Transhumanists in Russia have come out with a paper outlining their plan to achieve immortality while enacting a science-based resurrection of the dead. Though the technology to bring their plan into reality does not currently exist, and some of the essentials are considered by scientists to be impossible, this plan highlights the questions of where our soul is and is it possible for science to recreate it.
Transhumanists: “Death is not Irreversible”
Russian transhumanists and life extensionists Alexey Turchin and Maxim Chernyakov published a paper titled Classification of Approaches to Technological Resurrection for the Foundation Science for Life Extension in Moscow. In the paper, they outlined what they called an “Immortality Roadmap.”
“Death seems to be a permanent event, but there is no actual proof of its irreversibility,” they wrote in the abstract of their paper. Here we list all known ways to resurrect the dead that do not contradict our current scientific understanding of the world. While no method is currently possible, many of those listed here may become feasible with future technological development, and it may even be possible to act now to increase their probability.”
Cryonics, Cloning, and Indirect Mind Uploading
Turchin also suggests combatting aging by replacing diseased organs with bioengineered ones or staying alive in a nanotech body, when that technology develops. If those methods are unavailable or unsuccessful, Turchin recommends cryonics, or freezing the body until a solution is developed. This is a technique that is already being offered by several companies.
Another method they explore is referred to as ”indirect mind uploading”, or “digital immortality”. This involves the preservation of data about a person to allow for future reconstruction by a powerful computer artificial intelligence (AI). Turchin is already doing this in his own life by recording every detail of his life as it happens.
One possible scenario would involve downloading the digitalized version of the individual into a host body reconstructed from the original via cloning. Cells for the cloning process could be obtained by digging up the graves of the deceased.
Luz Bone: The Seed for the Resurrection of the Dead
Cloning as a means of resurrecting the dead closely resembles the Jewish tradition of tchiyat ha’matim (rejuvenating the dead). According to Jewish tradition, this will be accomplished through the Luz bone, a tiny bone most people are unaware exists, is very important. The Luz bone is a minuscule bone from the spine, about the size of a grain of barley and almost cubic in shape. According to Jewish tradition, it can never be destroyed and receives nourishment from Melava Malka, the meal eaten on Saturday night after the Sabbath ends.
Since it can never be destroyed, during the resurrection of the dead, the body re-grows from this tiny bone in a manner that is strangely reminiscent of cloning. Belief in the resurrection of the dead is one of the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith, so this little-known bone plays a larger role in the religion than most Jews realize.
The Jewish source for the Luz bone is in Bereishit Rabba (28:3), a collection of homiletical teachings from the third century, which states:
“(Roman Emperor) Hadrian was grinding bones. He asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah: ‘From where does the Holy One, Blessed be He, reconstruct man in the future to come?’ He answered him: ‘From the Luz of the spine.’ Said he: ‘From where do you know this?’. He said: ‘It has come to me (as a tradition), and I will show you.’ They tried to grind it in a mill but it was not ground, they burnt it in fire but it was not consumed, they put it in water but it was not softened, they put it on an anvil and he started to beat it with a hammer but the anvil slipped, the hammer was broken and it remained intact.”
Rabbi isaac Luria Ashkenazi, also referred to as the Ari or Arizal, one of the foremost Kabbalists of all time, lived in Safed in the 16th century. He taught that the Luz bone is located in the place where the knot of the tefillin is placed, where the skull meets the back of the neck. This is generally considered to be the seventh cervical vertebra.
According to tradition, this is the part of God’s neck that Moses saw when he ascended to heaven to receive the Tablets of the Covenant. Other commentators believed that the Luz bone is located at the bottom of the spine, the tailbone, known to modern scientists as the coccyx.
The numerology of the Hebrew term “etzem haLuz” (the Luz bone) is 248, the same as the number of limbs that make up the body, according to rabbinic sources – seeming to indicate that just as a person’s entire physical being can be cloned from just a few cells, a person’s entire spiritual being can be encapsulated in one spiritual act.
Can the Soul be Digitized?
Though cloning may have its sources in Jewish tradition, storing data as a means of preserving the soul, or essence, of the individual, does not. Rabbi Doniel Katz, a Torah educator who lectures on consciousness, is skeptical of these attempts.
“So far, science has succeeded in freezing a person but has not succeeded in reviving a person,” Rabbi Katz told Israel365 News. “ Maybe the body could be revived, but to be tchiyat hametim (resurrection of the dead), their consciousness would need to be fully restored.”
Rabbi Katz emphasized that even though materialist philosophy dictates that consciousness and the ‘self’ are contained solely in the brain, there is no scientific proof of this theory.
“Science is still debating about the nature of consciousness,” Rabbi Katz said. “They believe that consciousness is in the brain, the information and data floating around inside your skull. That is not consciousness, and even scientists have not been able to pinpoint where this elusive concept of self actually exists, or even how it relates to the brain.”
The question of the nature of consciousness and how it relates to what happens after death is at the very core of religion, so the rabbi has a ready answer.
“In Kabbalah, your brain is the interface between the soul and the body,” Rabbi Katz explained. “Self and awareness are outside of the body and the brain brings awareness into the body. It may one day be possible to transfer your memory, all the data from your brain, into a computer, but this is not possible for the neshama (soul). The neshama is what guides the brain.”
“From a Torah perspective, it will never be possible to transfer the ‘self’, the free will, into a computer,” Rabbi Katz said. “The only way that will ever happen is through a true resurrection of the dead.”
Rabbi Moshe Avraham Halperin of the Machon Mada’i Technology Al Pi Halacha (the Institute for Science and Technology According to Jewish Law) pointed out serious shortcomings in the proposed scientific resurrection.
“A man is composed not just of his thoughts,” Rabbi Halperin said. “What we call a soul is contained within the entirety of the mind and the body, the thoughts, and the emotions. It is for this reason that the resurrection of the dead includes the body and is not just a mental or spiritual process.”
Another yet-to-be-developed technology the researchers suggested that may help their vision be realized would be time travel.
“More speculative ways to immortality include combinations of future superintelligence on a galactic scale, which could use simulation to resurrect all possible people, and new physical laws, which may include time-travel or obtaining information from the past.”
Dyson Sphere: Encasing the Sun for Solar Power
The major obstacle the two researchers foresaw to the technologies required to manifest immortality and resurrection for billions of people would be a sophisticated AI and the energy required to power the systems. Their vision included power being provided by a Dyson Sphere, a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star, in this case, the sun, and captures a large percentage of its power output. In this case, a Dyson Sphere around the sun would produce roughly 400 septillion watts per second.
The two researchers were not only optimistic about the possibility of their vision of immortality and resurrection coming to pass but they went so far as to say it was “inevitable.”
“There many possible approaches to technological resurrection and thus if large-scale future technological development occurs, some form of resurrection is inevitable,” the abstract concluded.
The two researchers even foresaw a possible timeline.
“The development of AI is going rather fast, but we are still far away from being able to ‘download’ a human into a computer,” Turchin told Russia Beyond. “If we want to do it with a good probability of success, then count on [the year] 2600, to be sure.”
They also envisioned benefits that are currently unavailable to mankind, such as interdimensional trade.
“Acausal trade with parallel worlds could help combine random resurrection and reconstruction based on known data,’ the researchers wrote.
Though his vision of immortality and resurrection may make it seem like Alexey Turchin is optimistic about the future of humanity, he also sees possible dangers oif the very technology he envisions as bringing this future about. In 2017, he published a message to “Any Future AI”. In the paper that is intended for AI to read in the early stages of their development, he makes the case for humanity, laying out the reasons why they should not exterminate humanity.