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Interview with Michael Anissimov.
by Jonathan Despres. Go to the Interviews.
Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and what current projects are you involved in?
I have a background in working for transhumanist organizations. I co-founded the Immortality Institute in High School and went into fundraising, activism, and self-education on a full-time basis shortly thereafter.
My current project is building up the Lifeboat Foundation - the only organization exclusively devoted to addressing a variety of existential risks. So my primary focus is considering existential risks in detail, corresponding with scientists and other academics on the topic, proposing and pursuing specific strategies and policies to ameliorate risk, and raising money so that this activity may be continued. I am also a strong supporter of the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Outside of work activity, I am writing a book on transhumanism.
What are your goals for the next decade?
Educate as many people as possible on the potential benefits and risks of advanced technology, particularly artificial general intelligence and molecular manufacturing.
When do you think will we achieve real life extension?
We have it now - it's called cryonics. Only mystics and dualists believe that technology will never be able to restore a frozen brain, because they don't believe that intelligence and personality resides in the physical structure of the brain to begin with. All others recognize that it is just a matter of time, once they take a close look at the issue.
With regard to life extension methods outside cryonics, I think it will take between ten and thirty years before serious results are achieved. From that point onward, the process will snowball rapidly, because initial demonstrations of feasibility will garner much excitement and investment. Who wouldn't be willing to pay for a few more extra years of good health, if they knew it would be feasible? The tremendous amount spent on health care for the elderly today is empirical evidence in favor of this.
Do you believe in Cryonics and when will it suceed?
I believe that cryonics preserved the information content of the human brain, yes. It has already succeeded. If you mean, "when will we revive cryonics patients?", I'd estimate between twenty and fifty years. I have no emotional investment in timescales, though, so even if it ended up taking a thousand years, I wouldn't cry about it. I think that many might be inclined to give overly conservative estimates because they are making their projections based on the grandiosity of the outcome rather than the nuts-and-bolts difficulty of the task itself.
Why isn't the science of cryonics progressing at a rate commensurate to other sciences?
This depends on what metrics you're using for measurement... advances have been made with vitrification in the last decade, for instance. If you mean "why can't we revive cryonics patients yet?", then the answer is because it's inherently a very difficult task.
Do you believe in God?
What will be the best (central), most important tool in molecular manufacturing? And why ?
Molecular assembler, because it's a necessary prerequisite for molecular manufacturing.
Which path should we take for immortalism, nanomedicine or biogerontology or something else?
I advocate artificial intelligence. Advanced AI will be necessary to make sense out of the vast amount of biological data our sensors pick up.
What first attracted you to the idea of physical immortality?
When I realized that life was fun.
What a company can do to become successful in the life extension business?
Like David Pearce, I'm going to have to say: sell snake oil.
How handy an indefinite lifespan would be?
What would be the jobs of the future?
Don't know. Hopefully people will be able to do whatever they want.
What do you think of the Paradise Engineering idea?
I think it's a good idea. A fellow transhumanist, Michael Raimondi, once remarked that humanity's relationship with suffering is like that between a kidnapper and captive suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
What do you think about the singularity, when will it happen?
I think that the word "Singularity" has become associated with so many unrelated ideas that most people don't even have a clue what they're talking about when they try to remark on it. My definition of "successful Singularity" is good by definition - it denotes the technological enhancement of intelligence and compassion.
What's the future of "information technology" for you?
Clearly the Internet is merging with the physical world, which is quite fascinating.
What would be the great inventions/ideas of the future?
Whatever solves our problems and amuses us.
What should we do to improve/clean our ecology?
I think we should switch from fossil fuels to nuclear power, and then finally to fusion and solar power. We should minimize waste, recycle frequently, walk instead of drive, eat vegetarian, and stop buying so many useless toys.
Do you think molecular manufacturing (or anything else) could clean up pollution on earth and in space? If so, when and how?
Yes, in the long run. Most present-day environmentalists get all up in a huff about this, because it allows us to have our cake (a clean environment) and eat it too (pollute as much as we want because it can easily and quickly be cleaned up). But there is no physical reason why it shouldn't be eventually achievable.
Your best movie ever is?
End of Evangelion probably.
Your religion is?
The laws of probability theory, which many so-called rationalists are actually unaware of. The laws of probability theory are in total conformance with reality, and reality should ultimately be our predominant "religion".
Your political view?
Socially very liberal, economically centrist.
Your web page is?
Your contact information?
Find that at my blog.
Do you know a good person that I should interview?
Michael Vassar is a good target, I usually like sending people after him.