we’re actually using it to live in the first place (so in essence, this blog will be a two-part’er).

Oxygen, given the nature of its chemical structure (the number of electrons it has, where it rests in the periodic table, and a bunch of other things) is extremely electronegative. By being electronegative, this means it likes to accept electrons (which are tiny negatively charged particles which surround the nucleus of atoms, which are involved in atomic bonding).  This idea is important to what I am about to say because it is the reason (in a very general sense) why oxygen is implicated in playing a role in our demise and in keeping us alive.

A quick overview of human/cell physiology here: we breathe in air into our lungs, which contains 21% oxygen content. As the oxygen diffuses to the alveoli in our lungs and is exchanged from the lung into the capillaries (the blood vessels) lining the lungs, the concentration that is ‘absorbed’ decreases by a lot. Ultimately, the organelle (a tiny structures you learned about in high school biology that are located within cells) that uses the oxygen is called the mitochondria. How it uses the oxygen relates back to its electronegativity, or its affinity/desire to take on more electrons (those tiny negatively charged particles that surround atoms).

So, we need oxygen because oxygen is used as a ‘collector’ of electrons, or an electron ‘sink’ in the process of energy production. Basically, these little mitochondria that are found in 99% of the cells in our body (there are some cells that don’t have mitochondria) take this oxygen, and use it to pull electrons through their membrane to create a chemiosmotic gradient. Basically, they’re little machines that create a membrane potential (a charge differential) and our bodies use this POTENTIAL (similar to water falling off Niagara Falls through a turbine to create hydroelectric energy) to create energy for every cell in our body (in the form of ATP). In essence, instead of gravity providing the potential energy to create electricity (as the water falls off the cliff, gravity is ‘pulling’ it) oxygen is sitting at the bottom of this hypothetical cliff and pulling electrons down towards it.

This process of electrons being transported through the mitochondrial membrane to create a gradient of potential which can be used to fuel energy creation is very simply how we use oxygen to power our bodies.

Stay tuned for part 2…


The Transcendent Man

Transcendent Man is a documentary film by filmmaker Barry Ptolemy. The film chronicles the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, inventor,futurist, and author of The Singularity is Near. Transcendent Man presents his vision of technological singularity, the point in the future in which technology will be advancing so rapidly that humans will have to enhance themselves with artificial intelligence in order to keep up. Kurzweil predicts the dawning of a new civilization in which humans will no longer be dependent upon their physical bodies, will become trillions of times more intelligent, and lose the ability to distinguish between real and virtual reality. Kurzweil believes this will cause humanagingand illness to be reversed, world hunger and poverty to be solved, and death to be “cured”. Critics accuse Ray of being too optimistic, and argue that the dangers of the Singularity far outweigh the benefits, pointing out the apocalyptic implications that once machines achieve consciousness, humanity may not be able to control them.

Visit the official website to purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray
http://transcendentman.com/