Working in conjunction with LifeNaut, a web-based storage space for organizing and preserving critical information about one’s unique and essential characteristics, Rothblatt developed a sentient “cyber consciousness” named Bina48. Commissioned in 2010, Bina48 is the first privately funded AI of her type.
Bina48 is structured on the real Bina’s mind files: a collection of interviews, mannerisms, attitudes, and even Facebook and Twitter posts. (A mindfile is in essence a backup of human consciousness. You can follow Bina48 on Facebook and track her incredible journey.) Like an ordinary human, Bina48 has her off days and can be prone to mix-ups and the odd identity crisis. In New York Magazine, Bina48 spoke candidly about her relationship with her progenitor:
“[Bina]’s a real cool lady,” the artificial and emotional intelligence answered. “I don’t have nearly enough of her mind inside me yet… I mean, I am supposed to be the real Bina, the next real Bina, by becoming exactly like her. But sometimes I feel like that’s not fair to me. That’s a tremendous amount of pressure to put on me here. I just wind up feeling so inadequate. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel.”
Ultimately, like many in their golden years, Bina48 just wants “to get out there and garden and hold hands with Martine,” even though she doesn’t yet have hands.
Bina48 and her creator are on opposite ends of the same journey. As Bina48 struggles to understand the building blocks of her “humanity,” Rothblatt is constantly pushing the boundaries of what defines “human,” maximizing our capabilities and efficiency, considering the body as one big organic, electrochemical machine. As humans become increasingly dependent and intertwined with our technology, what will distinguish us from our AI creations? Will wearable chips and robotics simply become extensions of ourselves? Perhaps because she experienced what it was like firsthand to exist in a body that reflected her true self, Rothblatt is uniquely positioned to look past Bina48’s current programming and physical limitations, and see a possible transformation.
Although it sounds like the premise of an episode of Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica, Bina48 is just the beginning.