||Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
Nonbiological intelligence is multiplying by over 1,000 per decade. Once we can achieve the software of intelligence, which we will achieve through reverse-engineering the human brain, non-biological intelligence will soar past biological intelligence. By the 2040s, nonbiological intelligence will be a billion times more powerful than the 10^26 computations per second that all biological humanity represents.
Originally printed on CRNano.org
February 9, 2006. Reprinted on KurzweilAI.net February 10, 2006.
Question 1: Tell us about your background. When did
you first work with a computer? When did you first begin studying
I had the idea that I wanted to be an inventor since I was five.
I first got involved with computers when I was twelve, programming
some early computers, such as the 1401 and the 1620. I also built
computers out of telephone relays.
I began seriously modeling technology trends around 1980. I quickly
realized that timing is the critical factor in the success of inventions.
Most technology projects fail not because the technology doesn’t
work, but because the timing is wrong—not all of the enabling
factors are at play where they are needed. So I began to study these
trends in order to anticipate what the world would be like in 3–5
or 10 years and make realistic assessments. That continued to be
the primary application of this study. I used these methodologies
to guide the development plans of my projects, in particular when
to launch a particular project, so that the software would be ready
when the underlying hardware was needed, the needs of the market,
and so on.
These methodologies had the side benefit of allowing us to project
development 20 or 30 years in the future. There is a strong common
wisdom that you can’t predict the future, but that wisdom is incorrect.
Some key measures of information technology—price-performance,
capacity, bandwidth—follow very smooth exponential trends.
I have been making predictions going back into the 1980s, when I
wrote The Age of Intelligent Machines. That book had hundreds
of predictions about the 1990s and 21st century based
on these models, which have turned out to be quite accurate. If
we know how much it will cost per million-instruction-per-second
(MIPs) of computing in future points in time, or how much it will
cost to sequence a base-pair of DNA or to model a protein, or any
other measure of information technology at different points in time,
we can build scenarios of what will be feasible. The capability
of these technologies grows exponentially, essentially doubling
every year (depending on what you measure). There is even a slow
second level of exponential growth.
We will increase the price-performance of computing, which is already
formidable and deeply influential, by a factor of a billion in 25
years, and we will also shrink the technology at a predictable pace
of over one hundred in 3D volume per decade. So these technologies
will be very small and widely distributed, inexpensive, and extremely
powerful. Look at what we can do already, and multiply that by a
Question 2: When did you first become aware of the term “singularity?” Did
you use that term in your first book, The Age of Intelligent
No. I first became familiar with it probably around the late 1990s.
In my latest book, The Singularity is Near, I have really
focused on the point in time where these technologies become quite
explosive and profoundly transformative. In my earlier book, The
Age of Spiritual Machines, I touched on that, and wrote about
computers achieving human levels of intelligence and what that would
mean. My main focus in this new book is on the merger of biological
humanity with the technology that we are creating. Once nonbiological
intelligence gets a foothold in our bodies and brains, which we
have arguable already done in some people, but will do significantly
in the 2020s, it will grow exponentially. We have about 1026
calculations per second (cps) (at most 1029) in biological
humanity, and that figure won’t change much in the next fifty years.
Our brains use a form of electro-chemical signaling that travels
a few hundred feet per second, which is a million times slower than
electronics. The inter-neuronal connections in our brains compute
at about 200 calculations per second, which is also about a million
times slower than electronics. We communicate our knowledge and
skills using language, which is similarly a million times slower
than computers can transmit information.
So biological intelligence, while it could be better educated and
better organized, is not going to significantly change. Nonbiological
intelligence, however, is multiplying by over 1,000 per decade in
less than a decade. So once we can achieve the software of intelligence,
which we will achieve through reverse-engineering the human brain,
non-biological intelligence will soar past biological intelligence.
