2015 March Film and Interactive


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2 4 S X S W o r l d | F I L M / I A M A R C H 2 0 1 5 | S X S W. C O M artine Rothblatt inhabits many different roles: business leader, author, transwoman, space law yer, futurist, parent. Her desire to push technological boundaries was sparked by her early career in satellite communications, which led to her co-founding of Sirius satellite radio. Now, she runs a successful bio-tech company (United Therapeutics) and has written an acclaimed book on artificial intelligence (2014's Virtually Human). Recently named the highest paid female CEO in the United States, Rothblatt is also the nation's highest paid transgender person, having undergone sex reassignment surgery in 1994. Rothblatt believes that we are not far from developing a computer powerful enough to replicate "human level consciousness" and become both autonomous and empathetic. She has also cre- ated a robot of her wife, Bina. The robot, named Bina 48, is a "mind clone," designed to keep Rothblatt company in the untimely event of her spouse's death. Bina 4 8 is stored inside a life-like cast of the real Bina's head. Prior to her appearance as one of SXSW Interactive's 2 015 ke y note s p e a ker s , Rot hblat t ex pla ined why she built a robot wife, and how she believes technolog y w ill help us cheat death: How does it feel being the highest paid female CEO in the U.S.? Do you see yourself as a role model? M a r t i n e R o t h bl a t t : It feels great—like getting a standing ovation. I'm proud to be a role model. I believe in the old adage that there is a special place reser ved in hell for women who don't help other women. Do you believe it w ill soon be possible to repli- cate human intelligence? MR: The big tech companies— Apple, Google, Microsoft—are all developing projects which explore ways of generating a computerized form of human consciousness. Governments are getting involved too. Last September, President Obama launched the BR AIN Initiative, [a research program which will help us better understand brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and autism]. If we accept that neuroscience can be understood and digitized, then this will give us the ability to create virtual humans in the future. Do you think it's important to believe that something is possible, before you try to make it a reality? MR: The division between science and religion is artificial because even the most agnostic scientists must have faith, otherwise they wouldn't pursue their research, the outcome of which is always u n k now n. Thousa nds of ind iv idua ls a re cu r rently researching different aspects of cyber consciousness. There are so many minds tr y ing to solve this puzzle that we will inevitably succeed. How do you react when people say that your futurist bel ie f s a re m is g u ided? MR: You can either be a f ut u r i s t w ho e mbr a c e s change or a pessimist who sees the worst in ever y- thing. My response to those who say cyber conscious- ness will never happen is to point to my own life expe- rience. Several of my past ideas were d ismissed as impossible, but I made them a reality, from satellite radio to finding a new treatment for my youngest daughter's illness. So, I believe most things are possible. The nay- sayers will always be there. Do most people actually want cyber consciousness to happen? It can be quite an intimidating concept. MR: There is a huge hunger for humanity to learn how to create v ir tual versions of ourselves. People have even set up websites that Martine Rothblatt and the Virtue of Human Immortality by Serena KutchinSKy M M a r t in e Rot h b la t t P E T E R H A PA K / N E W Y O R K M A G A Z I N E

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