Ray Kurzweil accelerates change at weekend confab

Ray Kurzweil accelerates change at weekend confab

Summary: This past weekend Stanford University hosted the Accelerating Change 2005 conference, bringing together visionaries, academics, and forward-thinking executives to share thoughts on Artificial intelligence (AI)—in the broadest sense of the word—and Intelligence amplification (IA), which, according to the conference Website, "empowers human beings and their social, political, and economic environments.

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This past weekend Stanford University hosted the Accelerating Change 2005 conference, bringing together visionaries, academics, and forward-thinking executives to share thoughts on Artificial intelligence (AI)—in the broadest sense of the word—and Intelligence amplification (IA), which, according to the conference Website, "empowers human beings and their social, political, and economic environments." Among the key speakers was visionary, inventor, and author, Ray Kurzweil, who has a new book coming out on the 22nd of this month called The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. It has over 600 pages of his latest perspectives on artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and, you guessed it, how we are fast approaching a future where humans and machines merge into a super-intelligent civilization. (See JD Lasica's review).

Ray_AC05_1.JPG

Much of the discussion that flowed throughout the conference incorporated some aspect of Kurzweil’s mind-bending but well-argued tech predictions. Even before Kurzweil got up to give his keynote Saturday morning, mathematician and fiction writer Vernor Vinge talked about some possibilities for how the singularity will unfold; one being the "soft takeoff" which can take a few decades to play out, and two, the "hard takeoff" which can be a catastrophic event of just a few days.  

In his keynote, Kurzweil clicked through many logarithmic-exponential charts illustrating how processor speed, Internet hosts, number of cell phone subscribers and so on, has been doubling about every two years since they were first introduced. David Berlind covered a similar presentation a few months back and there wasn't that much new this time around apart from some of the latest developments in biotechnology, miniaturization, and reverse-engineering the brain -- which you can read about in the book.  His argument to those who find his ideas hard to swallow is that most people have a linear perspective of the future. "People simply extrapolate today's progress to the future…people are surprised to learn that the last 95% of a technological trend happens as quickly as the first 5%," he said.  Kurzweil also said that technology evolution, which took after biological evolution, is much faster and is accelerating to the point where we will use it more and more to enhance our own bodies.

Here are Ray Kurzweil's predictions:

2010:  Computers Disappear

  • Images written directly to our retinas
  • Ubiquitous high bandwidth connection to the Internet at all times
  • Electronics so tiny it's embedded in the environment, our clothing, our eyeglasses
  • Full immersion visual-auditory virtual reality
  • Augmented real reality
  • Interaction with virtual personalities as a primary interface
  • Effective language technologies

2029:  An intimate merger

  • $1,000 of computation = 1,000 times the human brain
  • Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
  • Computers pass the Turing test
  • Non-biological intelligence combines the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
  • Non-biological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed

[Editor's note: In his Emerging Technology Trends blog, Roland Piquepaill explores a broad range of new technologies that are modifying our way of life.]
 

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  • More predictions

    1984 - Big Brother
    1990 - Fusion Power
    2000 - Man on mars

    FACE IT, AI is a pipe dream. If we KNEW just how the brain works - I'm sure that current computers could model it. Fact is the human brain is part electrical and part chemical, and the INTERACTIONS between the two mediums is what makes us what we are. Computers are 100% electrical - so how do you model actual human thinking? Short answer - you can't.
    Roger Ramjet
    • AI pipe dream

      I agree that the current level of understanding that is required for strong AI is not going to cut it. But the fact is that you CAN model chemical reactions at least at some level of accuracy with computers. So your implication that it will ALWAYS be a pipe dream is not convincing.

      The two camps, the neuronal connectionist model camp and the common sense rule based camp are floundering because although the neuronal connectionist camp has something very flexible, it doesn't just become intelligent by throwing in extra connections. The rule based camp has a tool that at first glance looks like intelligence but it is brittle and will never yield a flexible or creative intelligence.
      Spirckle
    • Not a pipe dream.

      It exists already, but obviously not to human ability. Intelligence is ultimately limited to processing power. Which is limited by our technology. It will happen. But I think it will be difficult to divide biology from technology when it does.

      I happen to think his 2010 predictions are rediculous. The technology could very well exist but I doubt sincerely that it will be something average people will be doing. As fast as technology accelerates we still deal with legacy.
      Zinoron