Watch CBS News

Seen At 11: 'Digital Immortality' Could Cloning A Loved One Soon Be A Reality?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Would you want to live forever? How about your parents? Would you want to be able to ask for their advice long after they're gone?

As CBS2's Maurice DuBois reported, cloning a loved one is no longer the stuff of science fiction thanks to "digital immortality."

Like many women, Bina Rothblatt doesn't like to talk about her age, but she does like to talk about the past.

"I used to play piano, and my parents pushed me into a recital," she said.

Rothblatt likes to talk about her future even more.

"I do dream about becoming a great inventor some day," she said.

But Bina is not a real woman -- she is actually a robot. She does, however, have a real mind.

"There will come a time when robots like Bina are living among us as our cyber neighbors, as part of our family," said Bruce Duncan, managing director of the Terasem Movement Foundation.

Bina is a clone. She shares the appearance of a very real woman named Bina Rothblatt, as well as her exact memories, attitudes, and beliefs.

"This is one way to start changing the way we look at what it means to be human," Duncan said.

It's technology we've so far only seen in movies.

In real life, Bina is one of the first clones to be implanted with a mind file representing an actual person's consciousness. The robot can even see thanks to facial recognition software, so she actually knows who she's talking to.

Bina is the brain child of the real Rothblatt's spouse who couldn't fathom a life without her.

"They want to be together forever," Duncan said.

The Terasem Movement was started by the Rothblatts to further research cloning minds.

"Maybe even someday, a couple hundred years from now into new bodies that are based on the DNA of the original," he said.

As many as 56,000 people have already signed up on the foundation's website to start uploading the contents of their minds with the hopes of being cloned.

"It's fascinating, but this has a lot of emotional and psychological ramifications," Duncan said.

Neurologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez said while the technology is incredible it has potential to interfere with the natural progression of human life.

"The way this world works is that people pass away, people get divorced, and you move on," he said.

A cloned love one can not only impede that process, it can complicate it, Dr. Hafeez said.

"You're now attached to a non-living thing," he said.

Duncan said you can't put the scientific curiosity back in the box. While they still have decades of work ahead to perfect cloning, in the near future robots will not only be able to make the same facial expressions as the people they're modeled after, they'll even sound like them.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.