The 2045 Initiative is a complex and expensive research project, but its goals are fairly straightforward. First, by 2020 scientists will figure out how to control robots via brain-machine interfaces (read: mind control). By 2025 the goal is to place a human brain into a working robot and have that person's consciousness (memories, personality, and everything else that makes up the “self”) transfer along with it. After that things tip very seriously over into the realm of science fiction, as the later stages of the project aim to create robots with artificial brains to which human consciousness can be uploaded (by 2035) and, finally, completely disembodied consciousness that is something like a hologram version of a person's mind. If this all sounds a little crazy, Itskov says, that's because it is. But it's certainly not impossible. He likens the initiative to the U.S. space program, whose ultimate achievements seemed impossible in 1939, three decades prior to the moon landing. And, as with the space program, Itskov sees the 2045 Initiative as an engine for technological and economic development, one that will drive discovery in neuroscience, robotics, artificial intelligence—even spirituality. When Itskov begins leafing through slides on his laptop highlighting very real, very sophisticated brain-machine interface technologies that already exist in research labs today, the first phase of his project suddenly feels more realistic. The later phases of the 2045 Initiative still seem to border on the impossible, but Itskov is completely confident that technology will evolve to conquer these seemingly insurmountable challenges.
He's not the only one. Speakers at this year's Global Future 2045 Congress in New York City—the second annual event put on by the 2045 Initiative—include legendary futurist and investor Ray Kurzweil, former X PRIZE Foundation chairman and entrepreneur Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, and Dr. George Church, the molecular biologist who helped initiate the Human Genome Project, as well as a long list of influential thought leaders in business, robotics, neuroscience, and spirituality. (Itskov has even met with the Dalai Lama, who was intrigued by the project.. Several of these backers, including Kurzweil and Diamandis, recently signed a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon inviting him to join the 2045 Congress when it convenes in June to talk about the future of both humanity and the 2045 Initiative.