In just 15 years, we'll begin to see the merger of human and computer intelligence that ultimately will enable people to live forever. At least that's the prediction of author and futurist Ray Kurzweil.
Kurzweil told a keynote audience at last week's SCO6 supercomputing conference that nanobots will roam our blood streams fixing diseased or aging organs, while computers will back up our human memories and rejuvenate our bodies by keeping us young in appearance and health.
The author of the book The Singularity Is Near, Kurzweil says within a quarter of a century, non-biological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. He predicts that it will then soar past human ability because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge.
In an interview with InformationWeek, Kurzweil said people and computers will intermix with nanobots, blood cell-sized robots, that will be integrated into everything from our clothing to our bodies and brains. People simply need to live long enough—another 15 to 30 years—to live forever. Think of it as replacing everyone's "human body version 1.0" with nanotechnology that will repair or replace ailing or aging tissue, he says. Parts will become easily replaceable.
"A $1,000 worth of computation in the 2020s will be 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain," says Kurzweil, adding that in 25 years we'll have multiplied our computational power by a billion. "Fifteen years from now, it'll be a very different world. We'll have cured cancer and heart disease, or at least rendered them to manageable chronic conditions that aren't life threatening. We'll get to the point where we can stop the aging process and stave off death."
Kurzweil isn't writing science fiction. In fact, Microsoft's Bill Gates, a robotics director at Carnegie Mellon University, an MIT professor, and a physicist have all endorsed his book. He has received the National Medal of Technology and the Lemelson-MIT prize. The directors of the National Institute of Health have asked him to speak to their members. Kurzweil says he's simply looking back and measuring the computational progress the human race has made over the last century and then projecting that same line of progress forward into the near future.
Actually, we'll hit a point where human intelligence simply can't keep up with, or even follow, the progress that computers will make, according to Kurzweil. He expects that non-biological intelligence will have access to its own design plans and be able to improve itself rapidly. Computer, or non-biological, intelligence created in the year 2045 will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.