Futurist Ray Kurzweil (labelled “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Times) has been making some pretty spectacular predictions for the future recently, including the idea that in 15 years’ time, one year per year will be added to life expectancy rates.
He has also predicted the creation of microscopic nanobots that can shape shift into anything, including patterns that imitate familiar life-forms. Kurzweil suggests that by the year 2050, the potential could exist to create a virtual body with nanobots. By 2030, he predicts that doctors will be putting millions of nanobots into our bodies to wipe out disease by augmenting the immune system. He points to the fact that Type I diabetes in rats has already been cured by a blood-cell-size device.
He also envisages computers with emotional intelligence by 2029 – that’s in just 14 years’ time. He says that when this happens, humans will have to be much more careful about interacting with such systems. “This implies”, he writes, “that these are people with volition just like you and I, not just games that you turn on and off”.
Kurzweil says that by 2045, computing will be roughly one billion times more powerful than all the human brains on earth. When asked recently by The New York Times if this makes him worry about super-smart computers achieving dominion over humans, Kurzweil pointed out that we’ve already integrated with AI systems. They are in billions of mobile devices around the world, not kept locked up in a handful of federal intelligence agencies; in Kurzweil’s words, “It’s not us versus them”.
Kurzweil has previously made several astonishingly accurate predictions, such as the idea that computers would come to dominate humans in chess by the late 90’s. However, he also wrote in 1999 that there would be a consistently rising stock market through 2019 in the US, accompanied by continuous economic growth for the country.
Kurzweil is currently a Director of Engineering at Google, leading a team that develops machine intelligence and natural language understanding. He is also the Co-Founder and Chancellor of Singularity University, which offers education programs, cutting-edge partnerships and a startup accelerator to advance understanding of cutting-edge technologies.
Kurzweil will be giving the keynote address at the RoboBusiness conference this September in San Jose, California. It’ll be worth watching carefully for his latest set of predictions and summations.