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. First I posted notes from The Age of Spiritual Machines. Now it’s time for notes from The Singularity is Near, which was originally published in 2005. The book also provides the basis for a new movie starring Pauley Perrette:
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. higher resolution brain scanning (two-photon laser scanning microscopy, optical coherence imaging)
2. emulating human intelligence with supercomputers and then personal computers
3. software models of human intelligence
4. computers that pass the Turing test
5. reengineering organs to be more effective
6. three-dimensional molecular circuits
7. nanotube-based molecular circuits
8. nanobots to create virtual reality within the nervous system
9. nanobots to reverse pollution
10. foglets to create virtual reality in physical reality
11. reverse-engineering the human brain
12. computer displays in eyeglasses
13. tactile virtual reality interfaces
14. DNA computing
16. optical computing
17. quantum computing
18. computing with molecules
19. nanoscale self-assembly
20. reversible computing
21. microelectronic mechanical systems fuel cells
22. nanocomputing with nanoscale rods
23. ubiquitous computing
24. picoscale technology
25. increasing the speed of light
26. computing with a closed timelike curve
27. ultraprecise intracellular surgery
28. recording neurons with electrodes
29. nanobots to bypass the blood-brain barrier
30. retina implants
31. chips to replace the hippocampus and olivocerebellar region
32. interfaces between neurons and electronic devices
33. uploading human brains
34. simulating the effects of medications on proteins
35. RNA interference
36. therapeutic cloning
37. gene chips
38. gene therapy
39. reversing atherosclerotic plaque
40. cancer vaccines
41. blocking angiogenesis
42. targeted telomerase therapies
43. turning cells into computers
44. re-creating animals from extinct species
45. reprogramming cells
46. creating meat without animals
47. reverse-engineering bacteria to design nanobots
48. glucose-oxygen fuel cells
49. nanoparticles for tests and treatments
50. nanoscale solar energy
51. nanotechnology-based lighting
52. nanotube transmission lines
53. wireless microwave energy transmission
54. microbial fuel cells
55. harvesting carbon from the atmosphere to power nanomachinery
56. nanoparticles for removing environmental toxins
57. nanofiltration for water purification
58. strong A.I.
59. genetic algorithms
60. Bayesian networks for optimizing supply chains
61. artificial intelligence to analyze data from telescopes and satellites
62. AI pattern recognition in medical diagnosis
63. AI-based systems that conduct scientific research
64. natural language processing systems
65. self-driving cars
66. optimizing delivery of nutrients into the bloodstream
67. quantum dots to activate neurons
68. exomuscle for increasing physical strength
69. robot swarm intelligence
70. smart dust
71. computer-assisted education
72. downloading knowledge and skills to the brain
73. shell computers around stars
74. expanding intelligence beyond the solar system
75. rapid sequencing of viruses
76. defense systems against self-replicating nanobots
77. rapid development of antiviral medications
78. nanotechnology-based immune systems
79. friendly artificial intelligence
80. random serum monitoring for unknown or evolving pathogens
81. autonomic computing
Quotes and ideas from the book:
1. No matter what quandaries we face – business problems, health issues, relationship difficulties, as well as the great scientific, social, and cultural challenges of our time – there is an idea that can enable us to prevail. Furthermore, we can find that idea. And when we find it, we need to implement it.
2. Most inventions fail not because the R&D department can’t get them to work but because the timing is wrong.
3. The power of ideas to transform the world is itself accelerating.
4. Our incantations are the formulas and algorithms underlying our modern-day magic.
5. The genetic difference between chimpanzees and humans is only a few hundred thousand bytes of information.
6. Exponential growth is deceptive. It starts out almost imperceptibly and then explodes with unexpected fury – unexpected, that is, if one does not take care to follow its trajectory.
7. Within several decades information-based technologies will encompass all human knowledge and proficiency, ultimately including the pattern-recognition powers, problem-solving skills, and emotional and moral intelligence of the human brain itself.
8. The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. We will gain power over our fates. Our mortality will be in our own hands. We will be able to live as long as we want. We will fully understand human thinking and will vastly extend and expand its reach. By the end of this century, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence.
