8 Staggering Predictions From Ray Kurzweil
Want to know what the future's going to be like? There's no better person to ask than Ray Kurzweil, the intellectual and inventor who predicted -- among other things -- the fall of the Soviet Union and the rapid expansion of the internet back in 1990. According to Kurzweil, "the singularity" will occur in 2045; but even though the point of the singularity is that technology advances so rapidly that humans can't even fathom what the post-singularity future will look like, Kurzweil himself seems to have no problem imagining the craziest set of possibilities. If past is prologue, he'll be right. Contemplating this exponential growth is disconcerting, to say the least, but don't worry -- we'll start you off small. By 2019, almost everyone will be able to access wireless internet from almost anywhere on Earth at all times. That's because, as Kurzweil describes in his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near (TSIN), we'll have "very high-bandwidth wireless internet access woven in our clothing." Within a few decades, space technology will be able to fully protect the Earth from asteroid collisions. "We don't see [... a large asteroid visitor] on the horizon," he writes in TSIN, "and it is virtually certain that by the time such a danger occurs, our civilization will readily destroy the intruder before it destroys us." Within a few decades, virtual reality will be fully immersive, making physical workspaces obsolete. Instead, we'll all telecommute to work, and populations will become more decentralized because we won't need to live in any particular location for our jobs. This will also somewhat alleviate the threat of terrorist attacks. Most diseases will go away by the 2020's. We'll be able to reverse engineer the brain to fix neurological issues (ex. Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, strokes). Nanobots will not only exist by then, but be smart enough to combat diseases better than our current medical technology. By the late 2020s, it will be impossible to distinguish reality from virtual reality. The implications of this are endless, but one of the things Kurzweil mentions in TSIN is how this will affect your sex life. "In virtual reality," he writes, "we can be a different person both physically and emotionally. In fact, other people (such as your romantic partner) will be able to select a different body for you than you might select for yourself (and vice versa)." People won't need sex dolls to sleep with Scarlett Johansson lookalikes. By 2029, a computer will pass the Turing test. By the early 2030s, technology will be able to copy human brains and put them onto electronic mechanisms. That means no more flesh, blood, or bones -- just a scan of your brain on a machine -- and will enable humans to take any form, from a box to a bird. It will also mean that a "human" won't die in any traditional sense, and that it will be infinitely replicable. In TSIN, Kurzweil says our immortality will work like computer software: "When we change from an older computer to a newer one, we don't throw all our files away. Rather, we copy them and reinstall them on the new hardware." Sometime past 2045, our planet will be entirely made up of computers. With the exception of some nature reserves for the vulgar plebeians who want to live in a "natural state." Fools. By 2099, machines will be creating planet-sized computers, and eventually we'll make the entire universe into an enormous supercomputer. Fingers crossed that a rogue humanoid doesn't destroy the whole thing with a virus!