Tag Archives: Ray Kurzweil

Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

Ray Kurzweil: Why We Should Live Forever

Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post.

Some of his predictions might seem out of place, but Kurzeweil is definitely different from tech pundits we regularly see on TV or who blog on the internet sharing the next trends. For one, Kurzeweil has been involved in information technology for decades, and he’s an astute inventor (he’s the mind behind the first CCD flatbed scanner and the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind). He also doesn’t see things like other pundits. He see progress developing exponentially, not linearly (the way humans intuitively function). This explains why most of his predictions sound outrages. For what it’s worth though, he’s been right 86% of the time. For instance:

  • In 1990 he predicted that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. Then in 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov.
  • In the same year he also predicted that by the early 2000s, exoskeletal limbs would let the disabled walk. He missed the prediction by a couple of years.
  • In 1999, he predicted that people would be able talk to their computer to give commands by 2009. Wow… Siri and Google Now are already household names.
  • In 2005,  he said that by the 2010s, virtual solutions would be able to do real-time language translation from a spoken foreign language into text. Google Translate (incidentally, Kurzweil is the lead of engineering at Google) does this remarkably well. Also, there’s this exciting app called Word Lens that lets you point your camera onto any text and translates that in real time. That’s really powerful.

Recently, Kurzeweil sat down with Business Insider and explained why he thinks people should live forever. The key? Information technology. Kurzeweil argues that since health and medicine have turned into information technology, these are now subjected to the laws of information. This means progress in health and medicine will follow predictable and exponential trajectories. One example is Moore’s Law which predicts every two years or so the number of transistors crammed in the same chip (surface area) doubles. This has remained the norm for more than forty years to this day. Another is that information on the Internet is doubling approximately every 1.25 years – it’s still not stopping. Kurzweil, ever the pundit, argues that we will see transformational progress in the next 10 to 15 years.

Of course, this is one of his most outrageous predictions (that and the singularity). Predicting we’ll live forever by treating aging as a disease is nothing like saying there will be a time in foreseeable future when you’ll be able to voice commands to a machine. Kurzweil doesn’t ever talk out of his ass, though. He’s always on to something.

“By the 2030s, we’ll be putting millions of nanobots inside our bodies to augment our immune system, to basically wipe out disease,” he told the New York Times. We will use those nanobots — about the size of blood cells — in ways we have yet to begin to imagine.

It’s not only that we will live basically forever. Humans will also turn into super humans. Better, smarter. By 2045, we will have expanded the intelligence of our human-machine civilization a billion-fold, Kurzeweil says. How’s that for audacious claims.

Kuerzweil isn’t just waiting for his predictions to happen. He’s lending a helping hand to self-fullfill his own prophecies. At Google, he is currently working on a synthetic neocortex to create artificial intelligence based on biological models. Machines that use the brain as their model will have a particular edge because they can process more data, at faster rates, and with an ability to “learn” at the same time.

The future is exciting, and there’s no better hype machine than Ray Kurzweil.

“I believe our civilization is going to be vastly more intelligent and more spiritual in the decades ahead,” he told Time. “You can argue how we got here, but we are the species that goes beyond our limitations. We didn’t stay on the ground. We didn’t stay on the planet. Our species always transcends.”

When robots are everywhere, what will humans be good for?

This question was prompted to Ray Kurzweil – well known futurologist, pioneer of the Singularity movement and Director of Engineering at Google – by a member of the audience during a Q&A session at an Executive Program hosted at Singularity University last October. You might not give it much thought now, but the truth is half of all American jobs could be replaced by robots in just a couple of decades. If you’re a teller, supermarket cashier, call center operator or even a famer, you’ll likely lose your job in the coming decades. So, what’s to do then? Should we all rally and ban robots? It’s no easy topic, but at the same time it’s important, I think, not to panic. We need to remember that this isn’t the first time something like this happened. It’s the old human vs automation problem. How many millions of jobs were lost to mass production in the late XIXth century? How many more once computers started permeating society? At the same time, new jobs were made. Just look at where the information industry is today. The major challenge is not if new jobs can be made. This isn’t really a problem. The real challenge is to make these available at the right pace and make sure people have the necessary resources to repurpose their skill set. I’ll leave you to Ray.