9. Before the middle of this century, the growth rates of our technology – which will be indistinguishable from ourselves – will be so steep as to appear vertical.
10. Although the Singularity has many faces, its most important implication is this: our technology will match and then vastly exceed the refinement and suppleness of what we regard as the best of human traits.
11. Because we’re doubling the rate of progress every decade, we’ll see the equivalent of a century of progress – at today’s rate – in only twenty-five calendar years.
12. People tend to overestimate what can be achieved in the short term but underestimate what can be achieved in the long term.
13. In the aftermath of the Singularity, intelligence, derived from its biological origins in human brains and its technological origins in human ingenuity, will begin to saturate the matter and energy in its midst. It will achieve this by reorganizing matter and energy to provide an optimal level of computation to spread out from its origin on Earth.
14. What would 1,000 scientists, each 1,000 times more intelligent than human scientists today, and each operating 1,000 times faster than contemporary humans accomplish? Well, for one thing, they would come up with technology to become even more intelligent.
15. The rate of technical innovation is doubling every decade.
16. The power of information technologies is doubling about every year.
17. Once a skill is mastered by a machine, it can be performed repeatedly at high speed, at optimal accuracy, and without tiring.
18. Machines will have access via the Internet to all the knowledge of our human-machine civilization and will be able to master all of the knowledge.
19. Machine intelligence will improve its own abilities in a feedback cycle that unaided human intelligence will not be able to follow.
20. Technology, like any evolutionary process, builds on itself.
21. Everything – including physical products, once nanotechnology-based manufacturing becomes a reality in about twenty years – is becoming information.
22. Conventional genetic algorithms allow evolution only within the confines of a narrow problem and a single means of evolution. The genetic code itself needs to evolve; the rules of evolution need to evolve.
23. There are tens of thousands of projects that are advancing the various aspects of the law of accelerating returns in diverse incremental ways.
24. It is clear that we can emulate the functionality of brain regions with less computation than would be required to simulate the precise nonlinear operation of each neuron and all of the neural components.
25. There are limits to computation based on the laws of physics. But these still allow for a continuation of exponential growth until nonbiological intelligence is trillions of trillions of times more powerful than all of human civilization today.
26. Organizing the particles in a 2.2-pound rock could lead to a zero-energy-consuming computer with a memory of about a thousand trillion trillion bits and a processing capacity of 10^42 operations per second, which is about ten trillion times more powerful than all human brains on Earth.
27. The potential computing capacity of a kilogram of matter is about 5 x 10^50 operations per second, which is equal to about five billion trillion human civilizations.
28. We will ultimately understand the principles of operation underlying the full range of our own thinking, knowledge that will provide us with powerful procedures for developing the software of intelligent machines.
29. Highly repetitive patterns are found in each specific brain region, so it is not necessary to capture each particular detail to successfully reverse engineer the relevant algorithms.
30. The massive parallelism of the human brain is the key to its pattern-recognition ability, which is one of the pillars of our species’ thinking.
31. Ways in which the brain differs from a conventional computer: slow circuits, massive parallelism, combines analog and digital phenomena, rewires itself, random and unpredictable functions, uses emergent properties, is imperfect, is contradictory, uses evolution, has important patterns, holographic information storage, deeply connected networks, architecture of regions, becomes more complex at lower levels
32. Brain reverse-engineering will proceed by iterative refinement of both top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top models and simulations, as we refine each level of description and modeling.
33. A key feature of the human brain is the ability to make predictions, including predictions about the results of its own decisions and actions.
34. The accelerating pace of brain reverse engineering makes it clear that there are no limits to our ability to understand ourselves – or anything else, for that matter. The key to the scalability of human intelligence is our ability to build models of reality in our mind.
35. The human body version 2.0 will include virtual bodies in completely realistic virtual environments, nanotechnology-based physical bodies, and more.
36. If an upload is sufficiently accurate to re-create a person’s state within the amount of natural change that a person undergoes in a fraction of a second or even a few minutes, that will be sufficient for any conceivable purpose.
37. The most important element in uploading will be our gradual transfer of our intelligence, personality, and skills to the nonbiological portion of our intelligence.
38. By adopting multipronged strategies for treating each disease process and each aging process, baby boomers can remain in good health until the biotechnology revolution blossoms.
