Who?!?! – Ray Kurzweil
Raymond “Ray” Kurzweil born February 12, 1948) is an American author, inventor and futurist. Aside from futurology, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is generally recognized as a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, due to his stances on life extension technologies, his efforts to forecast future advances in technology, and his interest in the concept of the technological singularity. At the same time, he has attracted significant criticism from scientists and thinkers.
Ray Kurzweil has been described as “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison,” and PBS included Ray as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries.
As one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. Ray’s web site Kurzweil AI.net has over one million readers.
Among Ray’s many honors, he is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world’s largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame , established by the US Patent Office.
He has received nineteen honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents.
Ray has written six books, four of which have been national best sellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best selling book on Amazon in science. Ray’s latest book, The Singularity is Near, was a New York Times best seller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy.
The Age of Intelligent Machines
Kurzweil gained notoriety as a futurist with his first book The Age of Intelligent Machines. Written from 1986 to 1989 and published in 1990, it forecast the demise of the Soviet Union due to new technologies such as cellular phones and fax machines disempowering authoritarian governments by removing state control over the flow of information. In 2005, Mikhail Gorbachev told Kurzweil that emerging decentralized electronic communication “was a big factor” for fostering democracy in the Soviet Union.
In the book, Kurzweil also extrapolated preexisting trends in the improvement of computer chess software performance to predict correctly that computers would beat the best human players by 1998, and most likely in that year. In fact, the event occurred in May 1997 when chess World Champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue computer in a well-publicized chess tournament.
Perhaps most significantly, Kurzweil foresaw the explosive growth in worldwide Internet use that began in the 1990s. At the time of the publication of The Age of Intelligent Machines, there were only 2.6 million Internet users in the world, and the medium was unreliable, difficult to use, and deficient in content. He also stated that the Internet would explode not only in the number of users but in content as well, eventually granting users access “to international networks of libraries, data bases, and information services”. Additionally, Kurzweil correctly foresaw that the preferred mode of Internet access would inevitably be through wireless systems, and he was also correct to estimate that the latter would become practical for widespread use in the early 21st century.
The Age of Spiritual Machines
In 1999, Kurzweil published a second book titled The Age of Spiritual Machines, which goes into more depth explaining his futurist ideas. The third and final section of the book is devoted to elucidating the specific course of technological advancements Kurzweil believes the world will experience over the next century. Titled “To Face the Future”, the section is divided into four chapters respectively named “2009”, “2019”, “2029”, and “2099”. For every chapter, Kurzweil issues predictions about what life and technology will be like in that year.
Kurzweil restated his earlier prediction from The Age of Intelligent Machines regarding the advent of pocket-sized, text-to-speech converters for the blind. The “Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader” (K-NFB Reader) was introduced in 2005, though a significant reduction in price would be required by 2009 to reasonably classify the device as “cheap”—one quality Kurzweil claimed they would possess.
The Singularity Is Near
While this book focuses on the future of technology and the human race as The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Age of Spiritual Machines did, Kurzweil makes very few concrete, short-term predictions in The Singularity Is Near, though longer-term visions are present in abundance.
Kurzweil predicts that, in 2005, supercomputers with the computational capacities to simulate protein folding will be introduced. In 2010, a supercomputer simulated protein folding for a very small protein at an atomic level over a period of a millisecond. The protein folded and unfolded, with the results closely matching experimental data. The biyearly protein structure prediction contest CASP shows that the current algorithms for structure prediction are still impractical for determining the previously unknown structure of most proteins.
In an October 2002 article published on his website, Kurzweil stated that “Deep Fritz-like chess programs running on ordinary personal computers will routinely defeat all humans later in this decade.” Deep Fritz is a computer chess program—generally considered superior to the older Deep Blue — that has defeated or tied a number of human chess masters and opposing chess programs. Due to advances in personal computer performance, the Deep Fritz program can now run on ordinary personal computers, and different versions of it are available for purchase. While this makes the first part of Kurzweil’s prediction true, it is unknown whether the Deep Fritz programs are currently defeating all humans in all games played, though considering the impressive professional record of Deep Fritz, it would be reasonable to assume[original research?] that only the very best human players can beat the program with consistency. In September 2002, Chessmaster 9000, a widely available chess playing game from Ubisoft, defeated the then U.S. Chess Champion and International Grandmaster Larry Christiansen in a four-game match.. In 2006 reigning World Champion Vladimir Kramnik was defeated 4:2 by Deep Fritz, running on a multiprocessor personal computer. .
