"Avatar" project aims for human immortality by 2045


July 25, 2012

Russian media enterpreneur Dmitry Itskov is heading a project that will try and achieve human immortality within the next three decades (Image:

Russian media enterpreneur Dmitry Itskov is heading a project that will try and achieve human immortality within the next three decades (Image:

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Russian media magnate Dmitry Itskov is heading "Avatar," a tremendously ambitious and far-reaching multidisciplinary research project that aims to achieve immortality in humans within the next three decades. He plans to do it by housing human brains in progressively more disembodied vehicles, first transplanting them into robots and then, by the year 2045, by reverse-engineering the human brain and effectively "downloading" human consciousness onto a computer chip.

Fact or fiction?

When speculating on seemingly unobtainable goals such as this, one must be careful not to believe that improbable technological advances automatically become more likely simply by looking further away in the future. This is the cognitive trap that, for instance, has seen many leading IT experts predict the development of a human-level artificial intelligence at roughly twenty years in the future for at least the past five decades.

Looking at Avatar's proposed timeline, Itskov's project seems to suffer from the same fallacy. Certainly, if we borrow Carl Sagan's rule that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof," the project comes up short for the time being; it does, however, have the merit of basing most of its steps on technology that is either in the works or of general interest. And with the rate of technological change continuing to accelerate, the project's goals may be within reach, although not necessarily within the project's aggressive timeline.

The roadmap to immortality

The first of the proposed steps, to be completed before the end of the decade, would be to create an android "avatar" controlled entirely by a brain-computer interface. The system would at first be of interest to physically challenged people, but might also enable people to work in hazardous environments or perform dangerous rescue operations.

As futuristic as this vision may seem, Itskov is not the only person to share it. DARPA allotted US$7 million of next year's budget to the development of interfaces enabling a soldier to guide a semi-autonomous bipedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier's surrogate. Other researchers have reported being able to exert basic control over the movement of a humanoid robot using brainwaves alone, and many are working on refining this technology.

The second step would be the creation of an autonomous life support system for the human brain, which could then be integrated into the previously developed "avatar" by 2025. If the efforts are successful, immobile patients with an intact brain would be able to regain the ability to move via their new synthetic bodies, and a varied range of bio-electronic devices might become possible, creating superimpositions of electronic and biological systems.

Not a great deal of research is going into this at the moment – in fact, the closest match would have to be the research of Dr. Robert J. White who, back in the 70s, managed to perform several head transplants in monkeys. Building an artificial environment in which a brain could not only survive, but also continue working to full effect, is sure to prove a much harder task.

By 2035, Itskov hopes to be able to reverse-engineer the human brain and find a means of "downloading" its consciousness to a synthetic version. Coupled with the previous advancements, this would allow humans to achieve cybernetic immortality. It would also lead to the creation of a human-like artificial intelligence, and even provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or enhance their own brains, for instance by manipulating memories.

While there is no current research going into transferring your consciousness into a silicon chip, there is plenty of interest among neuroscientists in better understanding the inner workings of the brain. Although we are just scratching the surface, recent advancements – such as a robotic arm that can analyze the electricity patterns of single neurons – are certainly steps in the right direction.

The fourth and final step is also the most science-fictiony. By the year 2045, Itskov would like to see "substance-independent minds" uploaded not onto a computer chip, but into bodies of different compositions. A holographic body could walk through walls or move at the speed of light, while a body made of nanorobots would be able to take on a number of different forms at will. "Humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species," he writes.

Funding and support

Itskov says he has invested plenty of his own money to kick start the necessary research, hiring 30 scientists to reach this goal, organizing meetings, with plans to establish offices in San Francisco later this summer. He is also working on building a social network to raise awareness in his initiative, and on a "business incubator" for the creation of commercial applications - mostly in the medical field - that would capitalize on the research and fund further development. In other words, as crazy as this sounds, Itskov is absolutely serious about this, and the wheels are turning on this project.

Of course, the sheer pace of scientific inquiry required to make this project succeed will require very large - perhaps prohibitive - amounts of capital. To address this, Itskov recently addressed a letter to billionaires in the Forbes richest list in an appeal for funds, but he is also looking for government support.

Surprisingly, the Russian Ministry of Education and Science announced its support of the initiative, and has scheduled talks to discuss a specialized research and development center. Oddly enough, the initiative has also received the support and blessing of the Dalai Lama.

The video below is a short presentation detailing the steps and goals of the "Avatar" project.

Source: 2045 Initiative

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion. All articles by Dario Borghino

Sounds like someone's got it all figured out. How making a massive amount of robots to add to the already overpopulated earth is going to help save resources is beyond me. Crazy Russian.

