Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil (Image: Wikimedia)
The Mayans might have predicted that the end of the world is only a month away from now, but Ray Kurzweil would say the end of the world as we know it will come sometime in the middle of 2040.
At that time, Kurzweil believes technology and artificial intelligence (or accelerated intelligence as he would call it) will be so advanced that humans will augment their own minds and organs with computers that exceed their own natural intelligence.
Kurzweil has been called a "restless genius" and a "futurist." On Tuesday, he sat down with Glenn Beck again on TheBlaze TV to discuss his ideas and his new book "How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed."
If you haven't heard yet of Kurzweil and his ideas, the crux is that at some point in the not so distant future humanity will make a technology-evolutionary jump, which he calls "the singularity." Believing such an event could happen feeds on itself creating an atmosphere that moves the necessary technological advances in genetics, robotics and other fields forward to a point where computers will exceed human intelligence and the only logical next step would be for us to use them to improve ourselves.
Here is a very brief snapshot of how Kurzweil describes the singularity on his website:
Within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated in our bodies, our brains, and our environment, overcoming pollution and poverty, providing vastly extended longevity, full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses (like “The Matrix”), “experience beaming” (like “Being John Malkovich”), and vastly enhanced human intelligence. The result will be an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the technological evolutionary process it spawned.
We’ll get to a point where technical progress will be so fast that unenhanced human intelligence will be unable to follow it. That will mark the Singularity.
I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045. The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.
In this way, it would create a new type of humanity that doesn't even necessarily die. In fact, in a Time magazine article published last year, the writer Lev Grossman stated that it is Kurzweil's goal to stay alive until singularity is achieved for this reason. He's 63 now but described his biological self as 20 years younger than that.
Here's how Grossman described the singularity's potential impact on humanity:
Once hyper-intelligent artificial intelligences arise, armed with advanced nanotechnology, they'll really be able to wrestle with the vastly complex, systemic problems associated with aging in humans. Alternatively, by then we'll be able to transfer our minds to sturdier vessels such as computers and robots. He and many other Singularitarians take seriously the proposition that many people who are alive today will wind up being functionally immortal.
Kurzweil calls the exponential speed by which technology is advancing the law of accelerating returns. Here is a chart and graph showing the "countdown to singularity."
Watch Kurzweil appearance on TheBlaze TV below:
Based on Kurzweil's law, he has created predictions of where technology will be in the near future. Here are just a few predictions that he gave at a recent conference (via Business Insider):
- Our brains will extend to the cloud, which will allow us to learn new things at any age.
- We will be able to selectively erase pieces of our memory.
- We'll be in augmented reality at all times.
- By 2029, machines will be able to match the intelligence of humans, and they'll be able to make us laugh and cry.
- Around the 2030s, tiny "nanobots" able to repair and preserve our organs will keep us healthier and smarter.
- 3D printing will be even more common than it is today, with public 3D printing stations for people to print out clothes, toys, and anything else.
- Within 25 years, computers will be the size of a blood cell and we'll be able to connect it to the brain without the need for surgery.
- Society will reach a state of "technological singularity" in 2045 where technology enables superhuman machine intelligences to emerge and people and machines become deeply integrated.
On his evening show, Beck said that when he and Kruzweil meet every five years or so, it seems that more and more of his predictions are coming to fruition.
In addition to this theory, Kurzweil is also known as the inventor of the CCD flat-bed scanner, machines that help the blind read by translating print to speech, and a music synthesizer that recreates a grand piano and other orchestra instruments, among other items. He has been awarded several honors, including the National Medal of Technology in 1999 from former President Bill Clinton.
There is also a film based on Kurzweil's book. Here's its trailer: