Talk about mergers! Ray Kurzweil is an internationally famous inventor who believes that three great revolutions in science –Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics – are in the process of converging. In his latest book, The Singularity is Near (a must-read for those over 50!), he explains how we humans, in the next stage of our evolution, have already begun to transcend our biological selves. During the course of the next few decades — in which advances will accelerate exponentially at a staggering rate — the intelligent machines we are now accustomed to use outside us will become the superintelligent machines enhancing us from the inside (we already accept brain imaging, pacemakers, artificial hips, and even artificial hearts as present reality). In other words, human intelligence and machine intelligence will merge to become the Singularity (a word scientists use to express the infinite).
At 59, Ray is so sure that the 21st century will witness at least 200 centuries worth of change, that he is engaged in a heavy personal program of nutrition, exercise, and aggressive supplementation (he takes 250 supplements of vitamins and minerals a day plus weekly nutritional injections into his blood stream, thus bypassing the gastrointestinal tract) so that he will be around to see it happen. He figures that it will be about 20 years (2049) until the new technology begins to kick in. The child is already born, Ray tells us, who can live to be 1000 years if he or she wants to.
Most people over 50 recall the human potential movement of the 1960s and 1970s with some fondness. Well, we haven’t seen anything yet! According to inventor Ray Kurzweil, because of our current investigation of the human genome – the Genetic Revolution — we are already in the early stages of a 21st century happening in expanding human potential. As we begin to understand more and more about “the information processes underlying life,” we also gain the capacity to “reprogram our biology.” We’ll come close to completely eliminating disease, and we will radically extend life. We can already have the capability to clone our own skin cells to replace different organs in our bodies.
As a footnote, you don’t have to be a physicist or a mathematician to read The Singularity is Near. If it seems dense at the beginning, please be patient, because Ray Kurzweil is a terrific writer and teacher. He provides lots of examples that help you see the light (by the way, he thinks scientists will change the speed of light in the future), and inserts chatty conversations that further illuminate his thinking. The Singularity is Near is not science fiction; rather, it presents the scientifically-based predictions of a distinguished visionary who has been proven right before. I’ve already instructed my kids that, if, like Ray, I manage to live long enough, I want to be artificially enhanced.
Corinne Copnick, C.M., M.A. is the President of Timesolvers Writing & Editing Services (www.timesolvers.com).