Ray Kurzweil may be the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. And if anyone has the right to some credibility in the prognostication arena, this overachieving inventor can. With crackling speed, Kurzweil powerpoints through charts illustrating the growth of various technologies over the centuries. His main points: technology evolves exponentially; the rate of technical progress itself is accelerating, so expect to “see 20,000 years of progress in the 21st century, about 1000 times greater than the 20th century.” Before you can say, “Hold your horses,” Kurzweil is off and running.
Say goodbye to cancer and heart disease within 15 years, and hello to living way past 80. And try to survive until the year 2029, which according to Kurzweil’s mathematical models, represents “25 turns of the screw in terms of doubling the power of information technology in every aspect of our lives.” We’ll see reverse engineering of the human brain, and computers that “will combine the subtlety and pattern recognition of human intelligence with the speed, memory and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence.” The marriage of nanotechnology and AI will bring us “a killer app”-- nanobots that can keep us healthy from the inside. These will also enable “full immersion virtual reality from within nervous systems” and expand human intelligence, facilitating “brain to brain communication. As for human conflict, Kurzweil sees an end to starvation and energy concerns, but doesn’t quite complete his utopia. New technologies may be used in anti-social ways, say, by a bioterrorist. “I’m less optimistic we can avoid all painful issues; we certainly did not do that in the 20th century,” concludes Kurzweil.