A few months back I had the opportunity to meet the man Bill Gates is cited as naming, “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.” I’m talking about Ray Kurzweil, the inventor, author, and futurist who has predicted a great many advances in science well before the rest of us knew what was happening.
In my recent encounters with Ray, first digitally and then in person- I was nothing short of blown away. As someone in the technical field I feel I keep up fairly well on science and emerging technology.
I felt like a first grader in a quantum physics class.
Ray is way-way out in front of the rest of the world in terms of how he views the future and where we’re headed. The most interesting part about some of Ray’s ideas, which have been criticized as stepping into science fiction, is that many of the theorems behind the thinking, have already held true. One of the stories he told was about the human genome project and the perception of most who were watching its progress.
It was stated that since it took almost half the expected project time just to get to 1%, that it would then take hundreds of years to finish. Ray disagreed and proclaimed we were right on track. And he was right. In fact, the project finished early because of exponentially increasing technologies. The key word is the plural: technologies.
Talk of Moore’s law, where computer chip transistor density is doubling every 18 months, has pretty much always been logically confined to the topic of computers. However, the reality is that chip density and ultimately processing power effects all other technologies as well- and it’s those side technologies that are shaping a future that looks very different from today.
Ray talked about 3D printing and where that technology currently is. Specifically, where synthetic biology and cellular printing are, as developing scientific fields. A highschool student with a desktop today, can do what only a highly trained biological engineer and a government-funded computer facility could do a decade ago. AutoDesk, the company behind the famous AutoCAD modeling software, is even involved in helping craft the software tools for the next wave of biological science.
I have this vision in my head of a File->Scan operation to pull in one’s DNA from a few skin cells from which you can then manipulate the program that is life (DNA) to your liking and then do a File->Print to have a lab synthesize your newly crafted DNA for use in growing new life. The truth, right now in 2012, is not that far off. A little genetic manipulation involving some jelly fish and cats- and viola, glow in the dark cats that help pave the path for fighting AIDS.
This isn’t Opie’s Mayberry anymore. Nor will it ever be again.
Ray, the futurist sharing these ideas with the world, recently finished up a new book that is available for pre-order. It’s called, “How To Create A Mind.” A fitting title considering his excited discussion on artificial neurons. Upgrade my brain? Double my neuron capacity? Where’s the sign up form?!
The book itself is bundled with a bunch of extras: a t-shirt, a copy of Transcendent Man (almost 5 stars on Netflix, his newer movie- Singularity Is Near wasn’t quite as good as this one), $1200 discount off a Singularity University program and the chance to win a free Singularity University Executive Program.
I went through a shortened 2-day version of the SU Executive Program awhile back and my head was ready to explode. Feeling like being a first grader in a quantum physics class started there.
If you want to learn where technology really is, where it’s headed and how to start thinking in an exponential way to stay ahead of the curve, study Ray’s material with an open mind. You will not be disappointed!
You can find the ‘How To Create A Mind’ pre-order page here.