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.

Audio clips of the debate

The Future Will be Both Green AND Gray

The First 2 Decades of the 21st Century will be the Golden Age of Biotechnology

  • We’ve reached the intersection of Biology and Information Science
  • Biology as software
  • We’re learning the information transformations underlying life and disease processes
  • How they work
  • How to fix / transform / enhance these natural methods

Many Intersecting Bio-Information Revolutions

  • Tissue engineering: grow new telemere-extended cells, tissues, organs
  • Rational drug design: design drugs for precision tasks
  • Genomic panels
  • Fixing genomic defects
  • Reverse-engineering the Genome through the Proteome
  • Precise tracking of each individual’s biochemical pathways
  • Individualized medicine
  • And many others. . . . .
  • The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Decades will be the Golden Age of BioNanoTech

    • We’ve already crossed the threshold:
    • We have devices emerging to replace body parts, organs
    • The age of neural implants is well under way
    • Cochlear implants
    • Parkinson’s Implant (communicates directly with ventral posterior nucleus)
    • Experimental implants for stroke patients
    • Retinal implants
    • Many others under development
  • There are already 4 major conferences on BioMEMS
  • Many Emerging Designs for Linking the Wet Analog World of Biological Information with Electronic Information

    • Max Planck Institute’s Noninvasive “Neuron Transistor”
    • Quantum Dots
    • Control of Neuroprosthetic systems using pattern recognition on brain activity despite damaged nerve pathway

    Intelligent Machines are Making Their Way Into Our Blood Stream

    • U of Illinois at Chicago capsules with 7 nanometer pores cured type I Diabetes in Rats
    • Many designs to deliver medications in controlled manner, including the brain
    • Sandia micro robot traps cells with tiny jaws and implants substances
    • Robert Freitas’ conceptual designs for respirocytes, artificial platelets, nanorobotic microbivores
    • Many other examples….

    Nanotech is behind Biotech, but….

    • Consider the law of accelerating returns
    • We have been and will continue to double the paradigm shift rate each decade
    • So the 20th century was < 20 years of progress at today’s rate of progress
    • We’ll make equivalent progress in < 15 years
    • The 21st century is equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress

    By 2030

    • Electronics will utilize molecule-sized circuits….
    • organized in three dimensions
    • bioMEMS will have evolved into bioNEMS

    A Big Role for Small Robots

    • It will be routine to have millions / billions of nanobots coursing through our capillaries, communicating with:
    • Each other via a wireless LAN
    • The Internet
    • Our biological neurons
  • Providing:
    • Vast augmentation to our immune system
    • Otherwise repairing and augmenting our biological systems
    • Providing full immersion virtual reality encompassing all 5 senses
    • and neurological correlates of our emotions
  • “Experience Beaming”
  • Most importantly…..
  • Expanding our Minds…

    • Multiplying our mere hundred trillion connections many fold (eventually by trillions)
    • Intimate connection with nonbiological forms of intelligence
    • Direct connection to other minds
    • Downloading of knowledge

    Nonbiological Intelligence will combine….

    • The parallel self-organizing paradigm of biological pattern recognition, with
    • The strengths of machine intelligence:
    • Speed
    • Accuracy and scale of memory
    • Ability to instantly share knowledge
    • Ability to pool and network resources

    The Ethical Barriers are very weak

    • The ethical barriers even for biological technology are weak:
    • Like stones in a stream, the water rushes around them
    • e.g., the stem cell controversy has only accelerated efforts to bypass unneeded egg cells by transforming one cell type into another
    • through an understanding of the protein signaling factors

    “Natural” Technologies Always Proceed Synthetic Technologies

    • Carrier pigeons were eclipsed by human made flying machines · Human scribes were replaced
    • Human scribes were replaced by automated word processing
    • Machines greatly outperform human and animal labor

    Ultimately AI will vastly outperform human intelligence

    • Biological intelligence is stuck
    • Biological humanity (1010 humans) has 1026 calculations per second today and will have 1026 cps 50 years from now
  • Machine intelligence is millions of times less powerful today, but growing at a double exponential rate
  • The cross over point is in the 2020s
  • By 2050, nonbiological intelligence will be trillions of times more powerful than biological intelligence
  • Machine intelligence will combine the strengths of both contemporary human intelligence with the speed, capacity, and knowledge sharing of machines
  • The perspective that this “Singularity” in human history is a century or more away fails to appreciate the explosive nature of the exponential growth inherent in the law of accelerating returns

    Audio clips of the debate

    Gregory Stock’s presentation

    Ray Kurzweil’s presentation


    Audience Q&A