Death is the one thing that’s guaranteed in today’s uncertain word, but now a new start-up called Humai thinks it might be able to get rid of that inconvenient problem for us too, by promising to transfer people’s consciousness into a new, artificial body.
If it sounds like science fiction, and that’s because it still is, with none of the technology required for Humai’s business plan currently up and running. But that’s not deterring the company’s CEO, Josh Bocanegra, who says his team will resurrect their first human within 30 years.
So how do you go about transferring someone’s consciousness to another robot body? As Humai explains on their website (which comes complete with new-age backing music):
”We’re using artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to store data of conversational styles, behavioural patterns, thought processes and information about how your body functions from the inside-out.
This data will be coded into multiple sensor technologies, which will be built into an artificial body with the brain of a deceased human. Using cloning technology, we will restore the brain as it matures.”
What does that mean in plain speak? While it sounds very much like the singularity (with our brains being uploaded into computers), basically the company just wants to cryogenically freeze your brain and put it back in another body once the technology is ready to hook it up and repair it.
”When the technology is fully developed we’ll implant the brain into an artificial body,” Bocanegra explained to Popular Science. ”The artificial body functions will be controlled with your thoughts by measuring brain waves. As the brain ages we’ll use nanotechnology to repair and improve cells. Cloning technology is going to help with this too.”
That sounds straightforward enough, but in reality, this is something that scientists around the world have struggled with for decades, and as yet there’s no evidence that it can actually be achieved.
Sure, we’ve worked out how to use brain waves to control things like artificial limbs, robots, and even other people’s arms, but getting an isolated brain to think and control a body independently is a whole other story.
Not to mention the fact that it’s becoming increasingly clear that our brain doesn’t work alone when it comes to regulating our behaviour and actions. Feedback from our hormones is crucial to this process, as is information from other parts of our bodies, and even the bacteria that’s living in our intestines.
So it’s no surprise that experts aren’t signing up for Humai’s newsletter just yet. Michael Maven, a British software consultant, told David Moye from The Huffington Post that the idea is ”damn near impossible”, not least because Bocanegra only has a team of two researchers (out of a total five staff members) and no venture capital.
”How will he connect it to a machine? You don’t just simply plug it in via USB. Nanotechnology is not an answer, it’s a buzzword,” Maven said Maven. ”The technology which could extract legible thoughts and ideas out of an organ made of living tissue is nowhere near anything we have yet.”
AI expert Andrea Riposati went a step further and questioned the legitimacy of the project, explaining that there was no scientific reason to think the technology needed would be ready in 30 years.
But Bocanegra responded and told The Huffington Post that ”Humai is a legit project … Yes, it’s super ambitious, but that’s the reason why I’m excited to work on it.”
Still, there’s reason to be skeptical. Bocanegra’s last start-up was a cross between Airbnb and OK Cupid called LoveRoom, which essentially got attractive people to share rooms together to see if they got on. We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but it doesn’t exactly give you the credentials to revolutionise an area of science that the world’s greatest minds (with huge teams and lots of funding) haven’t been able to crack.
So although it’s a nice idea, for now Y (still) OLO, and that life ends when your body does. But if that thought makes you really sad, just count yourself lucky that you’re not around for what happens next.