Last night I heard a lecture in San Francisco by the famed technologist Ray Kurzweil, who is the author of Kurzweil’s Law which explores “the exponential trend of accelerating returns governing life and technology.” Similar in scope to Moore’s Law, which dictates that technology will expand exponentially every 18 months, Kurzweil’s Law factors in social and cultural trends. As the Executive Director of the World Peace Through Technology Organization I feel it important to share some of the insights I learned from the lecture.
Mr. Kurzweil spoke primarily about broad trends with long-term implications leading to a “singularity” which will happen sometime around the year 2042. This singularity will be a point when Artificial Intelligence (AI) will overtake the human brain in intelligence and complexity, among other things. First, it is apparent that technology is growing exponentially and will soon encompass all important aspects of our life. This is evident with a profound paradigm shift every decade. Some trends facilitating this shift include:
1. From the earliest times the evolution of the human species has accelerated quite predictably along a linear graph.
2. In this Modern Age information technology (of all kinds) double their power (price performance, capacity, bandwidth) every year.
3. Instead of a depression due to plummeting prices, instead we are seeing an increase in consumption as price performance increases.
4. We are now seeing a doubling of the amount of genetic information produced every year.
5. 3D molecular computing will be the next big trend in information technology.
6. The intersection of biology and technology – the biotech revolution – will soon produce major breakthroughs in better health and longevity.
7. Designer gene technology through DNA manipulation will soon produce RNA Interference, the ability to switch off genes that do the body harm. This therapy could soon mean the end of cancer, asthma, allergies and many other diseases caused by the body’s overreaction.
8. Programmed bio medicines will keep pace with gene research growth.
In short, every form of communication, biology and computer technology are doubling every year (x 1000),
and we are now in the exciting second phase of exponential growth. We are now seeing the advent of miniaturized mechanical systems called “nanobots,” some as small as blood cells which can explore all aspects of the body, report back on problems or actually fix them. Scientists are doing reverse engineering biology with robotic devices, along with the mapping of the brain – the ultimate source of the new templates of intelligence (AI). If we can just take care of ourselves for the next 10 years, Kurzweil argues, biotech will take care of us after that.
Some final trends that were presented (in no particular order): models for understanding future trends often get simpler over time. Kurzweil showed the beautiful and complex Mandelbrot fractal and said it was only six lines of code to produce. The cost of information creates deflation, but this is what drives the explosive growth. Intelligence can be created through database patterns, including the advent of effective language interpretation technology. Tiny electronics will soon be embedded in the environment, eyeglasses and clothing. Full immersion of visual-auditory virtual reality is just around the corner. Interaction with virtual personalities as a primary interface, along with augmented real reality, is here to stay. Human intelligence will outpace biology, but what are the drawbacks? Namely protection from pathological AI! Indeed, the future appears to be a vastly different world than the one we now know. Let’s hope we don’t forget that we are still human beings …
Those interested in furthering their understand of the above concepts should acquire a copy of Ray Kurzweil’s new book entitled The Singularity is Near