The video brings up a lot of good arguments as to how humanity is well on its way to destroy itself, but in parallel to the emerging of these god-complex inspired ideas, there's also a totally new state of mind developing in recent years which does not rely on heavily funded scientific advancement or a more better faster attitude.

Also - check out the Friends episode where Ross suggests the exact same idea - the way he says is makes it sound completely ridiculous, which it actually is in the end.


I didn't like the video. Humanity is not on the way to destroying itself and the world improves every year.

That said, I do look forward to the day when the imperfect human body (and brain) is replaced by robotics. The intelligence and creativity of the human species without the fragility and complexity of living tissue.


Well, although the earth is over populated, there should not be a problem for "new humans" to live in neighboring planets as they do not have the restrictions of a living body.

However, I still like the idea of "Inception" where we can dream anything we like and live forever....

Welcome to the new world.


It may be "life", but it won't be "human" life.

But probably that will be an improvement :-)

Bart Viaene

I cannot negate this project due to the advancements in technology but still I want to include that definitely they will come up with something but they cannot replace human with this gizmo. Let say if I have this thing and they put my mind into it what benefit will I get from it after I die? Strange isn't it?

Omer Ahmed

As much as I would like to have a "Avatar" or "surrogate", I don't think this is a good idea. This would allow evil people to live longer than they should.

Robert Bigger

So, it looks like the "SciFy" cable TV channel got a hold of Gizmag.

Michael McCarrey

A true avatar would require a deeper understanding of consciousness - this has to be artificially maintained in a digital environment for a true Avatar to be possible. 'Biocentrism' theory is worth a read, which goes some way toward understanding what consciousness is, I think it's altogether much more challenging than just cut-and-pasting the content of a brain onto a hard drive. Fundamentally, the issue at hand is why to pursue 'immortality', as it seems to be born primarily from a deep-seated fear of death. That's the only reason why an individual desires to live forever, instead of choosing to live on by proxy through ones children.

PeetEngineer I believe my comment is best said by Queen.

Eric Sakshaug

This is what we get when we leave our kids in front of the TV too long: A total detachment from what is real and what is not. Living is not have 500 FB friends or having your brain (or brain functions) live forever in a glass jar in a robot. What utter nonsense!We all enjoyed watching BladeRunner, but doubt anyone would choose to live in that world. It not the future or the "new world", it's the end of humanity. Worse yet, now we have excessively rich kids entertaining themselves with the thought that fullfilling this scifi fantasy is a good thing. Perhaps it will entertain them, but the rest of humanity will surely suffer for it.


I wrote this into a short story 8 years ago. Asimov's magazine wouldnt buy it :(

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer

IF this could even happen we would only be a clone of our consciousness. Our consciousness as we know it would end.


I don't see how making a copy of one's self on a chip translates to immortality. Whether that chip functions or not, you're still dead. As far as the whole God-complex goes, I think Mary Shelly left a fairly clear moral as to the outcome in Frankestein. Instead of trying for immortality of body, a much more attainable goal is to live a memorable life so you live on in the memory of others. Despots like Kim seek mortal wealth and will be quickly covered by the sands of time, but should he devote is resources to VASTLY improving the lot of the average South Korean, and by extension, the Asian Pennisula, he would be remembered forever by that country. So much potential Good is at the fingertips of so many who refuse to weild it. As sad as it is perplexing.


Some of these ideas are explored in Charles Stross' excellent sci-fi novel "Accelerando."

Chuck Anziulewicz

"Ghost in the Shell" The future is bright.

Yes, I want to live forever in a bio body or a material made one or even something in between. Living forever would allow me to learn or do anything and everything, and master all that I learn or do.

Mark Keller

Silly, silly, silly. Making a copy of the data stored in the brain would be daunting enough. Transferring consciousness, whatever that is, into a chip? Sorry, no. Even if you don't believe in an immortal soul, consciousness dies when the physical brain dies. We've been dying for millenia; it's what we're suppoed to do. I have no interest in living forever. When I'm done, I'll move over and let someone else take my place.

Clay Jones

I have no interest in living for ever. When my race is run, I will look back and be able to tell if I succeeded in what I set out to do. Where my values and beliefs led me. I am content with my allotted span. If, at the end of my life, I still can't tell if I have been an asset to the living, and a tribute to the dead, then a longer span of years will not improve my average. My greatest legacy is my children, and the freedoms I have protected for them.


If the no cloning theorem holds for a single qbit I am pretty confident it will hold for a human conscience.

