SXSW keynote speaker Martine Rothblatt speaks about artificial intelligence and the future of consciousness Sunday at the Austin Convention Center. Credit: SXSW

The future undoubtedly got a lot more complicated for some South by Southwest Interactive attendees after the Sunday keynote presentation with transhumanist Martine Rothblatt.

Rothblatt, who invented SiriusXM Radio and is now working in the field of artificial intelligence, discussed many aspects from her book “Virtually Human: The Promise — and the Peril — of Digital Immortality.” They include the ways that we may, in the future, transfer our consciousness to machines (think lifelike robots with human form, not a Dell Inspiron); the legal and ethical implications of creating “Mind clones” of ourselves which would have their own consciousness; and the ways medicine and organ cloning will save many, many lives.

It was heady stuff, incredibly forward-thinking stuff, but Rothblatt made it personal and practical, giving convincing reasons why humans would want to essentially live forever and why we must begin to imagine a time when we must treat our mind clones equally. With perhaps more understatement than intended, Rothblatt said, “It will be hard for older generations to adjust.”

Uh, YEAH.

It would be easy to dismiss the future as crazy sci-fi, but Rothblatt has a proven track record in technology and is a contemporary of “Singularity” futurist Ray Kurzweil. And these were not just musings or ideas based on whimsy. Rothblatt believes these technologies are “Inevitable.” And she’s probably right.

The keynote, which was an interview by New York Magazine writer Lisa Miller, touched briefly on Rothblatt’s own personal journey as a transgender woman who grew up in strong family and was always encouraged to questions authority. Rothblatt, who is the founder of United Therapeutics Corp., also happens to be the highest-paid woman CEO, a fact that opened the hour-long presentation in Exhibit Hall 5 of the Austin Convention Center.

Rothblatt tackled thorny questions about whether a mind clone is the same as the person who is being cloned (Yes, she says, it would be like having a best friend who is you), and whether software would really be alive (once it has consciousness, yes). And what are the legal implications of divorcing the essence of your mind from your body? What if a mind clone decides it wants its cloned organs back. “That question is above my pay grade,” Rothblatt joked. But, she said, there’s not necessarily a line in the sand where human consciousness should end.

Despite the heady stuff, which could easily be fodder for the dark TV anthology “Black Mirror,” Rothblatt’s take on the future is utopian, not dystopian. She believes in loving transcendentally, in doing something productive with that love or self and others, being curious and questioning authority.

“The only way to be happy in the world is to keep making things,” Rothblatt said.

She also acknowledged what a wonder of timing her life is. 300 years ago, she said, she would have been beaten to death for being transgender. Today, “We have a president of the United States who can say the word ‘transgender’ without tripping over it.”

Session hashtag: #futureself