essays collection By Author | A-Z

The Human Machine Merger: Why We Will Spend Most of Our Time in Virtual Reality in the Twenty-first Century

August 29, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

Raymond Kurzweil’s keynote address delivered at the 2000 ACM SIGGRAPH conference in New Orleans.… read more

The Inflationary Universe

May 1, 2003 by Alan Harvey Guth

What happened before the Big Bang and why is the universe uniform and flat? The inflationary model offers an explanation. It also predicts the observed non-uniformities of the cosmic background radiation based on wild ideas about quantum fluctuations at 10^-35 seconds. Next step: the intersection between cosmology and particle physics.… read more

The Intelligent Universe

December 12, 2002 by Ray Kurzweil

Within 25 years, we’ll reverse-engineer the brain and go on to develop superintelligence. Extrapolating the exponential growth of computational capacity (a factor of at least 1000 per decade), we’ll expand inward to the fine forces, such as strings and quarks, and outward. Assuming we could overcome the speed of light limitation, within 300 years we would saturate the whole universe with our intelligence.… read more

The Invisible Brain

July 2, 2001 by Robert Wright

How do societies evolve toward greater complexity in culture and technology? Robert Wright posits that there is an “invisible brain” at work.… read more

The Last Human

June 5, 2002 by Gregory Stock

We are on the cusp of profound biological change, poised to transcend our current form and character on a journey to destinations of new imagination. The arrival of safe, reliable germline technology will signal the beginning of human self-design. Progressive self-transformation could change our descendants into something sufficiently different from our present selves to not be human in the sense we use the term now. But the ultimate question of our era is whether the cutting edge of life is destined to shift from its present biological substrate — the carbon and other organic materials of our flesh — to that of silicon and its ilk, as proposed by leading artificial-intelligence theorists such as Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil.… read more

The Law of Accelerating Returns

March 7, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.… read more

The Need For Limits

March 24, 2006 by Chris Phoenix

Molecular manufacturing will give its wielders extreme power and has the potential to remove or bypass many of today’s limits, including laws. That could lead to a planet-wide dictatorship, or to any of several forms of irreversible destruction. Perhaps the biggest problem of all will be how to develop a system of near-absolute power that will not become corrupt.… read more

The new era of health and medicine as an information technology is broader than individual genes

February 4, 2011 by Ray Kurzweil

DNA multicolor

Is it time to rethink the promise of genomics? 

There has been recent disappointment expressed in the progress in the field of genomics. In my view, this results from an overly narrow view of the science of genes and biological information processing in general. It reminds me of the time when the field of “artificial intelligence” (AI) was equated with the methodology of “expert systems.” If someone referred to… read more

The New Humanist

May 14, 2002 by John Brockman

“Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in physics, electricity, genetics, neurobiology, engineering, the chemistry of materials—all are challenging basic assumptions of who and what we are, of what it means to be human. The arts and the sciences are again joining together as one culture, the third culture. Those involved in this effort—scientists, science-based humanities scholars, writers—are at the center of today’s intellectual action. They are the new humanists.”… read more

The Open Mind Common Sense Project

January 2, 2002 by Push Singh

Push Singh of the MIT MediaLab describes a novel approach to achieving machine intelligence by teaching machines how to reason heuristically.… read more

The Pace and Proliferation of Biological Technologies

March 4, 2004 by Rob Carlson

The parts for a DNA synthesizer can now be purchased for approximately $10,000. By 2010 a single person will be able to sequence or synthesize 10^10 bases a day. Within a decade a single person could sequence or synthesize all the DNA describing all the people on the planet many times over in an eight-hour day or sequence his or her own DNA within seconds. Given the power and threat of biological technologies, the only way to ensure safety in the long run is to push research and development as fast as possible. Open and distributed networks of researchers would provide an intelligence gathering capability and a flexible and robust workforce for developing technology.… read more

The Paradigms and Paradoxes of Intelligence, Part 1: Russell’s Paradox

August 6, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

An exploration of Russell’s Paradox, written for “The Futurecast,” a monthly column in the Library Journal.… read more

The Paradigms and Paradoxes of Intelligence, Part 2: The Church-Turing Thesis

August 6, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

An exploration of the Church-Turing Thesis, originally written for “The Futurecast,” a monthly column in the Library Journal.… read more

The Paradigms and Paradoxes of Intelligence: Building a Brain

August 6, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil

How to build a brain, written for “The Futurecast,” a monthly column in the Library Journal.… read more

The Physical Constants as Biosignature: An anthropic retrodiction of the Selfish Biocosm Hypothesis

February 28, 2006 by James N. Gardner

Two recent discoveries have imparted a renewed sense of urgency to investigations of the anthropic qualities of our cosmos: the value of dark energy density is exceedingly small but not quite zero; and the number of different solutions permitted by M-theory is, in Susskind’s words, “astronomical, measured not in millions or billions but in googles or googleplexes.”… read more

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