essays collection

Technology in the 21st Century: an Imminent Intimate Merger

May 14, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

At the Foresight Institute “Exploring the Edges” Senior Associate Gathering, April 27, 2002, Ray Kurzweil presented the case of the emergence of biological and machine intelligence, answering the three major challenges: limited resources, inadequate software, and ethical concerns. Here are the presentation slides and audio.… read more

Intelligence as an Emergent Behavior or, The Songs of Eden

May 2, 2002 by W. Daniel Hillis

Could we build a thinking machine by simply hooking together a large network of artificial neurons and waiting for intelligence to spontaneously emerge? Not likely, but by studying the properties of biological and emergent systems, a carefully constructed network of artificial neurons could be inoculated with thought, similar to yeast’s role in making beer. The clue may be in the “songs” of apes.… read more

Arguments for a Green AND Gray Future

May 1, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil and Gregory Stock, Director, UCLA Program on Medicine,
Technology and Society, debated “BioFuture vs. MachineFuture” at the Foresight Senior Associate Gathering, April 27, 2002. This is Ray Kurzweil’s presentation.… read more

How Can We Possibly Tell If It’s Conscious?

April 18, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

At the Tucson 2002: Toward a Science of Consciousness conference, Ray Kurzweil addressed the question of how to tell if something is conscious. He proposed two thought experiments.… read more

Clottocytes: Artificial Mechanical Platelets

April 12, 2002 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

Nanorobotic artificial mechanical platelets (“clottocytes”) may allow for complete hemostasis in as little as one second – 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural system and 10,000 times more effective in terms of bloodstream concentration. They could also work internally. Using acoustic pulses, a blood vessel break could be rapidly communicated to neighboring clottocytes, immediately triggering a progressive controlled mesh-release cascade.… read more

Microbivores: Artificial Mechanical Phagocytes

April 11, 2002 by Robert A. Freitas Jr.

Nanorobotic “microbivores” traveling in the bloodstream could be 1000 times faster-acting than white blood cells and eradicate 1000 times more bacteria, offering a complete antimicrobial therapy without increasing the risk of sepsis or septic shock (as in traditional antibiotic regimens) and without release of biologically active effluents. They could also quickly rid the blood of nonbacterial pathogens such as viruses, fungus cells, or parasites.… read more

Response to Mitchell Kapor’s “Why I Think I Will Win”

April 9, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil responds to Mitch Kapor’s arguments against the possibility that an AI that will pass a Turing Test in 2029 in this final counterpoint on the bet: an AI will pass a Turing Test by 2029.… read more

Why I Think I Will Win

April 9, 2002 by Mitch Kapor

Will a computer pass the Turing Test (convincingly impersonate a human) by 2029? Mitchell Kapor has bet Ray Kurzweil that a computer can’t because it lacks understanding of subtle human experiences and emotions.… read more

A Wager on the Turing Test: Why I Think I Will Win

April 9, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

Will Ray Kurzweil’s predictions come true? He’s putting his money where his mouth is. Here’s why he thinks he will win a bet on the future of artificial intelligence. The wager: an AI that passes the Turing Test by 2029.… read more

A Wager on the Turing Test: The Rules

April 9, 2002 by Mitch Kapor, Ray Kurzweil

An explanation of rules behind the Turing Test, used to determine the winner of a long bet between Ray Kurzweil and Mitch Kapor over whether artificial intelligence will be achieved by 2029.… read more

Green or Gray?

April 5, 2002 by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Will the future be green (based on biotechnology) or gray (based on nanotechnology and nanotech-powered AI)? Ray Kurzweil and Gregory Stock will debate this issue at the Foresight Senior Associate Gathering. Both have advantages, but environmentalists and anti-biotech activists may load the dice in favor of gray.… read more

After the Singularity: A Talk with Ray Kurzweil

March 27, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

John Brockman, editor of, recently interviewed Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity and its ramifications. According to Ray, “We are entering a new era. I call it ‘the Singularity.’ It’s a merger between human intelligence and machine intelligence that is going to create something bigger than itself. It’s the cutting edge of evolution on our planet. One can make a strong case that it’s actually the cutting edge of the evolution of intelligence in general, because there’s no indication that it’s occurred anywhere else. To me that is what human civilization is all about. It is part of our destiny and part of the destiny of evolution to continue to progress ever faster, and to grow the power of intelligence exponentially. To contemplate stopping that–to think human beings are fine the way they are–is a misplaced fond remembrance of what human beings used to be. What human beings are is a species that has undergone a cultural and technological evolution, and it’s the nature of evolution that it accelerates, and that its powers grow exponentially, and that’s what we’re talking about. The next stage of this will be to amplify our own intellectual powers with the results of our technology.”… read more

Accelerating Intelligence: Where Will Technology Lead Us?

March 26, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

Kurzweil gave a Special Address at BusinessWeek’s The Digital Economy New Priorities: Building A Collaborative Enterprise In Uncertain Times conference on December 6, 2001 in San Francisco. He introduced business CEOs to the Singularity — the moment when distinctions between human and machine intelligence disappear.… read more

We Are Becoming Cyborgs

March 15, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

The union of human and machine is well on its way. Almost every part of the body can already be enhanced or replaced, even some of our brain functions. Subminiature drug delivery systems can now precisely target tumors or individual cells. Within two to three decades, our brains will have been “reverse-engineered”: nanobots will give us full-immersion virtual reality and direct brain connection with the Internet. Soon after, we will vastly expand our intellect as we merge our biological brains with non-biological intelligence.… read more

2050 Global Normative Scenarios

March 15, 2002 by Jerome C. Glenn, Theodore J. Gordon

Experts were asked to describe normative (preferred) scenarios for technology, human development, and politics/economics in the year 2050. Their ideas were compiled into three scenarios by two leading futurists for the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University. “The authors provide some insightful scenarios,” says Ray Kurzweil. “However, I feel that their time frames do not adequately reflect the accelerating pace of progress inherent in what I call the law of accelerating returns. The types of changes they describe for 2050 will arrive much earlier in my view.”… read more

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