39. We’ll be able to rejuvenate all of your body’s tissues and organs by transforming your skin cells into youthful versions of every other cell type.
40. Seven key aging processes: DNA mutations, toxic cells, mitochondrial mutations, intracellular aggregates, extracellular aggregates, cell loss and atrophy
41. Nanotechnology has the potential to replace biology’s genetic-information repository in the cell nucleus with a nanoengineered system that would maintain the genetic code and simulate the actions of RNA, the ribosome, and other elements of the computer in biology’s assembler. A nanocomputer would maintain the genetic code and implement the gene-expression algorithms. A nanobot would then construct the amino-acid sequences for the expressed genes.
42. Critics will cite the limitations of today’s systems as proof that such limitations are inherent and can never be overcome.
43. Energy requirements will grow far more slowly than the capacity of technologies because of greatly increased efficiencies in the use of energy.
44. We could meet the entire world’s energy needs in 2030 by capturing only 0.03% of the sun’s energy as it hits the Earth.
45. Ultimately we will redesign all of our industrial processes to achieve their intended results with minimal consequences, such as unwanted by-products and their introduction into the environment.
46. As one strong AI immediately begets many strong AIs, the latter access their own design, understand and improve it, and thereby very rapidly evolve into a yet more capable, more intelligent AI, with the cycle repeating itself indefinitely.
47. Although utilization of the new paradigm does increase exponentially, early growth is slow until the knee of the exponential-growth curve is realized.
48. The AI revolution is the most profound transformation that human civilization will experience, so it will take longer to mature than less complex technologies.
49. The hunches of human decision making are usually influenced by combining many pieces of evidence from prior experience, non definitive by itself. Often we are not even consciously aware of many of the rules that we use.
50. A practical system needs to continually prune away unpromising lines of action.
51. The most powerful approach to building robust AI systems is combine approaches, which is how the human brain works.
52. The range of intelligent tasks in which machines can now compete with human intelligence is continually expanding.
53. Part of the brain’s strategy is to learn information, rather than having knowledge hard-coded from the start. Learning will be an important aspect of AI as well.
54. Once the principles of operation of human intelligence are understood, expanding its abilities will be conducted by human scientists and engineers whose own biological intelligence will have been greatly amplified through an intimate merger with nonbiological intelligence. Over time, the nonbiological portion will predominate.
55. The Singularity will be characterized by the rapid cycle of human intelligence – increasingly nonbiological – capable of comprehending and leveraging its own powers.
56. As we learn the operating principles of the human body and brain, we will soon be in a position to design vastly superior systems that will last longer and perform better, without susceptibility to breakdown, disease, and aging.
57. Nanobots will be capable of generating the neurological correlates of emotions, sexual pleasure, and other derivatives of our sensory experience and mental reactions. Experiments during open brain surgery have demonstrated that stimulating certain specific points in the brain can trigger emotional experiences.
58. Ultimately software-based humans will be vastly extended beyond the severe limitations of humans as we know them today.
59. If death seems unavoidable, we have little choice but to rationalize it as necessary, even ennobling. The technology of the Singularity will provide practical and accessible means for humans to evolve into something greater, so we will no longer need to rationalize death as a primary means of giving meaning to life.
60. Our memories and skills, although they may appear to be fleeting, do represent information, coded in vast patterns of neurotransmitter concentrations, interneuronal connections, and other relevant neural details. This information is the most precious of all, which is one reason death is so tragic.
61. Technology typically starts out with unaffordable products that don’t work very well, followed by expensive versions that work a bit better, and then by inexpensive products that work reasonably well. Finally the technology becomes highly effective, ubiquitous, and almost free.
62. Virtually all routine physical and mental work will be automated.
63. Change will always produce fundamentalist and Luddite counteractions, which will intensify as the pace of change increases. But despite apparent controversy, the overwhelming benefits to human health, wealth, expression, creativity, and knowledge quickly become apparent.
64. Any civilization sophisticated enough to make the trip here would have long since passed the point of merging with its technology and would not need to send physically bulky organisms and equipment.
