Think the pace of change is accelerating? Just wait, ’cause as the song says, You ain’t seen nothin yet.
Can you imagine a home computer having power equivalent to that of the human mind–or even more inexplicably–of all of humanity? According to Ray Kurzweil, such progress is likely to occur within your lifetime.
Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns is based partly on his analysis of the cost of computing power as measured in computations per second (cps) per $1000 of expense over a period of 98 years. According to Kurzweil’s projections, $1000 will buy computing power equivalent to
- The Human Brain around the year 2023 (2 * 10^16 or 20 quadrillion cps).
- The combined capacity of all of humanity around the year 2049 (2 * 10^26 or 200 million billion billion cps).
See Kurzweil’s graphic summary at right. His complete data table includes the 1919 IBM Tabulator (0.001064 cps/$1000), the 1951 Univac I (1.43 cps/$1000), the 1977 Apple II (26870 cps/$1000), and the 1998 Pentium II (133300000 cps/$1000), among others.
Yes, having the total computing capacity of all of humanity on your PC is really hard to conceive. More so are its effects. Sometime around 2045, Kurzweil predicts the arrival of the Singularity, “the period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” Among the impacts, Kurzweil predicts that we will
- “Expand our minds through the merger of biological and non-biological intelligence.”
- “Be able to reprogram our genes and metabolic processes to turn off disease and aging processes.”
So, we will be able to upload and download our minds and extend life. “Profound and disruptive transformations in human capability,” indeed!
Ray Kurzweil is no quack. On the contrary, he is widely regarded as one of the most accurate prognosticators of technological progress and innovation. No less than Bill Gates says that Kurzweil is the “best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.”
Yikes–according to WolframAlpha’s life expectancy calculator, I have more than a 20% chance of living to witness the Singularity. I guess I best strap in and hold on. I suggest you do, too!