Singularity is the moment in human history when the development of new technologies accelerates to a stage when it becomes impossible to control. Machines will surpass human intelligence. Artificial intelligence and robots will take over many human competencies, and medicine will face long-awaited technological breakthroughs. Our lives will change radically, though not necessarily for the better.
Ray Kurzweil is considered one of the most influential futurists and AI gurus. This American inventor, computer scientist, and one of the directors at Google has received 20 honorary doctorates and honors from three US presidents. His book is still regarded as one of the most significant studies of technological transformation. In 2005 – long before AI-based solutions started to scale up – he described the near future when digitization, AI, or robotics would begin to develop exponentially, allowing people to transcend the limitations of the biological body, expand the brain’s capabilities, overcome diseases, and achieve longevity. In this new world, the human brain will integrate with computers, and the boundary between humans (biological beings) and artificial (digital solutions) will disappear. Computers will be billions of times more intelligent than all humanity.
The pace of any evolution is exponential
Kurzweil compares the evolution of technology to the evolution of humans. About 3.8 billion years ago, life on Earth was dominated by single-celled animals. It wasn’t until about 2 billion years later that multicellular organisms appeared, and evolution accelerated. It took only 200 million years from the appearance of the first mammals to Homo sapiens, which is not much considering the history of Earth.
Evolution accelerates exponentially with time – a similar principle applies to technological development. An example is the power of computers, which has doubled every two years for decades. Moore’s Law applies to any other technology, such as AI. Technologies interfere with each other to create even better innovations, and this principle creates a momentum that can no longer be stopped.
Computers that will make better computers
Following this rule of technological evolution, at some point, technologies will be able to replicate themselves: artificial intelligence will create even better AI models, and robots will build even more perfect machines. However, there may be slowdowns along the way, such as in the development of computer processing power. Current processors are no longer developing as fast as they were a few years ago because the technology has limitations. Eighteen years ago, Kurzweil wrote about nanotube technology, three-dimensional chips, and DNA computing (a cubic centimeter of DNA can store more information than a trillion music CDs). In the meantime, breakthrough inventions like quantum computers have emerged. Theoretically, their computing power can reach such a level that it will be possible to reduce the computation time, which with classical computers takes years, to a few seconds or minutes.
The development of AI and processor capacity means that computers will learn to do everything humans do, only better. In addition to knowledge of the world, they will gain social intelligence, learning our traits. For this to happen, AI would have to work similarly to the human brain. Current generative AI solutions are far from that, as they rely on patterns identified in large amounts of data. Nevertheless, Kurzweil says that by 2030, it will be possible to build conscious AI that mimics the brain.
Robots will live and work inside our bodies bodies
Robotics will also experience an acceleration. Nanorobots will begin to be widely used in medicine, conducting mini-surgeries inside the body and monitoring the body to spot and eliminate any anomalies before they start to be dangerous.
Once a disease is diagnosed, a doctor will inject a nanorobot with a specific function, which will, for example, precisely apply a drug to specific cells, fight bacteria, repair damaged tissue, cleanse the body of toxins, and unclog blood vessels. They could even scan cells for damaged genes and fix them right away. Gene therapies would become standard procedure. Kurzweil had high hopes of using viruses as “gene cabs” to transport DNA and replace damaged fragments. At the time, he didn’t know that the big hope for treating diseases would be mRNA technology, which was unknown then. This also proves the speed of progress in medical science.
Another breakthrough is expected to be the cloning of one’s organs for transplantation and their replacement in case of disease or irreversible damage. It will even be a way to “revitalize the body in a non-invasive way.” Cloned cells introduced into the bloodstream will find their way to the appropriate organ or tissue and replace aging cells. In this way, it would be possible to rejuvenate without surgery. But that’s not the only controversial vision. Our bodies will become bionic, imbued with technologies like digital retinas or brain implants (interfaces) for integration with computers. Around 2030, our bodies will be mainly composed of non-biological components, as better electronic counterparts will replace many organs.
Body 3.0 and the end of the world
While Kurzweil refers to logical arguments when writing about the development of artificial intelligence, his predictions about medicine miss entirely the facts. Not to mention the futuristic vision of “body 3.0” consisting of nanorobots that can take any form or connect to the Internet and download information to the brain like in the movie “Matrix.” Kurzweil is an engineer who knows little about medicine, which is evident in his completely misguided visions for the development of health care.
In 2045, technologies will already be at such a level that we won’t understand what machines are talking to each other and what they are currently working on. Within days, robots will create the following breakthrough technologies without humans’ help. In a post-singularity world, things become intelligent, and humans lose their dominant position.
There is also bad news. A network of interconnected computers, AI systems, and machines could create a supercomputer, a new form of intelligence – so intelligent that it will predict and prevent any attempt to deactivate it. Nanorobots will begin to replicate at an uncontrollable rate like locusts. In order to grow and build new machines, robots will need massive amounts of natural resources – they will start devouring everything on their path. A few hours at most would be enough, and the Earth would cease to exist. Or imagine an even worse scenario, when nanorobots injected into the body start mutating like cancer cells or revolt.
In 2024, Ray Kurzweil announces a follow-up to his 2005 bestseller with the suggestive title that singularity is no longer near but closer. Hopefully, his new vision will consider the realities of medicine and the fact that humans still have time to regulate AI to make the best of it.
See also this video were Ray Kurzweil Reveals Future Tech Timeline To 2100