But this isn’t an alien invasion, it is something that will literally
be deeply integrated in our bodies and brains. By the 2040s, the
nonbiological intelligence that we create that year will be a billion
times more powerful than the 1026 CPS that all biological
humanity represents. The word “singularity” is a metaphor, and the
metaphor that we are using isn’t really infinity, because these
exponentials are finite. The real meaning of “singularity” is similar
to the concept of the “event horizon” in physics. A black
hole as physicists envision it has an event horizon around it, and
you can’t easily see past it. Similarly, it is difficult to see
beyond this technological event horizon, because it is so profoundly
Question 3: Has there been one writer or researcher,
such as Marvin Minsky or Vernor Vinge, who has had a predominant
influence on your thinking?
Both those individuals have been influential. Vernor Vinge has
had some really key insights into the singularity very early on,
There were others, such as John Von Neuman, who talked about a singular
event occurring, because he had the idea of technological acceleration
and singularity half a century ago. But it was simply a casual comment,
and Vinge worked out some of the key ideas.
Marvin Minsky was actually my mentor, and I corresponded with him
and visited with him when I was in high school. We remain close
friends and colleagues, and many of his writings on artificial intelligence,
such as Society of Mind and some of his more technical work,
have deeply influenced me.
Question 4: Many semiconductor analysts are predicting
that the field of robotics will become the next major growth industry.
When do you predict that the robotics industry will become a major,
In the GNR revolutions I write about, R nominally stands for robotics,
but the real reference is to strong AI. By strong AI, I mean
artificial Intelligence at human levels, some of which will be manifested
in robots, and some of which will be manifested in virtual bodies
and virtual reality. We will go into virtual reality environments,
and have nanobots in our brain that will shut down the signals coming
from our nerves and sense organs, and replace them with the signals
that we would be receiving if we were in the virtual environment.
We can be actors in this virtual environment, and have a virtual
body. But this virtual body doesn’t need to be the same as our real
body. We will encounter other people in similar situations in this
VR. There will also be forms of AI which perform specific tasks,
like narrow AI programs do today in our economic infrastructure.
Our economic infrastructure would collapse if all these current
narrow AI programs stopped functioning, but this wasn’t true 25
years ago. So these task specific AI programs will become very intelligent
in the coming decades.
So strong AI won’t just be robots; that is only one manifestation.
The R revolution really is the strong AI revolution. Billions of
dollars of financial transactions are done every day, in the form
of intelligent algorithms, automatic detection of credit card fraud,
and so forth. Every time you send an email or make a telephone call,
intelligent algorithms route the information. Algorithms automatically
diagnose electrocardiograms and blood cell images, fly airplanes,
guide “smart” weapons, and so forth. I give dozens of examples in
the book. These applications will become increasingly intelligent
in the decades ahead. Machines are already performing tasks that
previously could only be done by humans, and the tasks that this
covers will increase in the coming years.
In order to achieve strong AI, we need to understand how the human
brain works, and there are two fundamental requirements. One is
the hardware requirement, which you mentioned. It is relatively
uncontroversial today that we will achieve computer hardware equivalent
to the human brain’s computing capacity—just look at the semiconductor
industry’s own roadmap. This is a roadmap into which the semiconductor
industry has put enormous effort. By 2020, a single chip will provide
1016 instructions per second, sufficient to emulate a
single human brain. We will go to the third dimension, effectively
superseding the limits of Moore’s law, which deals only in 2-d integrated
circuits. These ideas were controversial notions when my last book
(The Age of Spiritual Machines) was published in 1999, but
is relatively uncontroversial today.
The more controversial issue is whether we will have the software,
because it is not sufficient to simply have powerful computers,
we need to actually understand how human intelligence works. That
doesn’t necessarily mean copying every single pattern of every dendrite
and ion channel. It really means understanding the basic principles
of how the human brain performs certain tasks, such as remembering,
reasoning, recognizing patterns and so on. That is a grand project,
which I refer to as reverse-engineering the human brain, which is
far further along than many people realize. We see exponential growth
in every aspect of it. For instance, the spatial resolution of brain
scanning is doubling every year in 3D volume. For the first time
we can actually see individual interneuronal connections in living
brains, and see them signaling in real time. This capability was
not feasible a few years ago. The amount of data that we are obtaining
on the brain is doubling every year, and we are showing that we
can turn this data into working models, and in the book I highlight
a couple of dozen simulations of different regions of the brain.