This initiative doesn't even seem to have quantum computing on their radar. No way they can accomplish what they want to by solely staying in the world of classic computing.


Once you have accumulated a certain amount of money for yourself you can indulge in all sorts of ridiculous attention-seeking fantasies and dress them up in pretty media releases and presentations, all of which can do astonishing things for your already over-inflated ego as you accumulate a following of like-minded idiots.

Or you could actually find a decent charity to support.


We actually work in AI, in an interdisciplinary field, which includes computer science and neuroscience; our research concerns understanding and modeling intelligence. We read Gizmag regularly; it's usually fun and at times has some stories of real interest. We understand that claims are often made before they are actually accomplished; But, I'm very disappointed with Gizmag for running this article. There is absolutely no reality in anything that's stated in the article. There isn't even a rough understanding about what might be involved. I can't run through every claim in this short post, but I will state that current neuroscience is still trying to figure out how a neuron works and how they connect and how intelligence can result. Even allowing for acceleration in scientific knowledge, the level of learning necessary to accomplish this is beyond any visible horizon. At a guess we're talking hundreds of years. Likewise, we are so far from achieving actual artificial intelligence even to the level of an amoeba, that again - an educated guess would put us hundreds of years away from being able to fashion an artificial intelligence somewhat on a par with our own. Further, we haven't the slightest inkling of how you might record a full human intelligence; this is really nonsense and to equate that with moving an artificial limb via direct connection to the brain is to misunderstand the problem completely. What gets me angry about this, is that by publishing this complete nonsense, you are aiding a scam artist to bilk money that could be used to really benefit people and, if as is stated he's receiving grants, this is money that could have gone to real research, which could really benefit people. I enjoy science fiction, but not when is parading as reality.


I think a lot of Vodka changed hands during discussions :)


At best, this might result in something that thinks it's me, but it wouldn't be me. Even if it has 100% of the same thought processes and memories I have, I'm still trapped here in this frail human shell, waiting for the inevitable end. And eventually, our memories and thoughts will diverge. Just like starting with identical genes in twins, they don't think alike forever.

For true immortality, I would need this body rejuvenated and apoptosis arrested indefinitely. Something along the lines of the movie "Cocoon" would be ideal, albeit impossible.


What? Never read Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny? We'll get there, eventually. I expect he'll make a lot of money on the research whether he achieves the goal or not.

James Bogart

Top reads that explore this ideas to be found in Greg Egan's xlnt novel Diaspora & his earlier book Permutation City. And as previously mentioned Stross' Accelerando is a bewdy.

Minh McCloy

I see the only mistake in their claim is A)timing (multiply their estimated time by 1.5-2 & you'd likely have a more probable prediction) & B) uploading a human mind to a chip would be simply killing the host & making a copy. I think if you were to make humans immortal you would have to remodel the human brain gradually & replicate the electrical patterns it was making over a period of time (such as putting some kind of nanomesh that gradually interwove itself in & replace cells slowly over time). If it were done like that using metamaterials, I think you could make the human mind a lot smarter among other things as it could transmit electrical signals faster.

The idea though that we shouldn't pursue this though because we might one day overpopulate the planet is a joke; that's going to happen inevitably whether this research is pursued or not. At least if humans became machines, we could exist in much harsher environments & actually leave earth (something we could never achieve in biological forms as we need food, sunlight, oxygen, a mild temp, etc). Secondly, I find it utter hipocrisy when people say that those involved in this project have a "god complex"; the reason I say this is because the very notion of god is grounded in theology, not science, & the ones making these comments are the ones who believe after they die they're going to exist eternally in some other plane of existence. For those of us who doubt this notion, why not work to end human suffering & create a utopia of sorts here on earth? What is so truly horrible about this concept?

Ultimately, if you don't like this technology just don't use it; simple as that.


I think it would be better to find out the mechanism that makes us age and repairing that malfunction in our genome, then you would be able to choose when you wanted to go to the other side.

Billy Brooks

The reality is that tons of people have already experienced what's on the road map for this Avatar 2045 ideal and are inside it right now. Millions of people every day are logging into 3DWeb spaces online and find it a way to expanding their real lives to include others from around the world via their Metaversian host body. They have found jobs, built businesses and new economies, fallin in love and married their cerebral match in real life. It is the modern day penpal and just as valid and real as all those letters mailed of in the 'good old days'.

