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February 6th, 2007
Ray Kurzweil: 2007,What are you Optimistic about?
Re: Question 2007: What are you optimistic about? Why?
I'm confident about energy, the environment, longevity, and wealth; I'm optimistic (but not necessarily confident) of the avoidance of existential downsides; and I'm hopeful (but not necessarily optimistic) about a repeat of 9-11 (or worse). Optimism exists on a continuum in-between confidence and hope. Let me take these in order. I am confident that the acceleration and expanding purview of information technology will solve the problems with which we are now preoccupied within twenty years.
Consider energy. We are awash in energy (10,000 times more than we need to meet all of our needs falls on the Earth) but we are not very good at capturing it, but that will change with full nanotechnology based assembly of macro objects at the nano scale controlled by massively parallel information processes, which will be feasible within twenty years. Even though our energy needs are projected to triple within 20 years, we'll capture that .0003 of the sunlight needed to meet all of our energy needs with no use of fossil fuels using extremely inexpensive, highly efficient, lightweight, nano engineered solar panels, and store the energy in highly distributed (and, therefore, safe) nanotechnology-based fuel cells. Solar power is now providing one part in a thousand of our energy needs but that percentage is doubling every two years, which means multiplying by a thousand in 20 years. Almost all of the discussions I've seen about energy and its consequences such as global warming fail to consider the ability of future nanotechnology based solutions to solve this problem. This development will be motivated not just by concern for the environment, but by the USD 2 trillion we spend annually on energy. This is already a major area of venture funding.
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