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Home > News > Three questions for Ray Kurzweil

June 20th, 2010

Three questions for Ray Kurzweil

Abstract:
Q: You've written that advances in fields like genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will allow us to merge technology with our biology in a manner that will allow us to supplement our brains and bodies, creating superhuman abilities. It calls to mind "The Six Million Dollar Man" and raises countless questions about ethics, health care, equality, democracy and, of course, sports records. But I write for the business section, so I'll just ask this: What are the implications for private industry and the economy?

A: First of all, I would point out that this continues a long-standing trend. If we stayed with what was "natural," our life expectancy would be in the 20s.

Ultimately, intelligent devices will go inside our bodies and brains, and that is also a trend that has already started. If you have Parkinson's disease, you can put a computer inside your body, which connects into your brain, that replaces much of the functionality of the neurons destroyed by the disease.

One of the implications of the law of accelerating returns is that these technologies will be another billion times more powerful per dollar in 25 years and 100,000 times smaller in size. So we will be able to send very powerful yet extremely inexpensive computerized devices the size of blood cells into our bodies to keep us healthier and to make us smarter.

According to my models, we'll reach a tipping point in about 15 years where we will be adding more than a year each year to your remaining life expectancy.

Sometimes people ask whether these technologies will be enjoyed only by the wealthy. My response is to look at cell phones. Only the wealthy could afford the early models of mobile phones, which did not work very well. Today there are 5 billion cell phones for 6 billion people and they work relatively well and do many things besides making phone calls. Information-based technologies are affordable only by the rich at a point in time where they don't work very well. By the time they are perfected, they are almost free.

These are all information technologies. Despite the fact that information technology has a deflation rate of about 50 percent per year, we more than double our use of it each year because the improvements in price-performance make new applications feasible. This is in fact the source of economic growth. There has been 18 percent annual growth in every form of information technology for the past half century as measured in constant dollars, despite the fact that you can get twice as much of it each year for the same cost.

Source:
sfgate.com

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