For example, there is now a simulation of the cerebellum, which
is an important region of the brain devoted to skill formation.
This region comprises over half of the neurons of the brain.
I make the case that we will have the principles of operation understood
well within twenty years. At the end of the 2020s, we will have
both the hardware and software to create human levels of intelligence.
This includes emotional intelligence, which is really the cutting
edge of intelligence, in a machine. Given that machines are already
superior to humans in certain aspects, the human-intelligent computer
combination will be quite formidable, and this combination will
continue to grow exponentially. Nonbiological intelligence will
be able to examine its own source code and improve it in an iterative
design cycle. We are doing something like that now with biotechnology,
by reading our genes. So in the GNR revolutions I write about, R
really stands for intelligence, which is the most powerful force
in the universe. It is therefore the most influential of the revolutions.
Question 5: Nanotechnology plays a key role in your forecasts.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to invest today in
Nanotechnology developments are currently in their formative stages.
There are early applications of nanotechnology, but these do not
represent the full vision of nanotechnology, the vision that Eric
Drexler articulated in 1986. No one was willing to supervise this
radical and interdisciplinary thesis except for my mentor Marvin
Minsky. We have shown the feasibility of manipulating matter at
the molecular level, which is what biology does. One of the ways
to create nanotechnology is to start with biological mechanisms
and modify them to extend the biological paradigm—to go beyond
proteins. That vision of molecular nanotechnology assembly—of
using massively parallel, fully programmable processes to grow objects
with remarkable properties—is about twenty years away. There
will be a smooth progression, and early adaptor applications, many
of which I discuss in the book.
There are early applications in terms of nanoparticles. These nanoparticles
have unique features due to nanosize components, but this is a slightly
different concept. We are using the special properties of nanoscale
objects, but we are not actually building objects molecule by molecule.
So the real revolutionary aspect of nanotechnology is a couple of
decades away, and it is too early to say which companies will be
the leaders of that. Intel sees that the future of electronics is
nanotechnology, and by some definitions today’s electronics are
already nanotechnology. Undoubtedly, there will be small corporations
that will dominate. When search engines were formative, it would
have been difficult to foresee that two Stanford undergrads would
dominate that field. Nanotechnology is already a multi-billion dollar
industry which will continue growing as we get closer to molecular
manufacturing. When we actually have molecular manufacturing, it
will be transforming—we will be able to inexpensively manufacture
almost anything we need from feedstock materials and these information
Question 6: You write in The Singularity is Near
of feeling somewhat alone in your beliefs. How has the mainstream
scientific community responded to your prognostications?
Actually quite well. The book has been very well received; it has
gotten very positive reviews in mainstream publications such as
the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. It
has done very well, it has been #1 on the science list at Amazon,
and ended up the fourth best selling science book of 2005 despite
coming out at the end of the year. The New York Times cited it as
the 13th most blogged about book of 2005. In terms
of group intellectual debate, I believe that it has gotten a lot
of respect, and has been well received. There are individuals who
don’t read the arguments and just read the conclusions. For some
of these individuals, the conclusions are so distant from the conventional
wisdom on these topics that they reject it out of hand. But for
those who carefully read the arguments, the response is generally
positive. This is not to say that everyone agrees with everything,
but it has gotten a lot of serious response and respect. I do believe
that these ideas are getting more widely distributed and accepted,
I am obviously not the only person articulating these concepts.
Nevertheless, the common wisdom is quite strong—even among
friends and associates, the common wisdom regarding life cycle and
the concept that life won’t be much different in the future than
it is today—still permeates people’s thinking. Thoughts and
statements regarding life’s brevity and senescence are still quite
influential. The deathist meme (that death gives meaning to
life) is alive and well.
