Kurzweil: Computers Will Enable People To Live Forever (if the machines let us…)

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graph of exponential rise of human progress over time- and the future?

The inventor, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that in 15 to 30 years, nanobots will roam our blood streams fixing diseased or aging organs, computers will back up our human memories, and conference calls will be replaced by meetings in virtual resorts.   Information week reports on Kurzweil’s lecture and conducts a fascinating interview. 

Kurzweil told a keynote audience at last week’s SCO6 supercomputing conference his predictions of life after the technological singularity.  For those of you not familiar with his work, Ray is not a science fiction writer nor a crazy man–Bill Gates, a robotics director at Carnegie Mellon University, an MIT professor, and a physicist have all endorsed his book. He has received the National Medal of Technology and the Lemelson-MIT prize and is in the  National Inventors Hall of Fame

What is the concept of the technological singularity?: 

Kurzweil says within a quarter of a century, non-biological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. He predicts that it will then soar past human ability because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge.

Key points of his lecture and the article:

1) people and computers will intermix with nanobots, blood cell-sized robots, that will be integrated into everything from our clothing to our bodies and brains.

2) Think of replacing everyone’s “human body version 1.0″ with nanotech that will repair or replace ailing or aging tissue, he says. Parts will become easily replaceable.

3) “A $1,000 worth of computation in the 2020s will be 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain,” says Kurzweil, adding that in 25 years we’ll have multiplied our computational power by a billion.

At midnight last night as I lie in bed thinking of this — all I could think of was this was how Cyberdyne and the Matrix machines started. 

4) “Fifteen years from now, we’ll have cured cancer and heart disease, or at least rendered them to manageable chronic conditions that aren’t life threatening.

5) We’ll get to the point where we can stop the aging process and stave off death.” (ok I don’t buy that one yet…)

Does mankind’s Progress Follow Moore’s Law:  Moore’s Law essentially says that computing power doubles approximately every 18 months.  Actuallly human progress follows an exponential curve (each year has 10 times the progess of the past- there is a fantastic discussion of this here)-  Kurzweil says he’s simply looking back and measuring the computational progress the human race has made over the last century and then projecting that same line of progress forward into the near future.

You can read more about Kurzweil’s work on trying to make sure we don’t make ourselves extinct or enslaved to the machines in this post about the Lifeboat Foundation where he and I serve on the Scientific Advisory Board..   

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