Kurzweil: Computers Will Enable People To Live Forever
The inventor, author, and futurist predicts that in 15 to 30 years, nanobots will roam our blood streams fixing diseased or aging organs, computers will back up our human memories, and conference calls will be replaced by meetings in virtual resorts.
"Supercomputing is behind the progress in all of these areas," Kurzweil says, adding that a prerequisite for non-biological intelligence is to reverse-engineer biology and the human brain. That will give scientists a "toolkit of techniques" to apply when developing intelligent computers. In a written report, he said, "We won't experience 100 years of technological advance in the 21st century; we will witness on the order of 20,000 years of progress, or about 1,000 times greater than what was achieved in the 20th century."
According to Kurzweil, here's what we can expect in the not-so-distant future:
—Doctors will be doing a backup of our memories by the late 2030s;
—By the late 2020s, doctors will be sending intelligent bots, or nanobots, into our bloodstreams to keep us healthy, and into our brains to keep us young;
—In 15 years, human longevity will be greatly extended. By the 2020s, we'll be adding a year of longevity or more for every year that passes;
—In the same timeframe, we'll routinely be in virtual reality environments. Instead of making a cell call, we could "meet" someone in a virtual world and take a walk on a virtual beach and chat. Business meetings and conference calls will be held in calming or inspiring virtual locations;
—When you're walking down the street and see someone you've met before, background information about that person will pop up on your glasses or in the periphery of your vision;
—Instead of spending hours in front of a desktop machine, computers will be more ingrained in our environment. For instance, computer monitors could be replaced by projections onto our retinas or on a virtual screen hovering in the air;
—Scientists will be able to rejuvenate all of someone's body tissues and organs by transforming their skin cells into youthful versions of other cell types;
—Need a little boost? Kurzweil says scientists will be able to regrow our own cells, tissues, and even whole organs, and then introduce them into our bodies, all without surgery. As part of what he calls the "emerging field of rejuvenation medicine," new tissue and organs will be built out of cells that have been made younger;
—Got heart trouble? No problem, says Kurzweil. "We'll be able to create new heart cells from your skin cells and introduce them into your system through the bloodstream. Over time, your heart cells get replaced with these new cells, and the result is a rejuvenated, young heart with your own DNA";
—One trick we'll have to master is staying ahead of the game. Kurzweil warns that terrorists could, obviously, use this same technology against us. For example, they could build and spread a bioengineered biological virus that's highly powerful and stealthy.
According to Kurzweil, we're not that far away from solving a medical problem that has plagued scientists and doctors for quite some time now: the common cold. He notes that while nanotechnology could go into our bloodstreams and knock it out, before we even get to that stage, biotechnology should be able to cure the cold in just 10 years.
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