In preparation for the release of Ray Kurzweil’s new book How to Create a Mind, I’ve been reading through his two previous books about The Singularity. The Age of Spiritual Machines was originally published in 1999. In 2010, Kurzweil wrote a document titled How My Predictions are Faring. This document reviews the results of his predictions a decade later and shows that the vast majority of them are on track.
You can follow the progress of these technologies on Kurzweil’s site, Google Scholar, or the academic search engine of your choice.
Some technologies mentioned in the book:
1. artificial brains made of massively parallel neural nets
2. reverse-engineering the human brain
3. extracting information from natural language documents
4. recognizing patterns in medical data
5. real-time speech translation
6. computer assistants that search and understand knowledge bases
7. 3D computer chips with thousands of layers of circuitry
8. reverse-engineering human DNA
9. evolutionary/genetic algorithms
10. financial trading programs
11. financial prediction with neural nets
12. facial recognition
13. expert systems
14. sentence-parsing systems
15. optical computing
16. molecular computing/DNA computing
17. storing data as a hologram in a crystal
18. nanotube-based computing arrays
19. quantum computing
20. quantum computing using DNA
21. optical neuroimaging
22. retinal implants
23. organ replacement
24. gene therapy
25. self-replicating nanobots
26. solar cells in orbit
27. nanobots in the bloodstream
28. molecular assembly
29. tactile virtual reality
30. utility fog
31. humanoid robots
32. controlling emotions with neural implants
33. changing brain waves
34. computer-generated music, literature, and artwork
35. self-driving cars
36. computer displays in glasses
37. user interaction with gestures
38. software-based simulated teachers
39. reading-navigation systems for the blind
40. holography displays
41. business transactions with simulated people
42. portable health monitoring
43. high-bandwidth connection to the human brain
44. nanoprocessed food
Quotes and ideas from the book:
1. Human beings will no longer be the most intelligent or capable type of entity on the planet.
2. Computers will achieve the memory capacity and computing speed of the human brain by around the year 2020.
3. As computers continue to gain in capacity at an exponential rate, we will have the same experience in areas that Kasparov had in chess.
4. Computers will utilize goals with implicit values and emotions, although not necessarily the same values and emotions that humans exhibit.
5. Evolution of cells took billions of years, the next stage of evolution took hundreds of millions of years, the evolution of primates took tens of millions of years, humanoids evolved over millions of years, Homo sapiens emerged 500,000 years ago, Neanderthals emerged 100,000 years ago, and Homo sapiens sapiens emerged 90,000 years ago – a quickening of the pace in evolution.
6. The technology life cycle: precursor, invention, development, maturity, copiers, obsolescence, antiquity
7. Computing has been experiencing exponential growth, with the speed and density of computation going from doubling every three years to doubling every one year.
8. There is exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth.
9. When there is a lot of chaos in a process (random events that are relevant to the process), it takes more time for significant events to occur. Conversely, as order increases, the time periods between salient events decrease.
10. Evolution of life-forms or technology speeds up because it builds on its own increasing order.
11. Innovation is multiplicative, not additive.
12. As an entity learns a new skill, the newly acquired ability builds on itself.
13. An evolutionary process accelerates because it builds on its past achievements, which includes improvements in its own means for further evolution.
14. The strategies of biological evolution have themselves evolved.
15. On an atomic level, the material content of the human body is changing constantly and very quickly.
16. The unrelenting advance of machine intelligence will bring machines to human levels of intricacy and refinement and beyond within several decades.
17. Our brains are natural phenomena and thus must follow the cause-and-effect laws manifest in machines and other lifeless creations of our species.
18. If human decision making is based on predictable interactions of basic particles, our decisions must also be predetermined. That would contradict human freedom to choose. The addition of randomness into the natural laws is a possibility, but it does not solve the problem. Randomness would eliminate the predetermination of decisions and actions, but it contradicts the purposefulness of free will, as there is nothing purposeful in randomness.
19. Science is bound to win because of its ability to verify its insights.
20. Quantum mechanics indicates that particles may not go a certain way until observed by a conscious observer.
21. The machines will convince us that they are conscious, that they have their own agenda worthy of our respect. We will come to believe that they are conscious much as we believe that of each other. More so than with our animal friends, we will empathize with their professed feelings and struggles because their minds will be based on the design of human thinking. They will embody human qualities and will claim to be human. And we’ll believe them.
22. We will ultimately find that there are no human activities that require “real” intelligence.
23. It turns out that the class of problems solvable with simple approaches is extensive. Ultimately, with sufficient computational brute force (which will be ample in the twenty-first century) and the right formulas in the right combination, there are few definable problems that will fail to yield.
