Inventors forecast 21st century innovations at Patent & Trademarks Office bicentennial

October 16, 2002 | Source: KurzweilAI

Oct. 16 – What do inventors expect to see in the 21st century? That was the key question today in a round table discussion with National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and Richard Russell, Associate Director of Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington DC.

The inductees, some of the world’s greatest living inventors, gathered at the nation’s capitol to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.”I have been studying this question for 25 years, since my interest in technology trends emerges from my interest in being an inventor and since my inventions have to make sense when I finish the project and the world invariably is a different place three to four years later,” said Ray Kurzweil.

“The models I’ve developed indicate that the paradigm shift rate (rate of progress) is doubling every decade (meaning that the significance of the 20-year patent life will grow in importance and value). Other technologies such as computation, communications, genomic scanning and brain reverse engineering are doubling every year.

“We’re shrinking the size of technology by a factor of 5.6 per linear dimension per decade. The result of all of these trends is that we will merge with our technology.

“We are already putting neural implants in the brains of people with disabilities and certain diseases. In the future we will be able to do this noninvasively with blood-cell-sized robots. There are already four major conferences on bioMEMS (biological Micro Electronic Mechanical Systems), basically small machines that go into the blood stream for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

“A few decades from now, we will have billions of these nanobots in our blood stream, going into the capillaries of our brain, where they will interact with our biological neurons.

“The result will be full immersion virtual reality involving all of the senses from inside the nervous system, and a direct expansion of human intelligence. When you talk to a human 35 or 40 years from now, you will be interacting with an intimate blending of both biological and nonbiological intelligence.

“Machines will combine the subtleties of human intelligence, including our strength in pattern recognition, with the natural advantages of machines in terms of speed, accuracy, and sharing of memory.”

Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the personal computer, spoke of the importance of role models for young people, and encouraging children to take invention seriously. He and several others called for greater support for the independent inventor, i.e., those not from large corporations.

Other participants included Ted Hoff (microprocessor), Peter Schultz (fiber optics), and James Hillier (electron microscope).