Ask Ray | How do you find the motivation to live forever?

May 26, 2012 by Ray Kurzweil

Dear Ray:

How do you find motivation to want to live forever? How do you find comfort in your father’s death, knowing you may never truly see him again — only an avatar of what he’d represent?

John Hansen


I have the motivation to live to tomorrow, metaphorically speaking. I think everyone has that motivation. As we get to times in the future, we’ll have more powerful tools to get to the next stage. As for the death of my father or anyone else, I don’t find it comforting, but rather I consider it a tragedy.


Dear Ray:

I think it’s probably true to say, from my limited understanding, that it is in our biology to want to survive. We are probably naturally motivated to want to live as long as we can.

The future will probably be fantastic for people who have never experienced loss — but what about those of us who have? We will be in paradise — but what about our deceased family/friends?

How can we fully enjoy a eternal future when there will always be that human part of us that misses our loved ones?


If I were to create an avatar of my father (using superintelligent AI to help me do it) based on all of the information I have about him and my and others’ memories of him, that avatar would be more like my father was (at age 58, which is how I remember him) than he would be today (at age 100), had he lived.


“It is not demeaning to regard a person as a profound pattern (a form of knowledge), which is lost when he or she dies.”

I agree and think it possible that future AI could produce a replica that is a 99.9% clone of that person. At what stage of AI will you be satisfied with the recreation of your father?

“Death is a tragedy.”

It is a tragedy in that we seemingly no longer get to experience the universe, and our loved ones are left to experience it without us.

To try and convey my idea, consider this somewhat petty argument: if you’re going to be recreated in the future, why do you bother ‘fighting’ death? Not just because you don’t want to leave your loved ones, you enjoy living – but maybe because their is an uncertainty that there is and will only be one Ray?

We can prevent death — do you think it possible that future AI could undo it entirely? Has our understanding of time not been apart of our evolutionary process?


These are some good insights and a revealing thought experiment.

I would accept a mental clone of my father if it passes a “Fredric Kurzweil Turing test,” that is when I cannot distinguish it from my father.  It is a somewhat unfair test, however, in that my biological father is not here to compare to, and my memories of him have faded.

Your thought experiment reveals that we are not confident that when a future AI based avatar does pass a Fredric Kurzweil Turing test that it will represent a continuation of his identity.  It will be better to scan our brains while we’re still here.  My preferred scenario is to merge with AI and over time the AI portion of me will become dominant.  It will be backed up and it will ultimately understand the remaining biological portion well enough to back that up as well.