Ray Kurzweil explains what life will be like in the 2020s and beyond

Ray Kurzweil discusses 3d printing food, bitcoin, Future payment systems and many more futuristic subjects Reporter: First of all I bought this yesterday… RK: Okay, thanks. Reporter:…with my debit card. That’s a present RK: Thank you very much. Reporter: In the year 2099 December 31st how, when I walk into a store, hopefully, how will I pay for that? RK: Well I think you’ll be walking into a virtual store and most products will be virtual even food and clothing and everything we need will be virtual. The era of three-dimensional printing is already coming and we’ll be able to download a design for clothing and then print it out and there’ll be open-source forms of information, so open-source clothing that you can download and print out with three-dimensional printers at a few pennies per pound. So well before 2099, just about all the physical things we need will be information files so—already I can email you a book or a movie or a sound recording and I can actually email you a violin or a guitar and you can print it out in a three-dimensional printer. There’s a band that has all three-dimensional, 3D printed instruments. Reporter: Yep. RK: Pretty soon all the physical things we need, certainly by the 2020s, will be information files and you’ll pay for these with online forms of purchasing and you’ll be able to buy them on online stores. I mean already online shopping even for things we don’t print out is ubiquitous and that’s growing very rapidly and physical retail is coming down. People still like to go in and feel the clothing and try it on themselves but we’ll be able to take a three-dimensional scan of our bodies and actually see in 3D an avatar of ourselves and see how the clothes look and we won’t be limited to just the things on the rack and, ‘Oh, I love this shirt, it’s not available in my size.’ You’ll be able to design, see the clothing on your avatar then actually have it printed out and not only as the right size, but in the exact shape for your body. Reporter: So what about the very real pleasure that I personally get from champagne? Will that be gone? RK: Well virtual realities and other emerging technology so already we can do what we’re doing now in terms of being together. And there’re technologies rather then just sort of, you know, having images on a screen like Google Hangout, I can actually sit and look around you and feel like I’m together. There are primitive forms where we can touch each other. Once virtual reality goes inside our brains and that’ll be here by the late 2020s. And basically, I mean, my brain doesn’t directly feel things. It’s signals going into my brain. We can actually trap those signals and actually send into the brain signals representing a virtual environment and so the computer will actually create the environment and then we can be virtual actors in a virtual environment and do any of the things we do in real reality, like be together, hug each other, whatever in a virtual environment. We can eat in a virtual environment and have that sensual experience because our brain is receiving these signals as if they were coming from the real world, but it’s actually the virtual world. You’ll have a body in the virtual world, but doesn’t have to be the same as your physical body. So if you go into something like Second Life today, already people have avatars representing them and they can look different. Now the avatars over here, although psychological experiments show that people actually identify with that avatar, but in the future it’ll actually be like, ‘This is my body’ and like, ‘I’m looking,’ but I’ll actually have a different body. Couple could become each other, for example and experience the relationship from the other’s perspective, but you’ll be able to do the things like eating that you do in real reality and have that sensual experience in a virtual environment. Ray Kurzweil Reporter: If we move a bit closer to the present time, like, I’d like you to… You’ve said that when the timing is right, timing is vital for technology and in that light I would like to hear your viewpoint on emerging payment systems such as Bitcoin that changes the paradigm of who’s controlling what. Well Bitcoin is interesting because it’s not just a payment system it’s a whole currency. But I mean everything is going virtual and already we pay for most things just using credit cards, PayPal, and so on, we pay for things online, that’s going to increase over time. You know, our cellphones will be able to pay for things and so we won’t need to handle currency or even carry physical devices around. We’ll be able to pay for things virtually. The nature of currency is interesting; I mean what is currency? It’s an agreement of, it’s basically a big agreement system among people that everybody respects, you know, even say, terrorists who have very different views of society than the mainstream society. Everybody respects money. It’s this big system of agreements that we have and it’s already been broken away from some kind of physical entity like gold. It’s already a very kind of theoretical concept, but certainly payment is already going online. Reporter: But what we’re seeing is something being decentralized as opposed to you have like the Federal Reserve or our national bank that sort of runs the show and guarantees the value of this currency. RK: Well you brought up a good term: decentralization. That’s the nature of the future. The 21st century technologies are decentralized rather than centralized, so the Internet is decentralized. Some piece of it goes down the information just goes around it. There’s an inherent stability to decentralize technology. There’s new water technologies; where right locally you can create very clean water at very low cost. Dean Kamen’s slingshot machine costs $2,000 can meet the water needs of 100 people, they’re already putting it in third world countries. Coca-Cola has gotten behind that. It can take any kind of water, swamp water or salt water and create drinkable water at very low cost. Decentralized energy is coming, solar power is doubling every two years. It’s already over 1% of our energy. And people say, ‘Ah, 1%, it’s kind of a fringe player.’ They’re ignoring the exponential growth. 1% is only seven doublings from 100% and it’s already doubling every two years. And then, so I presented this to the Prime Minister of Israel recently, he was actually in my class in the 1970s at the MIT Sloan School and he said, ‘Ray, do we have enough sunlight to do this with?’ and I said, ‘Yes, we have 10,000 times more than we need.’ So we’re actually awash in energy, we’re awash in water they’re just not in useable form, but the technologies to make them useable are growing exponentially. Twenty years from now we’ll get all of our energy from very low-cost, renewable sources and they’ll be decentralized. Water will be decentralized. Food will be created in decentralized vertical agriculture, automated facilities. Reporter: So all these really big, global politics on energy and fossil fuels and how we would drive our cars… is everybody running in the wrong direction? Will technology solve these problems? RK: I don’t think they’re running in the wrong direction, but I think a lot of the concerns that, ‘Oh, we’re running out of energy and so on’ are wrong because they’re ignoring the emerging decentralized solutions that ultimately will be very low cost and they’re based on information technologies. Solar power is being promoted by nanotechnology which is a form of information technology and the costs are coming down dramatically and the amount is going up exponentially. It’s really these exponentially growing decentralized technologies that will solve the major challenges of humanity. Reporter: So with regards to your job at Google, and congratulations on that, so what is it like? What do you do there? RK: Well I was, I actually presented my latest book to Larry Page, How to Create a Mind. We met in July, he had read an early version, a pre-publication version, he really liked it and he invited me to join Google to basically apply those ideas to creating, you know, artificial intelligence to really guide the future of Google. The goal is to base, increasingly base, search and question answering on the actual meaning of documents and not just finding keywords. If you write a blog post you’ve got some content to show, you’re not just creating an interesting bag of words. We would like to actually understand and model the semantic meaning of your blog post and all the other billions of pages on the web and all the billions of book pages and so that you can actually talk things over with your search engine, it will really understand at a deep level what you’re looking for and will understand all the information that’s out there and find information not just based on keywords. Reporter: A lot of people at Moment seem concerned about privacy and you have this. People, I think, see them as the sort of evil machines that know everything about me and especially the company that you work for knows tons about me and privacy. How will that develop? Will I just have to say ‘Okay’? When I’m not in a Swedish forest and totally not connected, it’s goodbye privacy or? RK: Well not at all I mean, this tremendous effort at Google to maintaining privacy, there’s literally thousands of engineers to keep information private and it’s not just to keep it private within Google, but to prevent outside forces coming in and accessing that information. That’s a complicated technical problem, but information in Google is actually very secure and the goal is to bring each person valuable services so that you can find the information that you need, you can find the pizza place, you can get help with your reservations, and your car can drive itself. We want to deliver real services, it’s not the intention to invade privscy it’s actually a very great, great trust, half a billion people use Gmail and so Google takes that very seriously and wants to provide services that you want without using the information for anything else. So I’m not the expert on explaining the privacy policies, but that is the goal, is to provide valuable services and to maintain the security of this information. Reporter: Going back to the champagne, could you try and be very specific and, how will I pay for it? What will be the currency? What’s the method? RK: I think currencies are evolving, I mean there’s a particular algorithm behind Bitcoin and, you know, whether that really holds up or not is unclear, but I think we will have decentralized forms of currency. Bitcoin is an attempt to create a decentralized currency that’s not controlled by countries. I think we’ll have emerging currencies like that. We already have, you know, there’s thousands of different stocks you can buy, that’s a form of currency and those are decentralized. So it’s hard to predict what will catch on, but I think it will be decentralized and artificial intelligence will note that you’ve bought a product and will adjust accounts accordingly. You know, going to be a lot of open source information. Three-dimensional printing will print out the things we need and so, take clothing, there’s going to be hundreds of thousands of really cool designs you can download for free, print out for pennies per pound on your three-dimensional printer. I can email you, ‘Oh, here’s this great new shirt’ and I can email it to you and you can print it out. People will still spend money for proprietary forms. We see that already in music and movies and books. There’re millions of those free products that you can have a very good time with, but people still spend money for their latest blockbuster or for Harry Potter or for music from their favorite artist. You have a coexistence of open source and proprietary forms of information and that will be true in every industry. Reporter: So what in this virtual world, what will value be? Like because you’re talking about the price of everything drops and you can sort of whenever the whole world is digitized you could just— RK: Well it’s for proprietary forms of information I mean look at music, movies, and books as a forerunner of that. That’s pure information and you spend money for a book and you get it as an ebook, and it’s just information. Though there’s also free books and there’s millions of free books you could never finish reading all the free books, you still spend money for proprietary books because you want to read that book and you’re going to spend money for a hot design from the latest hot designer for clothing even though you can get very good, free designs and you’re going to have this coexistence of open source and proprietary forms of information and that’s the nature of value: information that people want to acquire and are willing to pay for. Reporter: All right, great, thank you very much RK: Thank you. Reporter: This bottle, when I went and bought it, I went into the store and said, ‘Do you have a champagne that will keep until 2099?’ And he said, ‘Mmm… that’s hard, that’s a long time, you need to store it just right, but this is a 2004, I drank one just the other day.’ He said, ‘It keeps well.’ Do you think that you’ll be able to enjoy that bottle at that time? RK: Well if not, we’ll create one just like it.