People have gone to great lengths in their search for immortality. Some individuals have had their bodies frozen in the hopes that science will someday have the technology to unfreeze them and fix what ails them. They may be waiting for a very long, long time. In the mean time, others are expressing interest in “virtual immortality”. Maybe you can’t live forever, but there’s no reason why your virtual counterpart can’t.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a half-million-dollar grant to the universities of Central Florida at Orlando and Illinois at Chicago to explore how researchers might use artificial intelligence, archiving, and computer imaging to create digital life-like versions of real people. This is considered a first step toward creating virtual immortality.
"The goal is to combine artificial intelligence with the latest advanced graphics and video game-type technology to enable us to create historical archives of people beyond what can be achieved using traditional technologies such as text, audio, and video footage," says Jason Leigh of the University of Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory.
The researchers plan on taking the appearance, mannerisms, voice, and even the knowledge of a real person and synthesizing the data into a "virtual person" or avatar. The goal is to create an avatar that will be able to respond to questions and convincingly represent its human counterpart.
A much simpler form of this technology currently exists in online environments like the popular game Second Life, says Leigh. The researchers say that one side-effect of their work, will be to enhance the experience of online worlds, allowing players to archive their characters' experiences in a virtual environment, which would fill virtual worlds with more realistic, interesting and lifelike characters.
Yes, we’ll probably all be physically dead before we get a chance to dispense advice to our great, great grandchildren. Oddly, that may not prevent them from asking our virtual selves to help them make a tough decision.
In a more present-day flesh and blood mode, famed inventor and computer scientist, 57-something Ray Kurzweil is fanatical about his health because if it fails him he might not live long enough to see humanity achieve immortality, a seminal development he predicts in his new book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, is no more than 20 years away.
Kurzweil writes of millions of blood cell-sized robots, which he calls "nanobots," that will keep us forever young by swarming through the body, repairing bones, muscles, arteries and brain cells. Improvements to our genetic coding will be downloaded from the Internet.
Posted by Rebecca Sato.
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