Innovation Everywhere How the Acceleration of "GNR" (genetics, nanotechnology, robotics) Will Create a Flat and Equitable World
Ray Kurzweil, '70, Chairman and CEO, Kurzweil Technologies, Inc
Description: Ray Kurzweil may be the closest thing we have to a crystal ball. And if anyone has the right to some credibility in the prognostication arena, this overachieving inventor can. With crackling speed, Kurzweil powerpoints through charts illustrating the growth of various technologies over the centuries. His main points: technology evolves exponentially; the rate of technical progress itself is accelerating, so expect to "see 20,000 years of progress in the 21st century, about 1000 times greater than the 20th century." Before you can say, "Hold your horses," Kurzweil is off and running.
Say goodbye to cancer and heart disease within 15 years, and hello to living way past 80. And try to survive until the year 2029, which according to Kurzweil's mathematical models, represents "25 turns of the screw in terms of doubling the power of information technology in every aspect of our lives." We'll see reverse engineering of the human brain, and computers that "will combine the subtlety and pattern recognition of human intelligence with the speed, memory and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence." The marriage of nanotechnology and AI will bring us "a killer app"-- nanobots that can keep us healthy from the inside. These will also enable "full immersion virtual reality from within nervous systems" and expand human intelligence, facilitating "brain to brain communication. As for human conflict, Kurzweil sees an end to starvation and energy concerns, but doesn't quite complete his utopia. New technologies may be used in anti-social ways, say, by a bioterrorist. "I'm less optimistic we can avoid all painful issues; we certainly did not do that in the 20th century," concludes Kurzweil.
About the Speaker(s): Ray Kurzweil was the principal developer of the first omni-font optical character recognition (OCR), the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed, large-vocabulary speech recognition. Ray Kurzweil received the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the nation's largest award in invention and innovation, and was inducted in 2002 into the National Inventor Hall of Fame. He won the Winston Gordon medal from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for his pioneering work using technology for the benefit of blind people. He also received the 1999 National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. He has received 12 honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents. Kurzweil has written five books and hundreds of articles. His most recent work,The Singularity is Near, When Humans Transcend Biology (Viking), was published in Spring 2005.
Host(s): Office of the Provost, Technology Review
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