When James Cameron’s sci-fi action film, Avatar, premiered in theaters in 2009, the reviews were laudatory. Critics called the world of Pandora, with its graceful Na’vi people, “dizzying,” “magical,” and “beautiful”. But there may be another adjective to describe the fantastical universe: prescient.
That is, if a Russian entrepreneur and his team of 30 scientists have anything to say about it.
Dmitry Itskov, a 31-year-old media entrepreneur, envisages surgically transplanting a human consciousness into a robot body within a decade. His approach occurs in stages: first, a human brain would be transplanted into a robot body, relying on life-support to remain active. Second, a human consciousness would be downloaded into a wholly artificial brain. The final step would be to upload human minds into holographic bodies.
Speaking at the Global Future 2045 conference, Itskov admitted, “I understand these are some very big challenges for scientists. But I believe in something you call ‘The American Dream.’ If you put all your energy and time into something, you can make it a reality.”
The entrepreneur’s Avatar project – named after Cameron’s film – may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Even now, the U.S. military’s DARPA is investing more than seven million dollars into research for a project – also called Avatar – that examines ways for troops to use their minds to remotely control androids on the battlefield.
But unlike the DARPA project, Itskov’s Avatar is aimed at a civilian audience – namely “disabled people and people at the edge of dying.”
Whether or not Itskov and his team will be able to make his “American Dream” a reality remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: the distance between us and Pandora isn’t as far as we might have once thought.