Ray Kurzweil: The Coming Singularity | Big Think

Ray Kurzweil: The Coming Singularity
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By 2045, we’ll have expanded the intelligence of our human machine civilization a billion fold. That will result in a technological singularity, a point beyond which it’s hard to imagine.
Raymond “Ray” Kurzweil (born 1948) is an American inventor and futurist. He is involved in fields as diverse as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism.

He has received nineteen honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents.

Ray has written six books, four of which have been national best sellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best selling book on Amazon in science. Ray’s latest book, The Singularity is Near, was a New York Times best seller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy.

Ray Kurzweil: Well, by 2020 we’ll have computers that are powerful enough to simulate the human brain, but we won’t be finish yet with reverse engineering the human brain and understanding its methods.

One of my main themes, and I’ve developed this thesis over 30 years, is that information technology grows exponentially; the power of computers are understanding the human brain, specializes solution of brain scanning, the number of bits we move in the internet. Many different measures of information technology double every year, or every 11 months, 13 months; depending on what you’re measuring. These technologies will be a million times more powerful within 20 years.

In fact, the speed of exponential growth is itself speeding up. So, in 25 years these technologies will be a billion times more powerful than they are today. And we’ve already seen that kind of progress.

When I was an undergraduate we all shared computer at MIT that took up half of a building. The computer and your cellphone today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion fold increase in price performance of computing since I was an undergraduate.

By 2029, and I’ve been quite consistent on this date, we will have completed the reverse engineering of the human brain. And we’ve already made very good progress on that. We’ve reversed engineered a number at different regions, like the cerebellum, which is responsible for our skill formation and slices of cerebral cortex where we do our cursive thinking and the auditory cortex, the visual cortex and so on.

By 2029, we’ll have reverse engineered and modeled and simulated all the regions of the brain. And that will provide us the software/algorithmic methods to simulate you know, all of the human brains capabilities including our emotional intelligence. And computers at that time will be far more powerful than the human brain. And we’ll be able to create machines that really do have subtlety and suppleness of human intelligence. And they’ll combine that power with ways in which machines are already superior to us. They can impart us all of human knowledge with the few keystrokes, it can remember billions of things accurately. They can share knowledge in electronic speeds that are million times faster than the human language.

So, it will be very powerful combination.

But the last point I’ll make is that it’s not some alien invasion of intelligent machines coming from Mars to invade us. It’s coming from within our civilization. And the whole point of it is to extent our reach. Ever since we picked up a stick to reach a higher branch, we’ve used our tools to extend our reach.

We can now already extend our reach mentally. I can take out device from my pocket and access all of human knowledge in a few keystrokes. Half of the farmers in China have these devices and could do the same thing; is pointing a real cultural revolution in China and around the world. And these tools are continued to grow exponentially in power.

The singularity is not just that point where we achieve human model and intelligence on a machine. That will start a new revolution where these machines will continue to grow exponentially in power. They’ll be able to actually improve their own software design.

By 2045, we’ll have expanded the intelligence of our human machine civilization a billion fold. That will be singularity and we borrow this metaphor from physics to talk about an event horizon. It’s hard to see beyond.

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Comment (28)

  1. This video was made in April 28, 2009. Ray Kurzweil clearly states that, "we have ideas to combat that (referring to bio-terrorist reprogramming a biological virus to be deadly communicable). And we have ideas to combat that, but they’re NOT yet in place..”.

    Does the current episode and impact of COVID19 on the world stage imply, after more than 10 years of negligence, we have missed the bus?

  2. It’s 2020 and we are a long way off replicating the human brain. To predict exponential growth in tech is hardly mind blowing, even 10 years ago. Most importantly, the pathetic ineptitude and/or deceit in the way we are handling the “Covid crisis” gives little to look forward if nanotech or AI runs away from us. Which it will. The freedom, movement and creativity that bought us this far has been and continues to be, crushed out of us politically, socially and culturally. Education is woefully behind the times and is driven by the very people who it has failed. How is that a recipe for improvement?

  3. Could this empowerment of the individual also move us closer to the economic singularity for which the gaps between the wealthy and poor, powerful and weak, will converge as AI would allow any idea to become reality easier and quicker than any time in human history?
    This is noted by 35% of humans have a cell phone granting them access to all the knowledge of humankind and allowing for a platform for a person in any part of the world to be a purveyor of things, services or ideas to any other person with access.

  4. A large centralized-government based on communism…a Technocracy that uses technology to control your personal freedoms. Whatever you eat, drink and move will be monitored because you are "hurting the environment".

    Some people are more equal than others.
    Some people are more human than others.

    This is the actual goal…and it sounds terrifying. Deconstructing the idea of what a human is.


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