Humans have for eons been chasing immortality. In some cultures, you are said to attain immortality by doing good deeds by which people will talk about long after you are dead. Many religions also feature a concept of immortality where the body may die but the soul will exist forever.

But what if….. Just what if, science made it possible for you to be truly immortal? What if there was a way for you to live forever?

Physicist Stephen Hawking predicts humanity will someday be immortalized, not in any physical form, but as living beings occupying a digital realm of bodiless minds.

Digital immortality or virtual immortality is the futuristic concept of storing/ transferring/uploading a person’s memories & personality in more durable media like a computer, and allowing it to communicate with people in the future.

In layman terms it means after death the body will be long gone and done with but the person will still be alive in memory and personality in a durable storable media and communicate with the outside world like a living being except without a body.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a half-million-dollar grant to the universities of Central Florida at Orlando and Illinois at Chicago to explore how researchers might use artificial intelligence, archiving, and computer imaging to create convincing, digital versions of real people, a possible first step toward virtual immortality.

“I think the brain is like a programme in the mind, which is like a computer, so it’s theoretically possible to copy the brain onto a computer and so provide a form of life after death,” Hawking told reporters at the Cambridge Film Festival premier of his biographical film “However, this is way beyond our present capabilities. I think the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.”

Digital immortality can be roughly considered as involving a person-centric repository containing a copy of everything that a person sees, hears, says, or engenders over his or her lifespan, including photographs, videos, audio recordings, movies, television shows, music albums/CDs, newspapers, documents, diaries and journals, interviews, meetings, love letters, notes, papers, art pieces, and so on, and so on; and if not everything, then at least as much as the person has and takes the time and trouble to include.

The person’s personality, emotion profiles, thoughts, beliefs, and appearance are also captured and integrated into an artificially intelligent, interactive, conversational agent/avatar. This avatar is placed in charge of the collected material in the repository so that the agent can present the illusion of having the factual memories, thoughts, and beliefs of the person him/herself.

But is all this possible or just flying fantasy? People Laughed at Neil Armstrong when he said he was going to the Moon, People Laughed at The Wright Brothers when they said they were going Fly, People laughed at Thomas Edison when he said he would create a Light bulb. People laughed at Alexander Graham Bell when he wanted to invent the telephone.

If all these inventions and discoveries did come true then surely Digital Immortality might just be around the corner. We may not be alive to see Digital Immortality become a reality but our future generations may just about get a shot at it.