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
Originally published in 2005 with the launch of The Singularity Is Near.
Questions and Answers
So what is the Singularity?
Within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated… read more
We’re entering an age of acceleration. The models underlying society at every level, which are largely based on a linear model of change, are going to have to be redefined. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace.… read more
February 4, 2011 by Ray Kurzweil
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
By the end of this decade, we will have full-immersion visual-auditory environments, populated by realistic-looking virtual humans. These technologies are evolving today at an accelerating pace, as reflected in the book Virtual Humans. By the 2030s, virtual reality will be totally realistic and compelling and we will spend most of our time in virtual environments. By the 2040s, even people of biological origin are likely to have the vast majority of their thinking processes taking place in nonbiological substrates. We will all become virtual humans.… read more
January 12, 2004 by Ray Kurzweil
In an evolutionary process, positive feedback increases order exponentially. A correlate is that the “returns” of an evolutionary process (such as the speed, cost-effectiveness, or overall “power” of a process) increase exponentially over time — both for biology and technology. Ray Kurzweil submitted on essay based on that premise to Edge.org in response to John Brockman’s question: “What’s your law?”… read more
In the coming decades, a radical upgrading of our body’s physical and mental systems, already underway, will use nanobots to augment and ultimately replace our organs. We already know how to prevent most degenerative disease through nutrition and supplementation; this will be a bridge to the emerging biotechnology revolution, which in turn will be a bridge to the nanotechnology revolution. By 2030, reverse-engineering of the human brain will have been completed and nonbiological intelligence will merge with our biological brains.… read more
Nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler and Rice University Professor and Nobelist Richard Smalley have engaged in a crucial debate on the feasibility of molecular assembly. Smalley’s position, which denies both the promise and the peril of molecular assembly, will ultimately backfire and will fail to guide nanotechnology research in the needed constructive direction, says Ray Kurzweil. By the 2020s, molecular assembly will provide tools to effectively combat poverty, clean up our… read more
If you were offered physical immortality as a “Wallerstein brain” (a human brain maintained in a jar interfacing to a virtual reality through its sensory and motor neurons), would you accept it? The question came up in an email dialogue about reincarnation between Ray Kurzweil and Steve Rabinowitz, a practicing attorney in New York City (which he says may explain his need to believe in reincarnation).… read more