Mentioned in the overview are just a few of the many predictions from Ray Kurzweil, a man who graduated from MIT in 1970, and has been inventing new technologies and studying Futurology ever since. Along with the extensive research he has done in supporting his predictions, he has won numerous awards, was inducted into the national inventors Hall of Fame, has received 17 honorary degrees, and he has a good track record of prior predictions; such as the rise of the Internet, when a computer would beat a human at chess, and the widespread use of numerous technologies today which were once considered rare.
Kurzweil insists that people are accustomed to thinking in linear terms, in believing that progress will continue at its current pace. But he argues that we will make progress at an exponential rather than linear rate. An example that shows the potential for exponential growth is Moore’s law, which is the idea that computing power basically doubles every two years. This idea of exponential growth has been mapped out and proven accurate across the board by Kurzweil through charts, graphs, and historical trends. An amazing example of technological progress resulting from exponential growth could be found in your pocket; the computers powering the smart phones many people carry around today would’ve only fit into a space perhaps the size of a skyscraper around 40 years ago. And another 30 or 40 years from now, Kurzweil predicts that computers as powerful as our smart phones will be the size of blood cells, powering nanotechnology, which is basically microscopic robots.
One of his major predictions, to occur within about 35 years, is the Singularity. The Singularity is the point where AI and machines surpass human intelligence, and this superior ability of the machines will lead to enormous technological advancement. And one of the major steps he’s helped to take in order to make sure his predictions for the future come true is the creation of Singularity University, a respected and highly sought after academic institution that is very selective of the best and brightest minds intent on innovating futuristic technologies with an entrepreneurial spirit.
If Kurzweil’s predictions are correct, then we could expect to see all kinds of great things over the coming decades. Such as robots and AI commonly aiding people in the completion of a variety of everyday tasks, virtual reality indistinguishable from real reality, and cures for countless major diseases and physical afflictions. However, some of the potential downsides to his predictions being correct could be that these advances might be limited to the very wealthy, that nanobots can be very destructive if hacked or engineered for malicious purposes, or that AI superior to humankind might not care to coexist peacefully with us.
Of course, Kurzweil isn’t without his skeptics. He has been accused of making wild assumptions, and of having inaccurate previous predictions; such as that speech recognition technology would be in widespread use, or that there would be cars that could drive themselves by using sensors installed in highways, both by 2009. Overall, the skeptics just believe Kurzweil to be overly optimistic in his predictions. But Kurzweil claims that the vast majority of his predictions have been correct, even if off by a few years, as he’s made predictions which many detractors have thought decades off, or even impossible.
While we can’t be sure that all of these predictions for the future will come true, what I think we can be certain of is that technology will continue to become more powerful and widespread over the coming decades, leading to many new opportunities and challenges for all people. The amount of technological progress made over just the last hundred years or so has been enormous compared to all the technological progress of the previous 2,000 years combined. Computers continue to grow in power while shrinking in size and cost every year. If progress continues at this rapid pace, then it will be exciting to see just what awaits us in the future of technology.