If Ray Kurzweil predictions continue to come true, machines will be smarter than humans in just a few years. Kurzweil, who turns 70 this year, famously predicted that the technological singularity — the crucial moment when machines become smarter than humans — will occur in our lifetime. Though this may seem incredible, he has made many outrageous predictions over the years with an astounding 86 percent success rate, according to Futurism. Regardless of how his remaining predictions will turn out, his theories have shaped modern science and technology.
A Nostradamus for the Digital Age
Although Kurzweil is known as a futurist, he is also an inventor. Some of his inventions include “the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omnifont optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer … and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition,” according to Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence.
As Google’s director of engineering, he leads a team developing machine intelligence and natural language understanding, according to Quartz. On top of this, he has written multiple books and owns various companies. His views and research have shaped the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Honors acknowledging his influence include the National Medal of Technology, induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, more than 18 honorary doctorates, honors from three U.S. presidents and a Technical Grammy Award. (See Kurzweil’s biography and CV on his website, kurzweilai.net.)
Ray Kurzweil Predictions
Given his past success, Kurzweil’s wild predictions about the future seem feasible. It is very hard to predict the future, but he points out that technology is actually quite predictable, since it has been progressing at a steady exponential rate.
In a 2005 TED Talk, he explained, “Information technologies double their capacity, price performance, bandwidth, every year. And that’s a very profound explosion of exponential growth.”
Kurzweil has made hundreds of predictions. At a time when the internet was just emerging, he was able to see the future lifestyle that we’re living today, where computers beat us at our own games, wireless communication is widespread and technology is embedded into our daily lives.
“By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence,” Kurzweil said in an interview at SXSW 2017.
Many of his predictions are still outstanding. In a 2010 white paper posted on the Kurzweil Network, Kurzweil analyzed the accuracy of his predictions and adjusted some of the dates. We’ll have to wait to see if he’s right that software and nanobots will cure most diseases by 2030, a prediction that he reiterated in interviews with The National and Big Think.
Embracing the Technological Singularity
In physics, the singularity is a point where gravity is so intense that even space and time begin to break down (think of the Big Bang or a black hole). This has become a metaphor to describe what will happen when AI surpasses human intelligence. Kurzweil says this tipping point will happen by 2045, according to Futurism.
Once AI is smarter than humans, it will only continue to improve itself. While many people fear this future (Evil computers! Robots gone rogue! AI enslaving humans!), Kurzweil suggests that human beings will benefit by surpassing our biological limits for intelligence.
This technological singularity will be a pivotal shift that could be terrifying or thrilling, depending on your outlook. Kurzweil is an optimistic futurist, and his views have helped shift the perception of the singularity away from a science fiction horror scenario toward a better life where humans and machines merge.
In Kurzweil’s future, AI will be so smart that it will come up with ideas that mere humans can’t even comprehend. He suggests that this brilliant AI could solve all of our problems — including all medical problems.
Instead of being afraid that technology will turn on us, Kurzweil is excited about the potential to expand our intelligence. In the future, the human mind won’t be limited to the biological brain. Someday —perhaps in 2045 — our most profound thoughts could be triggered by a nanobot and uploaded into the cloud for eternity.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous systems are areas of exciting innovation. Northrop Grumman has job openings working on projects with these (and other) intriguing elements.
Photo Source: Flickr/JD Lasica