The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. That is a book title that strikes many as ominous. It , for many, hearkens a “SkyNet” or “I Robot” scenario where the threat is when machines “decide” as “thinking, reasoning machines” that they know better than humans know what our best course may be. Years earlier, it was the implied question and warning of 2001: A Space Oddysey, where a computer HAL talked to a human character named Dave (and so the famous line “I wouldn’t do that if I were you , Dave”).
But Kurzweil’s book is not unaware of the possible pitfalls of technology run amuck. Rather, it focuses on the history and nature of biological evolution, and later, technological evolution, to make a strong case for a time when our computing power, which has been and continues to grow “exponentially” , partially due to Moore’s Law (among other things), will enable us to basically reverse engineer the human brain. Now, I don’t follow him all the way to the conclusion that he makes, which is that we can “Create” a non-biological brain capable of growing and functioning like or beyond a human’s brain does. I still see the missing ingredient , and it is basically in the “software”. With all that computing power and advancement to process ever faster, while getting ever-smaller and ever-cheaper (the basic idea of Moore’s Law) , which I don’t have reason to doubt, we still have to have that “computer brain” be given “a life” or that thing called “consciousness” that “decides” to do something with its input.
Nevertheless, what we HAVE been seeing, and will continue to see, is an ever-expanding growth of technological aids to our biological existence. Today we know this reality as represented by medical technology and health technology. There are non-biological “hook-ups” like Dialysis machines and breathing machines that keep bodies functioning long enough to treat an otherwise lethal condition, or require frequent or permanent “connection” via catheters and tubes to maintain livable conditions. The intriguing developments in “Nano-bots” is what lies ahead that should interest all Boomers and Seniors, particularly those who might live long enough to have some of these arriving technologies save and extend their lives (possibly long enough to have it again extended by yet further advances). “Nano-bots” are blood-cell size computers that can perform basically any function that is reverse-engineer-able (which is rapidly moving toward almost anything). Nano-bots will be able to create/inject cellular bodies that fight or eradicate harmful, life/health threatening conditions of the body. And these nano-bots can be programmed and controlled with a variety of capabilities. Closer to our reality would be monitoring capabilities that render unneccsary invasive surgeries to “investigate” (like almost any “exploratory surgeries”). They can also do the work which surgeries do, not with “scalpel” but with microscopic material that can achieve the same without invasive, debilitating after -effects.
Kurzweil talks about “Living long enough to live forever”. Although we don’t have to buy the “forever” part, we can see some potential for radical life extension. In just 200 years of American history, our life expectancy has more than doubled (from 37 to 78). This has been the result of the technologies that we have concocted. With technological growth expanding exponentially, the following waves will and have been arriving much faster, as in single digits of years rather than centuries. A few of the technologies unimaginable a decade ago may be only 2 or three decades away. When the Human genome project began, the scientists predicted it would take 700 years to complete. It took 7 years. They didn’t take into account the “exponentential effects” of technology. Not only Moore’s Law, but the impact of communication technologies allowing for collaboration at a scale unimaginable just 20 years ago.
We welcome and desire your comments and thoughts! Are you excited, hopeful, freaked-out, doubtful, or opposed to this? Why?
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"In youth we learn; in age we understand."Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach
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