Virtually Human

The Promise---and the Peril---of Digital Immortality

Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D.; Foreword by Ray Kurzweil, Ph.D.

St. Martin's Press

Virtually Human explores what the not-too-distant future will look like when cyberconsciousness—simulation of the human brain via software and computer technology—becomes part of our daily lives.  Meet Bina48, the world's most sentient robot, commissioned by Martine Rothblatt and created by Hanson Robotics. Bina48 is a nascent Mindclone of Martine’s wife that can engage in conversation, answer questions, and even have spontaneous thoughts that are derived from multimedia data in a Mindfile created by the real Bina. If you’re active on Twitter or Facebook, share photos through Instagram, or blogging regularly, you’re already on your way to creating a Mindfile—a digital database of your thoughts, memories, feelings, and opinions that is essentially a back-up copy of your mind. Soon, this Mindfile can be made conscious with special software—Mindware—that mimics the way human brains organize information, create emotions and achieve self-awareness. This may sound like science-fiction, but the nascent technology already exists. Thousands of software engineers across the globe are working to create cyberconsciousness based on human consciousness and the Obama administration recently announced plans to invest in a decade-long Brain Activity Map project. Virtually Human is the only book to examine the ethical issues relating to cyberconsciousness and Rothblatt, with a Ph.D. in medical ethics, is uniquely qualified to lead the dialogue.


Read an Excerpt




The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.


The great innovators in the history of science had always been aware of the transparency of phenomena toward a different order of reality, of the ubiquitous presence of the ghost in the machine—even such a simple machine as a magnetic compass or a Leyden jar.


Recently I exchanged family photographs with a friend through email. Looking at the multiple



Praise for Virtually Human

"Maybe the most fascinating woman on the planet" - Jezebel

"Ingenious... a thoughtful philosophical exploration of the role of virtual humans in our future" - Kirkus Reviews

"Exponential technologies are driving a new dimension of human evolution.  In her compelling book, Virtually Human, Martine Rothblatt outlines how artificial consciousness is just around the corner, and explores the scientific and ethical ramifications. Science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact and the implications are breathtaking. Virtually Human is critical reading to anyone who plans to be around for the next couple of decades."—Peter H. Diamandis, MD, CEO, XPRIZE; Exec Chairman, Singularity University; New York Times bestselling author of Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think

"We are in the midst of a war between biological and electronic brains for dominance in our hybrid population. Bio-brains are, so far, ahead based on their inventiveness, energy-efficiency and exponential improvement rate. Will ethics asymmetrically restrict engineering humans or will it equally apply soon to ‘virtually human’ electronic brains?  Martine’s insights on these and many other topics are timely and welcome."—George Church, Harvard Professor, and author of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves

"Virtually Human is a fascinating read that clearly brings Alan Turing into the 21st century. I have argued that we are DNA-software driven machines and as we expand digital-biological interconversions, Martine’s "mind clones" and functional avatars are a logical outcome. Only by attempting to recreate models of humans will we truly begin to understand ourselves. Virtually Human is a great beginning." —J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., author of Life At The Speed Of Light and creator of the first synthetic cell

"In Virtually Human, Martine Rothblatt builds on the observation that "I think, therefore I am" in ways that Descartes could not have imagined.  With the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence, Rothblatt predicts that we soon will confront cyberconsciousness comparable to—indeed, indistinguishable from—the human mind.  When we cross this technological Rubicon, we will be forced to reconsider the meaning of concepts as foundational as life and death, law and liberty, love and kinship.  Bringing to bear the lessons of history, philosophy, psychology, law and science, Rothblatt makes abundantly clear that these unprecedented challenges will define the humanity not just of our technological doppelgangers but of ourselves."— Rachel F. Moran, Dean and Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law, and author of Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance

"Martine Rothblatt delivers an engaging exploration of the pathway to the near-term realization of our digital clones, and through the many ethical, legal, and spiritual challenges their advent will pose. Even skeptics, like myself, will find Virtually Human an intriguing vision filled with profoundly challenging ideas."—Wendell Wallach, Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, co-author of Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right From Wrong

"The social struggle over the moral status of uploaded personalities and machine minds will be as fraught and momentous as the struggles to end slavery and extend women's suffrage.  In Virtually Human, Martine Rothblatt brings her remarkable intellect and profound ethical insight to this issue in a way that will make it essential reading."—James J. Hughes, Ph.D., Executive Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

"Martine Rothblatt’s combination of stunning intellect, imagination, and optimism about the future take us to places that most of us can’t yet contemplate, but should. The term ‘renaissance person’ is overused, but so deserved in Rothblatt’s case. With her unparalleled expertise from several fields and deep understanding of our fears and trepidations, Rothblatt describes the science and human processes that will bring us to virtual humanity – and to the vast possibilities it brings."—Judy Olian, Dean and John E. Anderson Chair in Management, UCLA Anderson School of Management

"A wide-ranging, very readable, and possibly prescient look at one of the future's most exciting -- and at the same time most disturbing -- possibilities. Martine Rothblatt has been investigating this field, which some call uploading, for as long as anyone and has many rewarding insights."—J. Storrs Hall, author of Beyond AI and Nanofuture

"Advances in cognitive and computer sciences render artificial humans possible, some duplicating natural individuals with increasing fidelity.  When must we confront the ethical, legal, and social implications?  Now, in Virtually Human! "—William Sims Bainbridge, author of Personality Capture and Emulation and eGods: Faith Versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming

"Martine Rothblatt has a knack for expanding our minds as well as our comfort zones beyond customary boundaries, be they of gender or substrate." —Ray Kurzweil

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D.; Foreword by Ray Kurzweil, Ph.D.

  • MARTINE ROTHBLATT, Ph.D., MBA, J.D. is a lawyer, entrepreneur, and medical ethicist. In 1990 she founded and served as Chairman and CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio (now Sirius XM). When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease, Martine left Sirius to search for a cure. She founded United Therapeutics in 1996 and has since served as Chairman and CEO. Martine is also a leading legal advocate for human rights and has led the IBA in presenting the UN with a draft treaty on the genome.


Available Formats and Book Details

Virtually Human

The Promise---and the Peril---of Digital Immortality

Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D.; Foreword by Ray Kurzweil, Ph.D.



St. Martin's Press