24. Recursion is a useful approach to generating all of the possible solutions to a problem.
25. While we have not yet captured all of intelligence in a simple formula, we have made a lot of progress with this simple combination: recursively defining a solution through a precise statement of the problem and massive computation.
26. A neural net or evolutionary algorithm may go through hundreds of iterations making apparently little progress, and then suddenly – as if the process had a flash of inspiration – things click and a soltuion quickly emerges.
27. We will be building our intelligent machines by breaking complex problems (such as understanding human language) into smaller subtasks, each with its own self-organizing program. Such layered emergent systems will have softer edges in the boundaries of their expertise and will display greater flexibility in dealing with the inherent ambiguity of the real world.
28. The holy grain in the field of knowledge acquisition is to automate the learning process, to let machines go out into the world and gather knowledge on their own.
29. An entity may possess extraordinary means to implement exhaustive recursive search, massively parallel pattern recognition, and rapid iterative evolution – but without knowledge, it will be unable to function.
30. By the year, 2020, a neural net computer will have doubled about twenty-three times, resulting in a speed of about 20 million billion neural connection calculations per second (equal to the human brain).
31. The capacity of computing will double ten times every decade, which is a factor of one thousand every ten years.
32. Once the structure and topology of the neurons, the organization of the interneuronal wiring, and the sequence of neural firing in a region have been observed, recorded, and analyzed, it becomes feasible to reverse engineer that region’s parallel algorithms. After the algorithms of a region are understood, they can be refined and extended prior to being implemented in synthetic neural equivalents.
33. Ultimately, and well before the twenty-first century is completed, people will port their entire mind file to the new thinking technology.
34. As we cross the divide to instantiate ourselves into our computational technology, our identity will be based on our evolving mind file. We will be software, not hardware.
35. The likely scenario is that both body and brain will evolve together, will become enhanced together, will migrate together toward new modalities and materials.
36. Regardless of the nature and derivation of a mental experience, spiritual or otherwise, once we have access to the computational processes that give rise to it, we have the opportunity to understand its neurological correlates. With the understanding of our mental processes will come the opportunity to capture our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual experiences, to call them up at will, and to enhance them.
37. Machines, derived from human thinking and surpassing humans in their capacity for experience, will claim to be conscious, and thus to be spiritual. They will believe that they are conscious. They will believe that they have spiritual experiences. They will be convinced that these experiences are meaningful. And given the historical inclination of the human race to anthropomorphize the phenomena we encounter, and the persuasiveness of the machines, we’re likely to believe them when they tell us.
38. With regard to the major physical and sensory disabilities, I believe that in a couple of decades we will come to herald the effective end of handicaps. As amplifiers of human thought, computers have great potential to assist human expression and to expand creativity for all of us.
39. The evolution of life in the universe: evolution of life -> evolution of intelligent life -> evolution of technology -> evolution of computation -> exponential progress -> merging the inventors of technology with their computational technology
40. Destruction of the entire evolutionary process is the only way to stop the exponential march of the Law of Accelerating Returns. Sufficiently powerful technologies are created along the way that have the potential to destroy the ecological niche that the species and its technology occupy. Given the likely plentifulness of life- and intelligence-bearing planets, these failure modes must have occurred many times.
41. Any self-replicating group of robots that fails to follow Isaac Asimov’s three laws (which forbid robots to harm their creators) through either evil design or programming error presents a grave danger.
42. As the means become available for the technology-creating species to manipulate the genetic code that gave rise to it (however that code is implemented), new viruses can emerge through accident and/or hostile intention with potentially mortal consequences. This could derail such a species before it has the opportunity to port the design of its intelligence to its technology.
43. Visiting delegations from faraway planets are likely to be very small in size. A computational-based superintelligence of the late twenty-first century here on Earth will be microscopic in size. Thus an intelligent delegation from another planet is not likely to use a spaceship of the size that is common in today’s science fiction, as there would be no reason to transport such large organisms and equipment.
44. An advanced civilization has almost certainly passed beyond the point where it has any significant unmet material needs. It will be able to manipulate its own environment through nanoengineering (as well as picoengineering and femtoengineering) to meet any conceivable physical requirements.
45. Intelligence does not exactly cause the repeal of the laws of physics, but it is sufficiently clever and resourceful to manipulate the forces in its midst to bend to its will. In order for this to happen, however, intelligence needs to reach a certain level of advancement.
46. Computational density here on Earth will increase by trillions of trillions during the twenty-first century.
47. While harder to quantify, the density of intelligence is closely related to the density of computation. The implication of the Law of Accelerating Returns is that intelligence on Earth and in our Solar System will vastly expand over time.
48. It is likely that our planet is not the only place where intelligence has been seeded and is growing. Ultimately, intelligence will be a force to reckon with.