Kurzweil is the One
I attended Ray Kurzweil’s talk on Thursday night at SAP’s silicon valley reception center – a beautiful place with horrible acoustics and flickering brown-out lighting conditions. I was reminded of Frank Lloyd Wright’s quip that one can tell the architectural significance of a building by the number of buckets required when it rains.
Kurzweil laid out the thesis of his new book, The Singularity is Near. Using 88 slides, most featuring that favorite of professorial obfuscating visuals, the logarithmic chart, he outlined significant events in technology and human evolution, both straight diagonal lines. His point being that change is accelerating, not just in technology, but in human evolution. The next leaps in human evolution will be the understanding of the human body as an information system, and miniaturization technology that allows nano-implants. Extrapolating from this thesis he sees the following developments.
By 2010 Computers disappear into wearable devices, images are written directly to our retina and we interact with computers through virtual personalities.
By 2029 the human brain will be reverse engineered. Humans will have millions of nano-neural implants in their brains. The result is an â€œintimate mergerâ€ of human and machine intelligence and the ability to reprogram our biochemistry to enable extremely long life.
By 2045 we will have reached the singularity, where we are more machine than man.
Sounds good to me, but the timing seems just a bit fast. 2010 for computers to miniaturize and be able to write to you retina – so that’s in Service Pack 2 to Windows Vista? Yes, there are exponential progressions all around us and humans are poorly designed to notice them. However, capital sources, governments and other large organizations are not on an exponential change curve. As one person in audience asked – why did it take 7 years to get to the moon in the 60’s but NASA just announced plans to get back to the moon, in 13 years. Kurzweil’s response was that just because it can happen, does not mean it will. It is a matter of focus and resources.
With significant ideas, criticism is just a drop in the bucket.