Ray Kurzweil’s response
According to Ray Kurzweil, 89 out of 108 predictions he made were entirely correct by the end of 2009. An additional 13 were what he calls “essentially correct” (meaning that they were likely to be released within a few years of 2009), for a total of 102 out of 108. Another 3 are partially correct, 2 look like they are about 10 years off, and 1, which was tongue in cheek anyway, was just wrong. Kurzweil later released a more detailed analysis of the accuracy of his predictions up to 2009, arguing that most were correct.
The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990)
- Translating telephones allow people to speak to each other in different languages.
- Machines designed to transcribe speech into computer text allow deaf people to understand spoken words.
- Exoskeletal, robotic leg prostheses allow the paraplegic to walk.
- Telephone calls are routinely screened by intelligent answering machines that ask questions to determine the call’s nature and priority.
- “Cybernetic chauffeurs” can drive cars for humans and can be retrofitted into existing cars. They work by communicating with other vehicles and with sensors embedded along the roads.
Early 21st century
- The classroom is dominated by computers. Intelligent courseware that can tailor itself to each student by recognizing their strengths and weaknesses. Media technology allows students to manipulate and interact with virtual depictions of the systems and personalities they are studying.
- A small number of highly skilled people dominates the entire production sector. Tailoring of products for individuals is common.
- Drugs are designed and tested in simulations that mimic the human body.
- Blind people navigate and read text using machines that can visually recognize features of their environment.
Note: Since the “Early 2000s” and “Early 21st century” predictions are both listed before the “2010” predictions in the technology Chronology, it can be assumed that the timeframe for the first two is 2000–2010.
- PCs are capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the Internet.
- Phone calls entail three-dimensional holographic images of both people.
- By 2020, there will be a new World government.
- A computer passes the Turing Test, becoming the first true Artificial Intelligence.
- Computer intelligence becomes superior to human intelligence in all areas.
The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999)
- Most books will be read on screens rather than paper.
- Most text will be created using speech recognition technology.
- Intelligent roads and driverless cars will be in use, mostly on highways.
- A $1,000 personal computer has as much raw power as the human brain.
- The summed computational powers of all computers is comparable to the total brainpower of the human race.
- Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.).
- People experience 3-D virtual reality through glasses and contact lenses that beam images directly to their retinas (retinal display). Coupled with an auditory source (headphones), users can remotely communicate with other people and access the Internet. The early stages of this Technology are already apparent as of 2011: http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2011-11/terminator-eyes-might-not-be-far
- These special glasses and contact lenses can deliver “augmented reality” and “virtual reality” in three different ways. First, they can project “heads-up-displays” (HUDs) across the user’s field of vision, superimposing images that stay in place in the environment regardless of the user’s perspective or orientation. Second, virtual objects or people could be rendered in fixed locations by the glasses, so when the user’s eyes look elsewhere, the objects appear to stay in their places. Third, the devices could block out the “real” world entirely and fully immerse the user in a virtual reality environment.
- People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures instead of with keyboards. Furthermore, most of this interaction occurs through computerized assistants with different personalities that the user can select or customize. Dealing with computers thus becomes more and more like dealing with a human being.
- Most business transactions or information inquiries involve dealing with a simulated person.
- Most people own more than one PC, though the concept of what a “computer” is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes.
- Cables connecting computers and peripherals have almost completely disappeared.
- Rotating computer hard drives are no longer used.
- Three-dimensional nanotube lattices are the dominant computing substrate.
- Massively parallel neural nets and genetic algorithms are in wide use.
- Destructive scans of the brain and noninvasive brain scans have allowed scientists to understand the brain much better. The algorithms that allow the relatively small genetic code of the brain to construct a much more complex organ are being transferred into computer neural nets.
- Pinhead-sized cameras are everywhere.
