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The Trans-Everything CEO

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In Virtually Human, Martine depicts a world populated by humans and their “mindclones,” sentient digital replicas of individuals’ minds, created by loading into AI video interviews, photographs, personality tests, and the entirety of their digital lives—Facebook posts, tweets, Amazon orders. These mindclones would exist in parallel with their flesh-and-blood originals but act, judge, think, feel, remember, and learn on their own—and because they are, technically, nonhuman, they need not die. (They could even be built long after an individual dies, from the digital legacy left behind.) A self without an expiration date has an obvious appeal to someone like Martine, whose success has been built on her indefatigability; though she is 59, she has no plans for retirement. “I have great work-life balance,” she told me.

But eternal life is alluring for another reason, which is that it would allow Martine to continue her love affair with Bina in perpetuity. “A lot of people say I would get sick of such and such a person after so many years, but I can tell you I truly love her more now than 20 years ago or ten years ago. I never get sick of her in the slightest.” The overwhelming majority of transhumanists are men, and their interest in life extension can seem like a grandiose form of executive-personality narcissism. But Martine is at heart a romantic; when she set about building her first mindclone, it was of Bina.

“The cool part about the mindclone is we’re just taking a part of you and making it an ex-vivo part,” Martine told me. People are already made up of all kinds of contradictory impulses, she says; with mindclones these contradictions can be fully expressed. In our interviews, the book she pressed on me most forcefully was Alan Watts’s The Book (on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are). “She isn’t any one thing,” Paul Mahon, a lawyer for UT and one of Martine’s closest friends, told me. “Martine is a universe in herself. You peel back the onion and you get broccoli.”

Virtually Human describes a future in which human selves are both in sync with their mindclones and at odds with them, and depicts instances in which a human and a mindclone might disagree on a political candidate or whether to get divorced. “I think each person has secret compartments in our own minds. We share a lot with people, but we certainly parse carefully what we share. We don’t share the same things we share with our partners and our children.”

Martine is enthusiastic about an immortal future, but she—a white, Jewish lawyer and also a transgendered woman who is a father of four married to an African-American woman and therefore also, sort of, a lesbian—is just as interested in deploying AI to liberate secret or suppressed selves. “Humans are free spirits,” she told me, “and we’re happier when we can express whatever happenstance is in our souls.”

To promote this vision, Martine and Bina in 2004 founded what they call a “trans” religion, called Terasem, devoted to “respecting diversity without sacrificing unity,” as the website puts it. Most any self-respecting transhumanist would revolt at this: Refuting the human impulse to adulate the mysterious and adore the unknown is part of their hyperrationalist mission. But Martine sees transhumanism for what it is: a belief system.

“I would say Judaism is the prototype, even the template, of transhumanism,” Martine tells me by email, trying to explain the multiple threads of Terasem. “I realize there’s a zillion flavors of Judaism, but what I got taught is that it is all about education, about being ‘people of the book,’ because when oppressors kept taking everything away from the Jews, they could not take away the knowledge stored in their heads. (Nazis made a good run at that:-( ).”


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