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.”
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