The biggest issue, which I put out in the beginning of Singularity,
is linear vs. exponential thinking. It is remarkable how thoughtful
people, including leading scientists, think linearly. This is just
wrong, and I make this case, showing dozens of examples. But even
though someone may be an expert regarding one aspect of technology
or science, doesn’t mean that they have studied technology forecasting.
Relatively few futurists/prognosticators really have well-grounded
methodologies. The common wisdom is to think linearly, to assume
that the current pace of change will continue indefinitely. But
this attitude is gradually changing, as more and more people understand
the exponential perspective and how explosive an exponential can
be. That is the true nature of these technology trends.
Question 7: What about other technologies and industries,
such as the textile, aerospace, or automotive industries?
Are all technology fields experiencing exponential growth?
The key issue is that information technology and information processes
progress at an exponential pace. Biological evolution itself was
an information process—the backbone is the genetic code, which
is a digital code. I show in my book how that has accelerated very
smoothly, in terms of the growth of complexity. The same thing is
true of technological evolution, when it has to do with information.
If we can measure the information content, which we can readily
do with things like computation and communication, then we can discern
that it progresses in this exponential fashion and subject to the
law of accelerating returns.
The information technology needs to get to a point where it is
capable of transforming an industry, and biology is a good example.
Biology was not an information technology until recently—it
was basically hit or miss. Drug development was called drug discovery,
which meant that we didn’t know why a drug worked and we had no
theory of its operation. These drugs and tools were relatively crude
and had many negative side effects. 99.9% of the drugs on the market
were designed in this haphazard pre-information era fashion.
The new paradigm in biology is to understand these processes as
information processes, and to develop the tools to reprogram these
processes and actually change our genes. We still have these genetic
programs that are obsolete. The fat insulin receptor gene tells
the body to hold on to every calorie, since it is programmed to
anticipate that the next hunting season may be a failure. That was
a good program 10,000 years ago, but is not a good program today.
We have shown in experimental studies with mice that we can change
those programs. There are many genes that we would like to turn
off, and there is also new genetic information that we would like
to insert. New gene therapy techniques are now beginning to
work. We can turn enzymes on and off, which are the workhorses of
biology, and there are many examples of that. Most current drug
development is through this rational drug design. So biology is
becoming an information technology, and we can see the clear exponential
growth. The amount of genetic data we sequence is doubling every
year, the speed with which we can sequence DNA is doubling every
year, and the cost has come down by half every year. It took 15
years to sequence the HIV virus, but we sequenced the SARS virus
in 31 days. AIDs drugs cost $30,000 per patient per year fifteen
years ago, but didn’t work very well. Now they’re down to $100 per
patient per year in poor countries and work much better.
Fields such as energy are still not information technologies, but
that is going to change as well. For instance, in Singularity
I describe how we could meet 100% of our energy needs through renewable
energy with nanoengineered solar panels and fuel cells within twenty
years, by capturing only 3% of 1% of the sunlight that hits the
Earth. That will happen within twenty years, and it will be related
to information technology, since it will be able to meet our energy
needs in a highly distributed, renewable, clean fashion with nanoengineered
devices. We will ultimately transform transportation in a
similar way, with nanoengineered devices that can provide personal
flying vehicles at very low cost. The transportation and energy
industries are currently pre-information fields. Ultimately, however,
information technologies will comprise almost everything of value,
because we will be able to build anything at extremely low cost
using nanoengineered materials and processes. We will have new methods
of doing things like flying and creating energy.
Question 8: You have emphasized the superior mechanical and
electronic property of carbon nanotubes. When do you anticipate
nanotubes being embedded in materials? When will we see the
first computers with nanotube components?
There is actually a nanotube-based memory that may hit the market
next year. This is a dense, two-dimensional device that has
attractive properties. But three-dimensional devices are still about
one and a half decades away. There are alternatives to nanotubes,
such as DNA itself. DNA has potential uses outside of biology, because
of its affinity for linking to itself. DNA could also be used
structurally. But the full potential of three-dimensional structures
based on either carbon nanotubes or DNA, is a circa 2020 technology.