65. As intelligence saturates the matter and energy available to it, it turns dumb matter into smart matter.
66. Existing knowledge can be aggressively applied to dramatically slow down aging processes in anticipation of more radical life-extending therapies from biotechnology and nanotechnology
67. Our bodies are governed by obsolete genetic programs that evolved in a bygone era, so we need to overcome our genetic heritage.
68. Only technology can provide the scale to overcome the challenges with which human society has struggled for generations.
69. Death is a tragedy. It is not demeaning to regard a person as a profound pattern (a form of knowledge), which is lost when he or she dies.
70. The purpose of the universe reflects the same purpose as our lives: to move toward greater intelligence and knowledge.
71. The primary problems we cannot solve are ones that we cannot articulate and are mostly ones of which we are not yet aware.
72. We can anticipate the capability of technologies that are coming – in five years or ten years or twenty – and work these into our plans.
73. Even small delays in implementing emerging technologies can condemn millions of people to continued suffering and death.
74. The transformation underlying the Singularity is not just another in a long line of steps in biological evolution. We are upending biological evolution altogether.
75. The power of patterns to endure goes beyond explicitly self-replicating systems, such as organisms and self-replicating technology. It is the persistence and power of patterns that support life and intelligence. The pattern is far more important than the material stuff that constitutes it.
76. Banning the development of certain technologies would drive the technology underground, where only the least responsible practitioners would have most of the expertise.
77. If the universe is a simulation, the best way we could avoid being shut down would be to be interesting to the observers of the simulation.
78. Many people in the world live without social safety nets, which is at least one reason to continue technological progress and the economic enhancement that accompanies it.
79. Only technology, with its ability to provide orders of magnitude of improvement in capability and affordability, has the scale to confront problems such as poverty, disease, pollution, and the other overriding concerns of society today.
80. Should we tell the millions of people afflicted with cancer and other devastating conditions that we are canceling the development of all bioengineered treatments because there is a risk that these same technologies may someday be used for malevolent purposes?
81. The demand for therapies that can overcome the suffering, disease, and short lifespans inherent in our version 1.0 bodies will ultimately prove irresistible.
82. We should optimize the likelihood that future nonbiological intelligence will reflect our values of liberty, tolerance, and respect for knowledge and diversity. The best way to accomplish this is to foster those values in our society today and going forward.
83. Exponential trends to reach an asymptote, but the matter and energy resources needed for computation and communication are so small per compute and per bit that these trends can continue to the point where nonbiological intelligence is trillions of trillions of times more powerful than biological intelligence.
84. Complex systems of matter and energy are not predictable, since they are based on a vast number of unpredictable quantum events.
85. The doubling time of software development productivity is approximately six years.
86. We can often achieve the equivalent of years of hardware improvement through a single algorithmic improvement.
87. Understanding the principles of operation of human intelligence will add to our toolkit of AI algorithms.
88. Chaos is part of the process of pattern recognition – it drives the process – and there is no reason that we cannot harness these methods in our machines just as they are utilized in our brains.
89. The brain uses its probabilistic fractal type of organization to create processes that are chaotic.
90. Because we can describe the brain’s principles of operation in mathematical terms, and since we can model any mathematical process (including chaotic ones) on a computer, we are able to implement simulations of the brain.
91. Technical progress is advancing on thousands of fronts, fueled by irresistible economic gains and profound improvements in human health and well-being.
92. Desirable information technologies rapidly become ubiquitous and almost free. It is only when they don’t work very well (that is, in an early stage of development) that they are expensive and restricted to an elite.
93. Innovation has a way of working around the limits imposed by institutions.
94. As technology becomes more sophisticated it increasingly takes on traditional human capabilities and requires less adaptation.
95. Everything we perceive in the material world is the result of many trillions of quantum events, each of which displays a profound and irreducible quantum randomness at the core of physical reality (or so it seems – the scientific jury is still out on the true nature of the apparent randomness underlying quantum events).
96. Our responses to emotions and our highest aspirations are properly regarded as emergent patterns that result from the interaction of the human brain with its complex environment.
97. The brains and experiences of different people are clearly not the same, and these differences are well explained by differences in their physical brains resulting from varying genes and experiences.
98. The fact that a certain technical feat has not yet been accomplished is not a strong argument that it will never be.