Immortality – just 20 years away

ray-kurzweil-portrait

Raymond Kurzweil is one of the most prolific inventors and futurists; he’s the one who developed text to speech synthesis and a synthesizer that develops and even creates poetry, among others. He has also predicted new technologies that would appear and some directions that our society would take, and he got it right.

Now, the 61 year old claims that considering the rate at which our understanding of our genes and nanotechnology is increasing, scientists should be able to replace many (if not all) of our vital organs in approximately 20 years from now. When confronted and asked if that’s not a bit of wishful thinking, he replied that neural implants and artificial pancreases already exist, and the distance is not as big as it seems.

Here’s what he said:

“I and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nanotechnology will let us live for ever. Ultimately, nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively.

Within 25 years we will be able to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or go scuba-diving for four hours without oxygen. Heart-attack victims – who haven’t taken advantage of widely available bionic hearts – will calmly drive to the doctors for a minor operation as their blood bots keep them alive.

Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books within minutes. If we want to go into virtual-reality mode, nanobots will shut down brain signals and take us wherever we want to go. Virtual sex will become commonplace. And in our daily lives, hologram like figures will pop in our brain to explain what is happening. So we can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs.”

Find some other predictions he made here

Now I am in no way the man to comment on whether these developments will or will not take place, but let’s say they’ll become reality. Is it all good, partially good, or partially bad? Overpopulation is a big problem as it is so I really have a hard time figuring that out too. What do you think?

P.S.   We had some technical problems and a partial article got published – sorry for that and we appreciate your understanding.

The Future Is Now? Pretty Soon, at Least

ray kurzweil

When I read what Ray Kurzweil said about the future, I was just awed! I mean, coming from somebody else, it would seem ludacris (even from him, I find it really hard to believe), but c’mon, the man is one of the best futurists we have, so he HAS to know what he’s talking about. According to him, in his really optimistic view, many of the world’s current problems will be solved way sooner than 50 years.For example, if you’re worried about green gas emissions, fear no more! In 5 years, he claims solar power will be cost competitive with fossil fuels and within 20 years all of our energy will come from clean sources. That really would be nice, but could it really happen ?? Wait, that’s just the beginning. Having problems sticking to a diet or losing weight? In less than 10 years, he says, there will be a pill that will allow you to eat whatever you want without gaining weight! Sounds too good to be true? Could be, but the thing is that even critics agree that he is by no means your average sci-fi fantasits. In fact, he has just enought credibility that the National Academy of Engineering published his view of solar energy.What’s even more surprising for me (at least) is what he predicted about aging.

Well, fasten your seat belts: in 15 years, your life expectancy will rise every year faster than you are aging. Yeah, that means that your chances of dying get slimmer and slimmer every year, until about 50 years from now, when humans (and perhaps even machines) start evolving into everliving beings. Could this actually happen ? I have no idea, and I’m not sure how many people have – not that many, anyway. During the years he mande some predictions that awed the world by their accuracy and seemingly impossible odds of happening (such as the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990s and a computer chess champion by 1998; with that he was off by a year – Deep Blue won in 1997).

Also, 20 years ago he predicted that “early in the 21st century” blind people would be able to read anything anywhere using a handheld device. In 2002 he actually narrowed the date to sometime in 2008. On thursday night at a festival, he pulled out a new gadget as big as your average cell phone, that had absolutely no problem reading out loud the text from a science magazine.“Certain aspects of technology follow amazingly predictable trajectories,” he said, and showed a graph of computing power starting with the first electromechanical machines more than a century ago. At first the machines’ power doubled every three years; then in midcentury the doubling came every two years (the rate that inspired Moore’s Law); now it takes only about a year.“My colleague Francis Crick used to say that God is a hacker, not an engineer,” Dr. Ramachandran said. “You can do reverse engineering, but you can’t do reverse hacking.”

“Scientists imagine they’ll keep working at the present pace,” he told NY Times after his speech. “They make linear extrapolations from the past. When it took years to sequence the first 1 percent of the human genome, they worried they’d never finish, but they were right on schedule for an exponential curve. If you reach 1 percent and keep doubling your growth every year, you’ll hit 100 percent in just seven years.”