Question 9: Most predictions of future technological
developments have been inaccurate. What techniques do you use to
improve the accuracy of your prognostications?
I have a team of people that gathers data on many different industries
and phenomena, and we build mathematical models. More and more
areas of science and technology are now measurable in information
terms. I use a data-driven approach, and I endeavor to build theoretical
models of why these technologies progress. I have this theory of
the law of accelerating returns, which is a theory of evolution.
I then try to build mathematical models of how that applies to different
phenomena and industries. Most futurists don’t use this type of
methodology, and some just make guesses. Many futurists are simply
unaware of these trends—they make linear models. It is often
said that we overestimate what can be done in the short term, because
developing technologies turns out to be more difficult than we expect,
but dramatically underestimate what can be achieved in the long
term, because people think linearly.
Question 10: The Government has traditionally played
a pivotal role in developing new technologies. Is the U.S. Government
doing enough to support the nascent nanotechnology or the AI industries?
Do these industries require Government support at this point?
These industries will both be propelled forward by the enormous
economic incentive. Nanotechnology will be able to create almost
any physical product we need at very low cost. These devices will
be quite powerful because they will have electronics and communications
embedded throughout the device. So there is tremendous economic
incentive to develop nanotechnology, and the same is true of artificial
intelligence. Basic research has an important role to play—the
Internet, for instance, came out of the Arpanet. The new world wide
mesh concept—of having every device not simply connected to
the net but actually become a node on the net, sending and receiving
both its own and other people’s messages—this arose out of
a department of defense concept. It is now being adopted by civilian,
commercial corporations. DARPA is actually playing a forward-looking
role in such technologies as speech recognition and other AI fields.
In terms of national competitiveness, the key issue is that we
are not graduating enough scientists and engineers. The figures
regarding numbers of individuals receiving advanced technical degrees
are dramatically growing in China, Japan, Korea, and India. These
figures actually resemble exponential curves. China in particular
is greatly outpacing the U.S., producing scientists and engineers,
both at the undergraduate and doctoral level, in every scientific
field. Although this is a real concern, there is now one integrated
world economy, so we shouldn’t see this problem as simply the U.S.
vs. China. I am glad to see China and India economically engaged,
and this isn’t a zero-sum game—Chinese engineers are creating
value. But to the extent that we care about issues such as national
competitiveness, this is a concern. In the end, however, this is
about what fields teenagers choose to enter.
The U.S. does lead in the application of these technologies. I
speak at many conferences each year, including music conferences,
graphic arts conferences, library conferences, and so on. Yet, every
conference I attend reads like a computer conference, because they
are so heavily engaged in computer technology. The level of computer
technology used in any of a great diversity of fields is quite impressive.
Question 11: How do you envision the world in 2015?
What economic and technological predictions would you make for that
By 2015, computers will be largely invisible, and will be very
small. We will be dealing with a mesh of computing and communications
that will be embedded in the environment and in our clothing. People
in 2005 face a dilemma because, on the one hand, they want large,
high-resolution displays. They can obtain these displays by buying
expensive 72” flat-panel plasma monitors. But they also want portable
devices, which have limited display capabilities. By 2015,
we will have images input directly onto our retinas. This allows
for a very high-resolution display that encompasses the entire visual
field of view yet is physically tiny. These devices exist in 2005,
and are used in high-performance applications, such as putting a
soldier or a surgeon into a virtual reality environment. So in 2015,
if we want a large, high-resolution computer image, it will just
appear virtually in the air. We will have augmented reality, including
pop-up displays explaining what is happening in the real world.