- Nanotechnology is more capable and is in use for specialized applications, yet it has not yet made it into the mainstream. “Nanoengineered machines” begin to be used in manufacturing.
- Thin, lightweight, handheld displays with very high resolutions are the preferred means for viewing documents. The aforementioned computer eyeglasses and contact lenses are also used for this same purpose, and all download the information wirelessly.
- Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely obsolete.
- Most learning is accomplished through intelligent, adaptive courseware presented by computer-simulated teachers. In the learning process, human adults fill the counselor and mentor roles instead of being academic instructors. These assistants are often not physically present, and help students remotely.
- Students still learn together and socialize, though this is often done remotely via computers.
- All students have access to computers.
- Most human workers spend the majority of their time acquiring new skills and knowledge.
- Blind people wear special glasses that interpret the real world for them through speech. Sighted people also use these glasses to amplify their own abilities.
- Retinal and neural implants also exist, but are in limited use because they are less useful.
- Deaf people use special glasses that convert speech into text or signs, and music into images or tactile sensations. Cochlear and other implants are also widely used.
- People with spinal cord injuries can walk and climb steps using computer-controlled nerve stimulation and exoskeletal robotic walkers.
- Computers are also found inside of some humans in the form of cybernetic implants. These are most commonly used by disabled people to regain normal physical faculties (i.e. – Retinal implants allow the blind to see and spinal implants coupled with mechanical legs allow the paralyzed to walk).
- Language translating machines are of much higher quality, and are routinely used in conversations.
- Effective language technologies (natural language processing, speech recognition, speech synthesis) exist
- Access to the Internet is completely wireless and provided by wearable or implanted computers.
- People are able to wirelessly access the Internet at all times from almost anywhere
- Devices that deliver sensations to the skin surface of their users (i.e.–tight body suits and gloves) are also sometimes used in virtual reality to complete the experience. “Virtual sex”–in which two people are able to have sex with each other through virtual reality, or in which a human can have sex with a “simulated” partner that only exists on a computer—becomes a reality.
- Just as visual- and auditory virtual reality have come of age, haptic technology has fully matured and is completely convincing, yet requires the user to enter a V.R. booth. It is commonly used for computer sex and remote medical examinations. It is the preferred sexual medium since it is safe and enhances the experience.
- Worldwide economic growth has continued. There has not been a global economic collapse.
- The vast majority of business interactions occur between humans and simulated retailers, or between a human’s virtual personal assistant and a simulated retailer.
- Household robots are ubiquitous and reliable.
- Computers do most of the vehicle driving—-humans are in fact prohibited from driving on highways unassisted. Furthermore, when humans do take over the wheel, the onboard computer system constantly monitors their actions and takes control whenever the human drives recklessly. As a result, there are very few transportation accidents.
- Most roads now have automated driving systems—networks of monitoring and communication devices that allow computer-controlled automobiles to safely navigate.
- Prototype personal flying vehicles using microflaps exist. They are also primarily computer-controlled.
- Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities, which hold some advantages over human partners. The depth of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be accorded more rights.
- While a growing number of humans believe that their computers and the simulated personalities they interact with are intelligent to the point of human-level consciousness, experts dismiss the possibility that any could pass the Turing Test.
- Human-robot relationships begin as simulated personalities become more convincing.
- Interaction with virtual personalities becomes a primary interface
- Public places and workplaces are ubiquitously monitored to prevent violence and all actions are recorded permanently. Personal privacy is a major political issue, and some people protect themselves with unbreakable computer codes.
- The basic needs of the underclass are met. (Not specified if this pertains only to the developed world or to all countries)
- Virtual artists—creative computers capable of making their own art and music—emerge in all fields of the arts.
- A $1,000 personal computer is 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain.
- The vast majority of computation is done by computers and not by human brains.
- Further progress has been made in understanding the secrets of the human brain. Hundreds of distinct sub-regions with specialized functions have been identified. Some of the algorithms that code for development of these regions have been deciphered and incorporated into neural net computers.
- Massively parallel neural nets, which are constructed through reverse-engineering the human brain, are in common use.
