Ray Kurzweil: [full interview transcript]

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Just how near is the Singularity? According to Ray Kurzweil robot intelligence will surpass human intelligence by the year 2045. Futurist, inventor, and author of “The Singluarity is Near” Ray Kurzweil shares his theories and research regarding the exponential growth of technological and biological evolution. Read his full bio here…

Click here to watch his interview: “The Singularity is Near.”

Ray: According to my calculations, by 2045 we will have increased the intelligence of the human machine civilization a billion fold compared to today. That’s such a profound change, such a singular change, that we use this term, barred from physics, the “Singularity,” to describe it. The metaphor is the event horizon around the Singularity, it’s hard to see beyond that because things are so transformed, but we can actually use our mental powers today to imagine certain things about the Singularity.

One of the things we’ll be able to do is overcome disease and poverty and other problems. We’ll introduce new problems along the way, but human life will be transformed, and if we can avoid the dangers, our lives will be greatly uplifted.

Ramona: To date we’ve heard often of man versus machine, what you put forth is man and machine becoming one.

Ray: Not only is man and machine becoming one, but machines is part of who we are. We are the species that creates tools and the tools expand our reach. So first we fashioned a stick so we could reach a higher branch and we’ve extended our mental reach with our tools today and we’re going to make, ultimately merge with these machines. But that is who we are, we are the species that transcends our limitations with our tools.

We’re going to merge with these machines. We have already. Even though we carry them on our belts, they are part of who we are already. But they’re going to become so small that they’ll be inside our bodies and brains, they’ll make us smarter.

According to my calculations, by 2045 we will have increased the intelligence of the human machine civilization a billion fold.

Are we ready for the future?

Ramona: the concepts that you present in the Singularity Is Near are very big ideas that it seems to me everyone should know, not just scientists, and not just technologists. What are the key concepts that you think everyone should know?

Ray: They say that war is too important to leave to the generals and I think that technology is too important to leave to the technologists – because it’s going to change every facet of human life. And there are things that are happening that people are not aware of. Our whole health and biology and medicine is now being reprogrammed as if this was software. And that’s actually not a metaphor, there is software running in our bodies, but it’s out of date and we have the means now of updating it. Now that health and medicine is in information technology, it’s going to be subject to what I call the Law of Accelerating Returns, which is that it’s going to progress exponentially. Basically biological technologies are doubling in power every year. That means that in twenty years, it’ll be a million times more powerful than they are today.

Is this robot evolution?

Ray: It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but if you go out a hundred years, two hundred years, I think we will be largely non-biological, and we’ll still have the biological aspect to our lives but the non-biological portion of our intelligence and our relationships will be so much more profound it’ll be where the action is.

In search of the “real” thing…

Ray: We’re stuck with some unfortunate terminology. Artificial Intelligence implies that it’s not real intelligence, but it is real intelligence, and ultimately, will fully match and exceed human intelligence, and we’ll put it inside ourselves to make ourselves smarter. Virtual reality is real reality.

These new technologies are very powerful and they will enable us to overcome age-old problems like poverty and disease and aging. They are also going to present new problems. We already see invasions of our privacy. It used to be enough to just close blinds in our bedroom, now we have a thousand windows in our lives and there’s all kinds of new issues that emerge including profound new dangers.

People really need to be aware that technology actually has the answer to overcoming human suffering, that it has been doing that. At the same time it introduces new problems, and we have to be mindful of that, and it’s not a simple system, problem that we can just you know fix and then cross off our list. It’s going to be the major challenge that humanity faces over the next century.

Summary

  • The “Singularity” refers to the idea human technology is evolving so quickly that it presents such a huge, singular change in society
  • Cannot see beyond the Singularity, can only imagine things about it
  • As we use technology to fix problems, we will also encounter and develop new problems
  • It’s something that everyone needs to think about because this technology will impact all aspects of life
  • It’s not artificial intelligence, it’s real intelligence because this technology will become part of us
 

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