Even Ray Kurzweil is nervous about a future with hyper-intelligent machines
By Meghan Kelly, Washington Post, October 3, 2012
Ray Kurzweil is looking forward to the year 2029.
That’s the year he predicts that our technology will be able to think without us—aka the date that computers pass the Turing test. Our computers are growing more powerful at an exponential rate, and even Kurzweil is impressed by what we can do with artificial intelligence (AI) today. He’s been making the prediction that 2029 is the date for some time, and he repeated the date here multiple times. Still, even to someone who has seen it coming all along, progress in technology can still be impressive.
“We’re making very discernible progress in AI. It’s quite visceral,” said Kurzweil at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., yesterday.
Kurzweil is widely known for creating the musical synthesizer, the Kurzweil Reading Machine, other speech recognition technologies. In addition, he’s made a name for himself for his interest in robots, his study of the brain, and for promoting the concept of the “Singularity,” which is the point at which artificial intelligence exceeds human intelligence; he’s a cofounder (with Peter Diamandis) of Singularity University. He has 19 honorary doctorates and degrees, and wants to live forever. Most recently he wrote the book How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, which looks at how reverse engineering the brain helps us understand how artificial intelligence fits in the broader world.
Once we hit 2029, our technology will be able to grow on its own, according to Kurzweil. By then, our cell phones will be as small as a blood cell, he said, biotechnology will be able to supplement our brains, and we will treat our bodies as software waiting to be updated. And yes, it could be scary.
He explained that today cyber terrorists are already able to reprogram the flu to make it even more deadly than it is naturally.
“If you have an AI that’s more intelligent than you are, and it’s bent for your destruction? Then that’s a bad situation to be in,” he said.