- The eyeglasses and headphones that used to deliver virtual reality are now obsolete thanks to computer implants that go into the eyes and ears. The implants are either permanent or removable. They allow direct interface with computers, communications and Internet-based applications. The implants are also capable of recording what the user sees and hears.
- Computer implants designed for direct connection to the brain are also available. They are capable of augmenting natural senses and of enhancing higher brain functions like memory, learning speed and overall intelligence.
- Computers are now capable of learning and creating new knowledge entirely on their own and with no human help. By scanning the enormous content of the Internet, some computers “know” literally every single piece of public information (every scientific discovery, every book and movie, every public statement, etc.) generated by human beings.
- Direct brain implants allow users to enter full-immersion virtual reality—with complete sensory stimulation—without any external equipment. People can have their minds in a totally different place at any moment. This technology is in widespread use.
- Most communication occurs between humans and machines as opposed to human-to-human.
- The manufacturing, agricultural and transportation sectors of the economy are almost entirely automated and employ very few humans. Across the world, poverty, war and disease are almost nonexistent thanks to technology alleviating want.
- The rise of Artificial Intelligence creates a real “robot rights” movement, and there is open, public debate over what sorts of civil rights and legal protections machines should have. The existence of humans with heavy levels of cybernetic augmentation and of larger numbers of other people with less extreme cybernetic implants lead to further arguments over what constitutes a “human being.”
- Although computers routinely pass the Turing Test, controversy still persists over whether machines are as intelligent as humans in all areas.
- Artificial Intelligences claim to be conscious and openly petition for recognition of the fact. Most people admit and accept this new truth.
- Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
- Non-biological intelligence combines the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
- Non-biological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed
- Food is commonly “assembled” by nanomachines. This food is externally indistinguishable from “natural” food, but it can be made more wholesome since production can be controlled at the molecular level. This technology decouples food production from climate conditions and the availability of natural resources.
- The distinction between virtual reality and “real” reality becomes confounded as foglets come into common use, allowing immediate assembly or disassembly of all sorts of physical objects.
- Picoengineering (technology on the scale of trillionths of a meter) becomes practical.
- The human brain has been completely reverse engineered and all aspects of its functioning are understood.
- Natural human thinking possesses no advantages over computer minds.
- Machines have attained equal legal status with humans.
- Humans and machines merge in the physical and mental realms. Cybernetic brain implants enable humans to fuse their minds with AI’s.
- In consequence, clear distinctions between humans and machines no longer exist.
- Most conscious beings lack a permanent physical form.
- The vast majority of the Earth’s sentient beings are AI’s that exist entirely as thinking computer programs capable of instantly moving from one computer to another across the Internet (or whatever equivalent exists in 2099). These computer-based beings are capable of manifesting themselves at will in the physical world by creating or taking over robotic bodies, with individual AI’s also being capable of controlling multiple bodies at once.
- Individual beings merge and separate constantly, making it impossible to determine how many “people” there are on Earth.
- This new plasticity of consciousness and ability for beings to join minds seriously alters the nature of self-identity.
- The majority of interpersonal interactions occur in virtual environments. Actually having two people physically meet in the real world to have a conversation or transact business without any technological interference is very rare.
- Organic human beings are a small minority of the intelligent life forms on Earth. Even among the remaining Homo sapiens, the use of computerized implants that heavily augment normal abilities is ubiquitous and accepted as normal. The small fraction of humans who opt to remain “natural” and unmodified effectively exist on a lower and more limited plane of consciousness from everyone else, and thus find it impossible to fully interact with AI’s and highly modified humans.
- “Natural” humans are protected from extermination. In spite of their shortcomings and frailties, humans are respected by AI’s for giving rise to the machines.
- Since knowledge and skills can be instantly downloaded and comprehended by most intelligent beings, the process of learning is compressed into an instantaneous affair instead of the years-long struggle normal humans experience. Free from this time-consuming burden, AI’s now focus their energies on making new discoveries and contributions.
- AI’s are capable of dividing their attention and energies in countless directions, allowing one being to manage a multitude of endeavors simultaneously.
- Femtoengineering (engineering on the scale of one thousandth of a trillionth of a meter) might be possible.
- AI’s communicate via a shared electronic language.
