NewTech. Bina48: Could this creepy robot be the answer to eternal life?

CRAZY. It may be possible to live forever by uploading your memories, thoughts and personality onto a computer within the next ten or twenty years, according to a leading pioneer of the technology. The technology, which is similar to that seen in the film Transcendence starring Johnny Depp, is being developed by entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt.

She has already created a disturbingly realistic robotic ‘clone’ of her wife Bina that she hopes will be a prototype for the technology.

This allows the robot, called Bina48, to express opinions and interact in conversations like a real, living person.

Mrs Rothblatt, 60, an internet radio entrepreneur who lives as a transgender woman, believes the these ‘Mind Clones’ could eventually be used to help provide social interactions for people living alone and even help recreate the personalities of people after they have died.

Mrs Rothblatt, who lives in Florida and is one of the highest paid female chief exective officers in the US, said that eventually people may be able to carry around clones of their own minds on their smartphones.

Speaking to Bloomberg, she said: ‘Mind clone is a digital copy of your mind outside of your body. ‘Mind clones are ten to twenty years away. The mind clone will look like an avatar on the screen instead of a robot version.’ Mrs Rothblatt first began developing Bina48 five years ago to replicate her wife, who she married 30 years ago.

With the help of engineering firm Hanson Robotics, which specialises in building lifelike robots, they created the robotic head. They spent more than 100 hours then compiling all of Bina’s memories, feelings and beliefs onto a computer database.

This allows Bina48 to draw on this information to engage in conversation. Among the memories it is able to recall is an account of the personality change that occurred in Bina’s brother after he returned home from the Vietnam War.

However, some who have attempted to hold conversations with the robotic clone have found it to be somewhat frustrating affairs. They have found the robot often avoids questions or provides somewhat baffling responses. Others have said they find the experience unsettling.

However, Mrs Rothblatt is not the only person attempting to find ways of preserving a person’s mind on a computer. Companies like Lifenaut, MyLifeBits and are all trying to use mind clones to create digital copies of thoughts. Randal Koene, an inventor from San Francisco, has also been developing a system to upload his own brain onto. His approach works by reducing the brain to a series of computations that can be reproduced in code. Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, has also said he believes we will be able to upload our entire brains to computers within the next 32 years. 

In the film Transcendence, a computer scientist played by Johnny Depp uploads his mind onto an artificial intelligence machine when he learns he is about to die. The process combine his emotions with the collective knowledge of the world’s computer networks. However, such an approach may prove to be challenging – the human brain has around 85 billion neurons that connect to each other through around 10,000 synapses.

A recent attempt to simulate just one second of brain activity required one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, requiring 1 petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of computer memory and nearly 83,000 processors. But Mrs Rothblatt remains undaunged. She said: ‘Bina 48 is a proof of concept robot based on the personality and the mind file of my wife Bina ‘I believe mind clones will be humanities biggest invention, the opportunity is limitless.’

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