The ability to extend one's life through an eternal present pseudo brain of yourself is a much bigger task. This is the creation of a neuron-network. If you mention this to any programmer you can watch them shudder in fear. It is a daunting task, but certainly doable. The question is, SHOULD WE and if we do, will we have the moral fortitude to do it right ... from a humanity POV. How are we going to prevent those who only see dollar signs in their eye from bastardizing this. If we reach out to big money and government funding, can we really prevent that? Are there solutions to this like using crowd source funding to put the control in the hands of the world's community instead of just a few deep pockets. Establishing a voting system that would allow everyone a direct vote on matters that could change the structure of power to other entities. Wouldn't it be great if we could vote for anyone we wanted, rather than be shuttled through a party line's channel and given the choice to pick the best of the worst? Is it time we stop passing off our responsibilities to politicians and start coming together to fix the world's broken systems?

There are a lot of tough questions that MUST be addressed before the technology takes over the path to this goal. It could be the reinvention of mankind, or the demise of humanity as we know it based purely on the ethical, moral and financial values that historically have gummed up the works of great ideal and goals.

I'd like to offer to host discussions on these topics to hear all sides to those who are interested through a 3DWeb space community I run - as we say ... ' a place to go ... rather than a page to read. It can host up to 100 participants at the same time in a shared 3Dweb space. there is voice and we can do a Skype chat relay include those who can't make it or prefer to just listen in. There are free tools available to upload for viewing almost any media you need, i.e., MS/OpenOffice documents, desktop images, pdf's, excel sheets, web sites and videos. I'll host this for as long as I can afford to or free so it you wanna jump in just contact me at or, SUBJECT BEING 'AVATAR PROJECT 2045' and I'll get one of my people to set you up with a guest account and connection to the Skype group channel I'll set up for everyone to tap into.

If you prefer to set up your own account I'll make sure you get instructions on how to do that too. I don't want to put the info here, least I get accused of spamming.

For those who would question my motivations I'll put it out there - I am not affiliated with this project in any way, nor are any of my team. Just found out about it today though Gizmag, same as you probably. To me it just makes sense to reach out and take this a step further than saying yah or nay on the subject in a blog then moving on. Sound bytes don't allow for real and immediate human interactions and tends to be episodic in natural.

OK guys and gals ... the ball ... err world? is in your court now :) - Tessa


This is the ultimate fate of humanity. In order to survive, human consciousness will have to abandon the organic body it originated in. This project IS the future of mankind!

Brian Allan

Science must pursue what we "can" do, but it cannot speak to the question of what we "should" do; and the two must remain distinct and separate.'

"Can" I rob a bank? Would it make my life easier? Sure I could, and it would. But, should I? "Can" I do any number of things society has decided is not good to do?

We live in societies that define what we "should" and "should not" do, and these limitations are not of science, for through science we could do any of them. Still, we accept these limitations because of an awareness that it's better, an awareness to which we arrive through philosophical rigour, and to which we subscribe by law.

I'm not proposing to know the answer. I just know the consideration of the question requires language and discipline including but also beyond that of the sciences.

Non-techie Talk

This is strictly mechanical view on human body. Where does the spiritual part plug in? Anyway I'd rather die and set my spirit free then having my brains in some robot machine.

Srečko Lavrič

This will happen for sure maybe 80 or 100 years from now ...

BUT NOBODYS MIND WILL LIVE INSIDE ROBOTS... ALL MINDS WILL BE IN THE INTERNET... in a kind of game... they will be "MINDS CLONES"... they will live in fantasy worlds according to the SIM WORLD they can afford

1) People will not live forever but their Minds (with AI of course) will... Each member of all your past family will talk with you and to each other... MIND CLONES WILL COMUNICATE

2) People will be electronic cloned Before they die.. so you have one or even many MIND CLONES to help your life .... that is "if your clone agrees to help" instead of doing whatever it wishes

3) The MINDS CLONES will have artificial intelligence and will run on a MIND CLOUD of computers that emulate the brains... this may take about 50 years... another 30 to 50 years on ways to transfer the data from the brain to this cloud...

4) The clones will evolve and change so they can change their behavior as they will be free to create an AVATAR like they wish... and as they evolves they will become nothing like they were when they were created... so you will have to always have a reboot copy of yourself... so people alive will have an option to talk with you... before evolution

5) Inheritance will became something many people will leave to their clones as there will be a need for antivirus, upgrades, app, ad-on ... etc... Then will happen the CLONES divorces... crazy ?? No... remember they will have artificial intelligence...