- Artwork and music created by machines encompasses areas of the light spectrum and frequencies of sounds that normal humans cannot perceive.
- Money has deflated in value, meaning all sorts of goods and services have become cheaper.
- Some humans at least as old as the Baby Boomers are still alive and well.
- Computer viruses are a major threat since most intelligent beings are software-based.
- AI’s frequently make “backup copies” of themselves, guaranteeing a sort of immortality should the original AI be killed.
- The concept of “life expectancy” has become irrelevant to humans and machines thanks to medical immortality and advanced computers.
- The pace of technological change continues to accelerate as the 22nd century nears.
Thousands of years from now
- “Intelligent beings consider the fate of the Universe.” Presumably, this means that the AI’s created by humans will have the ability to control the entire Universe, perhaps keeping it from dying.
The Singularity is Near (2005)
- Supercomputers will have the same raw computing power as human brains, though the software to emulate human thinking on those computers does not yet exist. (see IBM Sequoia)
- Computers will start to disappear as distinct physical objects, meaning many will have nontraditional shapes or will be embedded in clothing and everyday objects.
- Full-immersion audio-visual virtual reality will exist. (see Xbox Kinect)
- The decade in which “Bridge Two”, the revolution in Genetics, is to reach its peak: ultimately, people will be able to “reprogram” their own biochemistry away from disease and aging.
- Computers become smaller and increasingly integrated into everyday life. (See Microcontroller)
- More and more computer devices will be used as miniature web servers, and more will have their resources pooled for computation. (See Grid computing)
- High-quality broadband Internet access will become available almost everywhere. (See LTE, OAMM)
- Eyeglasses that beam images onto the users’ retinas to produce virtual reality will be developed. They will also come with speakers or headphone attachments that will complete the experience with sounds. These eyeglasses will become a new medium for advertising as advertising will be wirelessly transmitted to them as one walks by various business establishments. This was fictionalized in Dennō Coil. (See Project Glass)
- The VR glasses will also have built-in computers featuring “virtual assistant” programs that can help the user with various daily tasks. (see Augmented Reality, Siri)
- Virtual assistants would be capable of multiple functions. One useful function would be real-time language translation in which words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as subtitles to a user wearing the glasses. (See Machine translation)
- Cell phones will be built into clothing and will be able to project sounds directly into the ears of their users. (See E-textiles)
- Advertisements will utilize a new technology whereby two ultrasonic beams can be targeted to intersect at a specific point, delivering a localized sound message that only a single person can hear. This was fictionalized in the films Minority Report and Back to the Future Part II. (See Sound from ultrasound.)
Kurzweil said in a 2006 C-SPAN2 interview that “nanotechnology-based” flying cars would be available in 20 years.
Kurzweil said in a 2008 conference that solar energy would become cheaper than energy from oil by 2014.
Kurzweil said the following in a November 2007 Computerworld interview:
- Speech-to-speech translation features will be available in cell phones in either 2009 or 2010.
- By 2017, computers will have become even more ubiquitous in the environment, largely owing to smaller size. Some will be woven into clothing and will be “self-organizing.”
- By the same year, practical virtual reality glasses will be in use. The devices will work by beaming images directly onto the retinas of their users, creating large, three-dimensional floating images in the person’s field of view. Such devices would provide a visual experience on par with a very large television, but would be highly portable, combining the best features of the iPod and a widescreen TV. The glasses will deliver full-immersion virtual reality.
- By 2017, “augmented reality” will exist: The V.R. glasses previously mentioned will have advanced computers and sensors built into them that will be able to recognize elements within the user’s environment and then provide appropriate information and assistance through visual or auditory means. If the user looks at a building or a person’s face, the computer will provide information through a “heads-up-display” beamed onto the person’s retinas. The devices could also be used for keeping track of schedules, navigating, and querying for general information.
- By 2022, medical technology will be more than a thousand times more advanced than it is today, and the “tipping point” of human life expectancy will have been reached, with every new year of research guaranteeing at least one more year of life expectancy. Kurzweil also states that 3–4 months of life expectancy were added in 2007 due to the development of new medicines and treatments.