We will be able to go into full-immersion, visual auditory virtual
We will have useable language technologies. These are beginning
to emerge, and by 2015 they will be quite effective. In this visual
field of view, we will have virtual personalities with which you
can interact. Computers will have virtual assistants with sufficient
command of speech recognition that you can discuss subjects with
them. Search engines won’t wait to be asked—they will track
your conversation and attempt to anticipate your needs and help
you with routine transactions. These virtual assistants won’t be
at the human level, that won’t happen until we have strong AI. But
they will be useful, and many transactions will be mediated by these
assistants. Computing will be very powerful, and it will be a mesh
of computing. Individuals who need the power of a million computers
for 25 milliseconds will be able to obtain that as needed.
By 2015, we will have real traction with nanotechnology. I believe
that we will be well on the way to overcoming major diseases, such
as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes through the biotechnology
revolution that we talked above. We will also make progress in learning
how to stop and even reverse the aging process.
This interview was conducted by Sander Olson. The
opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of CRN. Reprinted
Mind·X Discussion About This Article:
Singularity Progress Report
Sander Olson interviews every wacko out there, like in the interview below:
http://www.nanotech.biz/i.php?id=01_10_24 -- Interview with Mentifex
Ray Kurzweil does a great job of _describing_ the future, while some of us true-blue wackos are out here trying to make it happen:
http://visitware.com/AI4U/PODsales.html#oct2005 -- my print-on-demand AI4U book sells far fewer copies than any single book by Ray Kurzweil; way to go, Ray.
http://mind.sourceforge.net/aisteps.html#alife -- here I try to kickstart the Singularity. All around the world, Netizens search for "AI algorithms" and arrive at my "AI Steps" webpage, so now I am beefing it up, big time. The most recent innovation is to focus on Evo Recap -- the recapitulation of the evolution of mind. As a consequence, websurfers are lingering for up to an hour and looking at thirty-plus subordinate pages. And so, wake up, high-tech America -- if you snub your nose at Mentifex AI, there are lots of hungrier-than-thou but just as smart-as-thou would-be AI coders and Singularity entrepreneurs in India, in China, in Singapore, in Japan, in
South America -- and many of them are aware of the Mentifex offerings in open-source AI. In South America, beaucoup websites carry Spanish-language translations of the Mentifex AI theory documents. They don't know that Mentifex is just another crank.
http://www.scn.org/~mentifex/index.html -- here I give a tour of a Theory of Mind for AI. It is not easy to understand, so I have proceeded from the most general overview down into the various branches of deeply detailed implementation. Now, all you lazy Americans -- don't bother trying to grok this stuff and risking a headache. Let some funny-clothed foreigner, whom you have not yet killed to steal his oil, spring an AI surprise on you by Christmas 2006.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/mindx/profile.php?id=26 -- here I piggyback on Kurzweil's AI Mind-X forum in my efforts to create Singularity AI. End of progress report. -Arthur (Mentifex)
Re: Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
In response to the person who asked whether common man will be financially independent, the answer is absolutely not. People like me derive pleasure from exploiting our less financially educated peers. People like me not only control the money, they control that which gives money its value: labor.
Although quality of life will improve for everybody as technology improves (a rising tide lifts all ships) people will still have to work menial jobs in the services industry. Do you think people will start changing their own oil, cooking their own meals, and driving to china to get clothes, shoes, and other textiles all of a sudden? Maybe we'll all build our own houses too so nobody has to work 40 hours a week.
An interesting example is the automated checkout lanes at Walmart. That has been a merchant's dream since trade began. So now instead of paying four people to have four checkout lanes, they pay one who supervises four lanes. The other three are dismissed to go compete for fewer and fewer menial jobs in the services and infrastructure industries. Most of the reward for this and every other technological innovation goes to the owners! Any guesses about what the owners do with the spoils? They use it to make people do what can't yet be done with machines. When you read that the average american family is deeply in debt, now you know what that debt means: an obligation to do for the owners what can't be done with machines.
The most beautiful part is that average people fall further and further into debt (at technology's accelerating rate) simply because there is less that they can do to work it off, and compound interest works both ways. There are ways to erase debt, but don't count on a country-wide common man bankruptcy any time soon because there will always be something that having a peon around for is a good idea.
