Saturday, May 06, 2006

Notes from Venture 06: Reinventing Humanity

The Featured Speaker at Venture 06 was Ray Kurzweil. His presentation impacted me more that anything in a long time. He asks the question, "What happens when machines exceed human intelligence in every measurable way?" He calls this the “Singularity,” which he predicts will happen by 2030. An article he wrote, Reinventing Humanity: The Future of Machine–Human Intelligence, sums up his view that,
We stand on the threshold of the most profound and transformative event in the history of humanity, the “Singularity.”

What is the Singularity? From my perspective, the Singularity is a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so fast and far-reaching that human existence on this planet will be irreversibly altered. We will combine our brain power—the knowledge, skills, and personality quirks that make us human—with our computer power in order to think, reason, communicate, and create in ways we can scarcely even contemplate today.

This merger of man and machine, coupled with the sudden explosion in machine intelligence and rapid innovation in gene research and nanotechnology, will result in a world where there is no distinction between the biological and the mechanical, or between physical and virtual reality. These technological revolutions will allow us to transcend our frail bodies with all their limitations. Illness, as we know it, will be eradicated. Through the use of nanotechnology, we will be able to manufacture almost any physical product upon demand, world hunger and poverty will be solved, and pollution will vanish. Human existence will undergo a quantum leap in evolution. We will be able to live as long as we choose. The coming into being of such a world is, in essence, the Singularity.
Before you write him off as a flake, read the article and review his incredible biography.

I uncertain whether the world he envisions is Utopia or a sure sign of the coming of the Apocalypse.

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