THE HOLOGRAM MAN
Dmitry Itskov, 32
VIEW OF THE FUTURE: Immortality through holograms. (Hey, it worked for Tupac.) Itskov anticipates developing hologram-brain interfaces within 32 years that can host the human consciousness forever. "Holograms give plenty of advantages," he told Wired. "You can walk through walls, move at the speed of light. Remember in Star Wars, Obi-Wan's hologram? That was pretty amazing."
HOW HE'S PREPARING FOR IT: In 2011, the Russian media baron hired 30 of his country's top scientists to work on his dream, which he calls the 2045 Initiative. He also created the Russian political party Evolution 2045 (which cribs from Ray Kurzweil's predicted year of the singularity) with the goal of accelerating human evolution via the technology, which Itskov hopes will eventually be mass-produced and cost about as much as a car. To help fund the project, he sent an open letter requesting donations from the other members of the Forbes billionaires list. No word on any takers.
DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: According to Evolution 2045, written in Itskov's best H.G. Wells impersonation: "Our civilization is like a ship out of control, sailing in the storm with ever increasing speed, without a map or compass. At the same time there is little time for making the right decisions. We face a choice: either to enter a new dark-age by the middle of this century and sink into global chaos as forecasted by scientists or find and realize a new model of human civilization."
THE BRAIN PRESERVER
Ken Hayworth, 42
VIEW OF THE FUTURE: Life after death—sort of. In a process that Hayworth predicts will one day be as common as laser eye surgery, volunteers are anesthetized and a cocktail of toxic chemicals is injected into their vascular system, preventing decay but killing the patient instantly. The brain is then removed and its neural pathways are precisely mapped. Within 100 years or so, Hayworth believes, scientists will be able to reanimate the mind, connect it to a robot body, and revive the long-gone patient.
HOW HE'S PREPARING FOR IT: Hayworth has reportedly approached Peter Diamandis to set up a brain-preservation XPRIZE and tried to solicit a partnership with über investor Peter Thiel. Neither has so far gotten on board. Hayworth cofounded the Brain Preservation Foundation and has offered a prize to any scientific team that can successfully preserve the synaptic structure of a large mammal's brain through a process that could be adapted to humans immediately upon clinical death.
BONA FIDES: His first job out of college was designing gyroscopes to orient NASA spacecraft. As a grad student, he developed technology that changed the way brain tissue is cut and imaged—out of his garage. Recipient of a grant from the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neurosciences and a fellowship at Harvard. Senior scientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: That the world won't listen. Hayworth once wrote that our grandchildren "will say that we died not because of heart disease, cancer, or stroke, but instead that we died pathetically out of ignorance and superstition. . . . In one hundred years they will ask in disbelief, 'Our grandparents had the technology to preserve the precise neural circuitry of their brains for long-term storage. . . . Why then did grandpa and the rest of his generation reject brain preservation and mind uploading as a means of overcoming death?'"
Jason Silva, 31
VIEW OF THE FUTURE: It's going to be great . . . really, really great!
HOW HE'S PREPARING FOR IT: Silva makes viral short videos about futurism, which he calls "shots of philosophical espresso," but he isn't doing any actual scientific or technological work to help his fellow futurists make the dream happen. This self-described "epiphany addict" is just really fucking amped.
BONA FIDES: For starters, he dated Heather Graham. And although he doesn't have an Ivy League pedigree (he studied film and philosophy at the University of Miami), Silva is a popular speaker. Has appeared at Google three times, spoken at TEDGlobal, and given keynote speeches at events for Microsoft and IBM. Was a featured speaker at the Economist Ideas Festival, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the DLD Conference in Munich, the Singularity Summit, Mexico's Ciudad de las Ideas, and the Seattle Interactive Conference. Hosts the National Geographic Channel's new series Brain Games and is extremely skilled at making big movements with his hands when he talks. Is also the best-looking futurist by far.
WHAT HE CALLS HIMSELF: An "idea DJ" and a "performance philosopher."
WHAT OTHERS CALL HIM: "A part-time filmmaker and full-time walking, talking TEDTalk," according to the Atlantic online.
DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: Get real! Silva may be Earth's most optimistic inhabitant.
THE PARTY POOPER
Bill Joy, 58
VIEW OF THE FUTURE: Despite his name, Joy is the Debbie Downer of the movement. Back in 2000, he famously sounded the alarm in an essay for Wired entitled "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us," warning readers that out-of-control advances in technologies like robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology could turn humans into an endangered species.
HOW HE'S PREPARING FOR IT: Joy has been busy trying to protect the human race from itself. In 2003, he left the tech-making game to enter the tech-funding game and joined the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2005 to help it invest in companies developing technology to fight existing challenges like climate change and global poverty as well as emerging challenges. In 2006, KPCB started a $200 million specialty fund to invest in pandemic control and biodefense in a world where terrorists can download the gene sequences for pathogens from the Internet.
BONA FIDES: Joy is a widely respected computer scientist and former co-chair of the presidential commission on the future of IT research. Also a cofounder of Sun Microsystems.
DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: Following a barroom discussion with Ray Kurzweil about the singularity (which Joy later wrote "haunts me to this day"), he read part of Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines and found himself troubled by a long passage about the dangers of technological advancement that quoted Ted Kaczynski: "The human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines' decisions." Disturbed that he saw merit in the Unabomber's manifesto (Kaczynski gravely injured a friend of Joy's in one of his attacks), Joy set off on a scientific soul-searching mission and emerged as the most fretful of all the futurists.