6) MIND CLONES can even work to help their family members or getting upgrades of maintenance "survival fees"... you will be able to hire top engineers that are dead... and if you need more help, just replicate the CLONE again ... Can you imagine this ?? AN "THINKING "HIGH SKILLED" WORKFORCE THAT IS ENDLESS AND GET NO TIRE ? A PROJECT WILL BE DONE IN MINUTES.. NOT YEARS... OH GOD 1000 YEARS IN 20

6) Society and human race will change in ways we can hardly imagine... well I can... ehehh... There is so much more... question is only if it is 50 years or 150 years... BUT IT WILL HAPPEN !!!! Computer and biotech are so close to this and we have only 10 years of widespread internet access.. what I mean is we only have 10 years of the unlimited, immediate and UBER powerfull internet as a way to create innovation... think the world in 100 years...


I once saw a reference to a theory that suggests quantum governed phenomena may play a part in human consciousness. This would preclude transfer of that consciousness to a solid state or other system because the transfer process would affect the quantum component and alter said consciousness.

Gerry Lavell

What if I really get there? What if I get the money out of the company's Remote Operating System budget (in lieu of a pension we at Sissons, Inc., get an Avatar!), pay for an Avatar, and enter my brain into a First Death Confirmation Holding Pattern? What, then, if my soon-to-be Avatar goes to a higher bidder? What if my Avatar model suffers a recall? Where might that put what remains of moi?


Well, I passed a Master of Science (I was not a brilliant student), but I really don't get anything about nanotechnologies, information technology, "new etchics, new psychology"... etc.

Will I simply have to push a button? Or will I just stand proudly, head up? And more important: how will I fill my bank account? By using telepathy with my bank manager.

Thierry Guennou

Or link to robotics One site mentioned about putting billionairers brains into robots for posterity.

I like "shadowbots" they work I get the paycheck. Awesome.

Stephen Russell

the government will probable seize the technology. By the year 2045 software engineers like myself will be able to make custom modifications.

the gov will not allow this.

Facebook User

The video is like every single futuristic sci-fi films bad guy video. It has the ring of a corrupt, antagonist system in which someone like Harrison Ford or Will Smith might have to go shut down. I hope Harrison Ford can live forever to protect us from living forever.

Austin Howe

One word: Hackers

Does anyone stop to think about whether or not we could but if we should? Say someone hacks your avatar to commit some crime or murder? What about equipment and program failure? Am I the only one whose had a computer crash with no warning and without hope of data recovery?

IF you want to confine yourself to any immortality offered by humanity - be my guest. I think I'll look a little higher...


don't knock the concept, it's amazing. however, try to better understand it.

if my consciousness were to be transplanted to a robot, the robot would not 'become me'. i would still be me. the robot, on the other hand, would be nothing more than a robot with a program running it that tells it to behave in ways i might, but only as of the time of transfer.

i would not be immortalized by it. when i die, i die. what lives on is a machine that is an entirely different entity, no matter how similar our thought patterns were at transfer time.

also remember, each day i interact with my environment, change takes place within me. those changes would not simultaneously take place in the robot , and after a time, more and more changes would make us two entirely different entities.

not really much different from time travel. you go back or ahead and meet your self. if the other one dies, you still exist. so who or what was that other guy?

need to read koontz, 77 shadow street for an idea what could happen with this robot idea!


It is not a matter of living forever or a fear of death! It is about living long enough to make life meaningful as a learning experience and not be driven by a world of desperate survival imperatives like a mindless beast...When the time is right you unplug and move on or transcend by choice not because of some subject necessity in abject misery!

Anton McInerney

Ain't gonna happen

Alexander Hugo

Personally, I would like to have my consciousness downloaded into an avatar. Hopefully, I will not have to breath and I would love to be able to go on Mars. And what I would do on Mars? As you would say.

I would start to build Greenhouses, grow fruits and vegetables (we might have to transport water from Earth to Mars for a while and build shelters in the greenhouses) so, if the Earth get destroyed somehow, we could, hopefully, make Mars be prepared to welcome real human beings on Mars.

Diane Armstrong

It is our destiny...

Brian Allan

I'm no scientist, but I would say this guy's biggest problem is it depends on having a good human brain (at least steps A and B). With dementia on the rise, and brain damage being inherent in a lot of conditions that would lead to human death anyway, I don't see how there would be that many good brains left to save at life's end.

Samantha Teddie

An "avatar" will need a dense source of energy to keep it running and is to produce a lot of waste heat that can become technologically feasible only an efficient on-board thermoelectric converter.

Robert Johnson

Don't worry about the over populate problem as you guys said, since holograms or machines is unlikely able to reproduce new human personality and I really doubt having sex through telepathy could also produce new offsprings.

So, either our species will doom to extincion or we going start to see Many artificial intelegent baby on our neighborhood... well at least they will programmable, soo no more teenager problems.

In short.. I think most people just going to say no to this project

Valmer Power
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