This is no "apocalyptic future" horror story, it has been happening since man first evolved. All I'm saying is that it will keep happening and there's nothing wrong with that. If you want out of the 40 hour a week grind, then do what everybody else did who got out: exploit the system.
Re: Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
I applaud your view of the way real life works. I too have turned away from the idea that the technological singularity will equal a new utopia, where everyone is happy. In actual fact, change is coming and for some it will prove beneficial, for others it will prove disasterous.
As for your comment on WalMart and its automated checkout lines depleting the number of payed empolyees, I wonder how long it will be before the person paid to supervise them is out of a job? This is Hans Moravec's vision of the future, in which he imagines the job market to be like a landscape, with valleys representing the jobs in which machines could perform better than people right from the off, to mountain peaks representing jobs that people are much better suited than machines.
In his vision, the landscape is being flooded, the water being a metaphore for machine intelligence, inexorably filling the landscape of the job's market, and forcing the human populace to scramble for higher ground..IF they have the wherewithall to reach the peaks and enjoy a respite before the flood claims even the mountain tops.
It doesn't necessarily have to be new orders of intelligence that forces a scramble for new jobs. For instance, I understand that Sony are soon to bring out the Reader, which you can think of as being to books what Ipod is to music. Once I have this device, I will not need to buy books from my local store, I can download what I want from the Internet. I can do that with Amazon right now but I wouldn't be surprised if humans are in the loop in this case, unless automation has reached a stage where it can control every single step in the process of taking my money and delivering my book. I imagine downloading a book straight from my computer is easier to automate than the old method...
What's next for the chop in the media industry? Well, since I can remember kids have supplimented their pocket money with a paper-round. But once Sony's electronic books become equipped with wireless technology, once wireless Internet is pervasive enough...your morning paper will update itself and you will have no need to buy a new issue each morning, discarding the old. Less rubbish for our landfills, which is good. No more paper rounds which is....? And once we manage to make ALL physical objects downloadable thanks to desktop molecular manufacturing, well, I think the world of work will change forever.
At this point I would recommend Damien Broderick's book 'The Spike', which has a chapter dealing with the way our working lives may be affected if the technological wave continues to gather strength. Here is a quote from that very book, which I'm sure jontait would agree with:
'It's a truism that consumer capitalism has to run hard and fast to sustain adequate demand for the relentless cascade of goods pouring from our factories. The pressure of this glut calls forth the huge, sophisticated machinery of the advertising industry, millions spent to persuade us to consume with lusty and extravagant zeal, and to go into debt in doing so'.
Re: Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
I agree that your list of changes will not occur all of a sudden...but you really need to be specific about what 'all of a sudden' means. Consider the access to information? I'm sitting here, and I can access all the world's information at the click of a mouse. Once I get that Reader, I will practically own a library of millions of books. Think about that. Once, owning A book was a sign of extravagant wealth, but for me and the generation to come, having easy access to a massive LIBARY of information costs peanuts. This increase in the availability did not happen in a flash, but it did happen very quickly nonetheless. It's almost cliche to comment that the Internet exploded into everyday life seemingly overnight..
Once MM finally hits its stride, I would definitely expect people to obtain clothes, textiles, food, etc etc in a way that drastically reduces the reason to drive a car to some WalMart.
As for oil, in this age....what oil?
Re: Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
The revelation/prediction that we shall become more than what we may presume, at this time, is almost refreshing to consider. It is a tantalizing temptation, to argue the points that Ray Kurzweil makes in this interview. This becomes more difficult, however, as I find myself in agreement with many of his suppositions. Difficult, too, is the task of envisioning/imagining/describing what the end result of all this Singularity/nanotechnology stuff will look like. The exponential nature of the human development that Mr. Kurzweil envisions hints at incredible, individual enpowerment. What appears truly of concern is what possible effects may occur to the human psyche. Alvin Toffler, opined about the effect of rapid societal alterations on the the mental health of the people. Will we see even more boggling of brains as the Singularity approaches?
