My much younger brother and I were talking about artificial intelligence (AI) the other day, and I brought up Martine Rothblatt. You may have no idea who she is yet, but you will.
Currently, Martine is the highest paid female executive in the United States, according to Lisa Miller writing for New York Magazine. But I actually learned about her from a different source earlier this year – via Jon Ronson’s eye-opening collection of short stories called Lost At Sea.
Martine was born male and remained so for about half of her life. Then, in 1994, she went through extensive surgery to become a woman. Her wife of 33 years, Bina Aspen, has been with Martine through the transition and just about every significant moment in her life to date. They raised four children together, and are now actively involved with their grandkids.
But Martine is far from your average grandmother, and I’m not even talking about the whole transgender thing. According to the article, Martine thinks of herself as a “transhumanist, a particular kind of futurist who believes that technology can liberate humans from the limits of their biology—including infertility, disease, and decay, but also, incredibly, death.”
Because of Martine’s interest in technology, she is the owner of one of the most advanced artificial intelligence systems in the world; a robot made to resemble her dedicated wife, Bina. It is Martine’s belief that “in a foreseeable future…the beloved dead will live again as digital beings, reanimated by sophisticated artificial-intelligence programs that will be as cheap and accessible to every person as iTunes.”
This is not as naive as it may sound. A few decades back, when Martine and Bina were faced with their child’s grim medical prognosis – a fatal disease then called primary pulmonary hypertension, it was Martine who literally invented a cure that saved her child and then built a multimillion dollar company known as United Therapeutics, of which she is now the CEO.
But she didn’t stop there. Because of her fascination with technology and artificial intelligence, Martine commissioned the creation of Bina48 (pictured above). Applauded as one of the most advanced artificial intelligence robots in the world, she resides in a house with a caretaker and is learning how to be as close as possible to the original Bina, which includes learning her history, mannerisms, and thought patterns.
Although there is still much tuning to be done, the resemblance between Bina and Bina48 is rather amazing, even though, as Jon Ronson pointed out, she’s not all there yet; but work pertaining to artificial intelligence is definitely making strides in the right direction, just ask Martine Rothblatt if you don’t believe me.
Photo Credit: Peter Hapak via New York Magazine.