- Cell phones and PCs will be increasingly woven into a global grid of computers wirelessly connected to the Internet. Instead of each device just sending and receiving its own data, more and more of the machines will be tasked with processing foreign data, creating a huge, interconnected network with millions of nodes.
- By 2027, accurate computer simulations of all parts of the human brain will exist.
According to the Law of Accelerating Return, nanotechnology will be a million times more powerful in 20 years than it is today. Futurist Ray Kurzweil discusses how robotic red blood cells will aid in ending disease as we know it.
- Automatic house cleaning robots will likely have become common.
- 1013 bits (=10 TB) of computer memory—roughly the equivalent of the memory space in a single human brain—will cost $1000.
- One personal computer will have the same processing power as a human brain.
- The decade in which “Bridge Three”, the revolution in Nanotechnology, is to begin: allowing humans to vastly overcome the inherent limitations of biology, as no matter how much we fine-tune our biology, we will never be as capable otherwise.
- Computers less than 100 nm in size will be possible.
- As one of their first practical applications, nanomachines are used for medical purposes.
- Highly advanced medical nanobots will perform detailed brainscans on live patients.
- Accurate computer simulations of the entire human brain will exist due to these hyperaccurate brainscans, and the workings of the brain will be understood.
- Nanobots capable of entering the bloodstream to “feed” cells and extract waste will exist (though not necessarily be in wide use) by the end of this decade. They will make the normal mode of human food consumption obsolete.
- By the late 2020s, nanotech-based manufacturing will be in widespread use, radically altering the economy as all sorts of products can suddenly be produced for a fraction of their traditional-manufacture costs. The true cost of any product is now the amount it takes to download the design schematics.
- By the later part of this decade, virtual reality will be so high-quality that it will be indistinguishable from real reality.
- The threat posed by genetically engineered pathogens permanently dissipates by the end of this decade as medical nanobots—infinitely more durable, intelligent and capable than any microorganism—become sufficiently advanced.
- A computer passes the Turing test by the last year of the decade (2029), meaning that it is a Strong AI and can think like a human (though the first A.I. is likely to be the equivalent of a very stupid human). This first A.I. is built around a computer simulation of a human brain, which was made possible by previous, nanotech-guided brainscanning.
- The many variations of “Human Body 2.0” (as Kurzweil calls it) are incrementally accumulated into this decade, with each organ and body system having it’s own course of refinement and development. It ultimately consists of a nanotechnological system of nourishment and circulation—obsolescing many internal organs—and an improved skeleton.
- The most likely year for the debut of advanced nanotechnology.
- Some military UAVs and land vehicles will be 100% computer-controlled.
- Mind uploading becomes successful and perfected by the end of this decade as humans become software-based: living out on the Web, projecting bodies whenever they want or need (whether in virtual or real reality), and living indefinitely so long as they maintain their “mind file”. Eventually, all human beings (including those with transbiological 2.0 or 3.0 bodies) will migrate to this postbiological state except for those who wish to remain unenhanced: the transbiological era giving way to the postbiological era.
- Nanomachines could be directly inserted into the brain and could interact with brain cells to totally control incoming and outgoing signals. As a result, truly full-immersion virtual reality could be generated without the need for any external equipment. Afferent nerve pathways could be blocked, totally canceling out the “real” world and leaving the user with only the desired virtual experience.
- Brain nanobots could also elicit emotional responses from users.
- Using brain nanobots, recorded or real-time brain transmissions of a person’s daily life known as “experience beamers” will be available for other people to remotely experience. This is very similar to how the characters in Being John Malkovich were able to enter the mind of Malkovich and see the world through his eyes.
- Recreational uses aside, nanomachines in peoples’ brains will allow them to greatly expand their cognitive, memory and sensory capabilities, to directly interface with computers, and to “telepathically” communicate with other, similarly augmented humans via wireless networks.
- The same nanotechnology should also allow people to alter the neural connections within their brains, changing the underlying basis for the person’s intelligence, memories and personality.
- The many variations of “Human Body 3.0” are gradually implemented during this and the following decade; It mostly likely lacks a fixed, corporeal form and can alter its shape and external appearance at will via foglet-like nanotechnology.
- People spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality (Kurzweil has cited The Matrix as a good example of what the advanced virtual worlds will be like, without the dystopian twist).