If there were any area which I could find to counterpoint you, Ray Kurzweil, I would have to wonder about the feasibility question. Does increased, even exhorbitantly increased, computing capacity necessarily tanslate to actual/practical intelligence. Can autonomously actuating devices actually be developed? Shall we see endless rows of ramchips and microprocessors spontaneously become galaxy spanning, Matrioshka Minds. Or aren't we better served in closely monitoring the social pathology of the big-brains who are stringing these complex systems together. Science for it's own sake is a wonderful pursuit. Does it pay to sacrifice the well-being of general society at the other end of the spectrum?
In closing I pose a question to other Mind-X posters: What elements/systems of present day science/technology/social structure, support/indicate the possibility/inevatibility of future Singularity scenarios? The reason why I ask is; I am wondering what the best precautions/preparations would be for the implimentation of ones own, Singularity operation. Also, it would be nice to prepare the frail human body for the onslaught of superintelligent/stong progeny to come.
Re: Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
It is not entirely accurate to portray Ray Kurzweil as the guy who thinks 'increased computation translates to actual/practical intelligence'. He has repeatedly stated that 'increases in hardware performance is a necessary but INSUFFICIENT step toward true artificial intelligence'. Moreover, his law of accelerating returns shows that evolution results in BETTER answers, not necessarily more complicated ones. It is quite possible for a superior solution to be a simpler one.
As to the question posed to Mind-Xers, well Kurzweil's version of the Singularity is based on two assumptions. The first assumption is that if something is working in natural systems, it can be reverse engineered by technology. Thus, because natural systems already use molecular manufacturing and have built human-level intelligence, both these goals must be obtainable through technology.
The second assumption is that nature is inherently sub-optimal, 'creating' 'tools' that are just good enough to help natural systems get by. On the other hand, technology only ceases to improve itself once it rams up against the physical limits of set by the laws governing the Universe. Thus, once technology has evolved the ability to use molecular manufacturing and human-levels of intelligence, it will soar past the capabilities of sub-optimal nature.
It is important to understand that we are advancing toward this future as a result of thousands of tiny steps, each one of which is quite conservative and is merely the next generation of products already available. Moreover, we are approaching these goals from such a variety of positions that even if one appraoch should fail to yield fruit, there are many more approaches still chipping away at the problem.
I have written about this more extensivley in the Mind X thread called 'cummulative and convergent knowledge'.
Re: Sander Olson Interviews Ray Kurzweil
I appreciate your reply, Extropia and must agree with you. It is indeed quite elegent and compelling to see a simple solution that uniquely solves a given equation. Right off hand, I would likely present the creation of the graphical user interface to computers as an example of such. It made possible for millions of individuals to avail themselves of the power of computers. Mr.Kurzweils inventions, particularly the Reader for the blind are also good examples.
I agree, as well, that it is, likely possible to model occurence and presupposition, such that we can see realized this wondrous, Singularity. If we can presume that our methods include structured, directed attrition, the small victories method, then we can, certainly anticipate, eventually, a complete project. I can't help but wonder what this completed puzzle will look like.
Therefore, I would like to propose one other question to Mind-Xers. What will the Completed Structure of Singularity appear as? Are we to far back of the Event that we cannot imagine the landscape that shall, surely, be presented to our eyes and those of our children. Provided that we still have necessity for those organs, or any others? What will we become? What shall we eventually see?
Finally, can we see some hints, some clues along the way? Can we experience some examples of what exists that may preclude these developements? I know that the US Army is working with creating personal armor, from smart-nanotechy type materials. Also, the computer industry is reaching deep, into the submicron, nanolevel for it's increased facility. I hope that all intentions are good:) I haven't even been following the progress that NASA Ames has been making. I'm sure there work in preflight preparation of the individual is garnering some startling results. Not to mention the medical/biotechnological areas. The list goes on and on. These are exciting times.