- Foglets are in use.
- Nonbiological intelligence will be billions of times more capable then biological intelligence.
2045: The Singularity
- $1000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human combined. This means that average and even low-end computers are vastly smarter than even highly intelligent, unenhanced humans.
- The technological singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Technological development is taken over by the machines, who can think, act and communicate so quickly that normal humans cannot even comprehend what is going on. The machines enter into a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, with each new generation of A.I.s appearing faster and faster. From this point onwards, technological advancement is explosive, under the control of the machines, and thus cannot be accurately predicted (hence the term “Singularity”).
- The Singularity is an extremely disruptive, world-altering event that forever changes the course of human history. The extermination of humanity by violent machines is unlikely (though not impossible) because sharp distinctions between man and machine will no longer exist thanks to the existence of cybernetically enhanced humans and uploaded humans.
Post-2045: “Waking up” the Universe
- The physical bottom limit to how small computer transistors (or other equivalent, albeit more effective components, such as memristors integrated into Crossbar latches) can be shrunk is reached. From this moment onwards, computers can only be made more powerful if they are made larger in size.
- Because of this, A.I.s convert more and more of the Earth’s matter into engineered, computational substrate capable of supporting more A.I.s. until the whole Earth is one, gigantic computer, except for a few nature reserves set aside on the planetary surface for those humans who decided to remain in their natural state. “MOSH’s” (Mostly Original Substrate Human) who choose to remain purely organic would still possess virtual assistants that will act as their transcendent servants, living in the blurred real world (“foglet-reality”) and being provided with environments and everything they could possibly need as they live out the rest of their normal lives unless they enhance themselves.
- At this point, the only possible way to increase the intelligence of the machines any farther is to begin converting all of the matter and energy in the universe into similar massive computers. A.I.s radiate outward from Earth, first into the Solar System and then out into interstellar space, then galaxies in all directions, utilizing starships that are Von Neumann probes with nanobot crews, breaking down whole planets, stars, moons, and meteoroids and reassembling them into computers. This, in effect, “wakes up” the universe as all the inanimate “dumb” matter (rocks, dust, gases, etc.) is converted into structured matter capable of supporting life (albeit synthetic life).
- Kurzweil predicts that machines might have the ability to make planet-sized computers by 2099, which underscores how enormously technology will advance after the Singularity.
- The process of “waking up” the universe could be completed well before the end of the 22nd century, provided we are not limited by the speed of light.
- With the entire universe made into a giant, highly efficient supercomputer, AI and human hybrids (so integrated that, in truth it is a new category of “life”) would have both supreme intelligence and physical control over the universe. We will still not possess infinite levels of any attributes, as the accelerating change of evolution never reaches an infinite measure (though it moves rapidly in that direction), becoming, as Kurzweil writes, ‘moving inexorably toward this monotheistic conception of God, though never reaching this ideal”; even theories such as the holographic universe or the Multiverse theories still result in finite levels. The final chapter however notes that, if possible, the ability to create and colonize other universes (and if their is a way to do this, our vast intelligence is likely to harness it, as with surpassing/bypassing the speed of light) could allow the intelligence of the human/machine civilization to extend indefinitely, akin to a singularity in mathematics. If not, then saturating our own universe will remain our ultimate fate.
Some indeterminate points within a few decades from now
- Space technology becomes advanced enough to provide the Earth permanent protection from the threat of asteroid impacts.
- The antitechnology Luddite movement will grow increasingly vocal and possibly resort to violence as these people become enraged over the emergence of new technologies that threaten traditional attitudes regarding the nature of human life (radical life extension, genetic engineering, cybernetics) and the supremacy of mankind (artificial intelligence). Though the Luddites might, at best, succeed in delaying the Singularity, the march of technology is irresistible and they will inevitably fail in keeping the world frozen at a fixed level of development.
- The emergence of distributed energy grids and full-immersion virtual reality will, when combined with high bandwidth Internet, enable the ultimate in telecommuting. This, in turn, will make cities obsolete since workers will no longer need to be located near their workplaces. The decentralization of the population will make societies less vulnerable to terrorist and military attacks.