While some have viewed the merging of technology and physiology as fantasy, reality is showing that this is no longer just science fiction. On the contrary, the beginnings of this process are well underway. We are however, still in the ‘toddler’ stage of this evolution.
Many people found the first wave of wearables came up short. Entry-level price points were high, and accuracy was not all that it was cracked up to be. Things have progressed since then and the market is gradually transitioning from basic fitness trackers to more complex devices including smartwatches and sports watches.
But what does the future hold?
Search the internet, and you will find a plethora of articles attempting to predict where technology will lead us in the next few decades. One name that stands apart, however, is Ray Kurzweil.
Bill Gates calls Ray Kurzweil, “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.”
So who is this man?
He has received 20 honorary doctorates, been awarded honors from three U.S. presidents, and has authored 7 books (5 of which have been bestsellers).
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Ray Kurzweil is the principal inventor of many technologies ranging from the first CCD flatbed scanner to the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. He is also the chancellor and co-founder of Singularity University, and the guy employed by Google to direct its artificial intelligence development.
While he hasn’t been precisely right in every single prediction, his track record in making forecasts is very impressive.
So what does the future hold according to Ray? It makes for exciting (and scary) reading.
- The decade in which the revolution in Nanotechnology is to begin allowing humans to vastly overcome the inherent limitations of biology.
- This decade also marks the revolution in Robotics, as an AI is expected to pass the Turing test by the last year of the decade, meaning it can pass for a human being.
- Early in this decade, humanity will have the requisite hardware to emulate human intelligence within a $1,000 personal computer, followed shortly by effective software models of human intelligence towards the middle of the decade.
- Computers less than 100 nm in size will be possible. As one of their first practical applications, nanomachines will be used for medical purposes. For example, highly advanced medical nanobots will perform detailed brainscans on live patients. Accurate computer simulations of the entire human brain will exist due to these hyper-accurate brainscans, and the workings of the brain will be understood.
- By 2022, medical technology will be much more advanced than it is today, and the “tipping point” of human life expectancy will have been reached, with every new year of research guaranteeing at least one more year of life expectancy.
- Nanobots capable of entering the bloodstream to “feed” cells and extract waste will exist by the end of this decade. They will make the normal mode of human food consumption obsolete.
- By the late 2020s, nanotech-based manufacturing will be in widespread use, radically altering the economy as all sorts of products can suddenly be produced for a fraction of their traditional-manufacture costs.
- By the later part of this decade, virtual reality will be so high-quality that it will be indistinguishable from real reality.
- The many variations of “Human Body 2.0” (as Kurzweil calls it) are incrementally accumulated into this and the following decade, with each organ and body system having its own course of refinement and development. It ultimately consists of a nanotechnological system of nourishment and circulation, obsolescing many internal organs, brain-extension and an improved skeleton.
- Mind uploading becomes successful and perfected by the end of this decade as humans become software-based: living out on the web, projecting bodies whenever they want or need (whether in virtual or real reality), and living indefinitely so long as they maintain their “mind file”.
- Eventually, all human beings will migrate to this postbiological state except for those who wish to remain unenhanced: the transbiological era giving way to the postbiological era.
- Nanomachines could be directly inserted into the brain and could interact with brain cells to totally control incoming and outgoing signals. As a result, truly full-immersion virtual reality could be generated without the need for any external equipment.
- Using brain nanobots, recorded or real-time brain transmissions of a person’s daily life known as “experience beamers” will be available for other people to remotely experience.
- Recreational uses aside, nanomachines in peoples’ brains will allow them to greatly expand their cognitive, memory and sensory capabilities, to directly interface with computers, and to “telepathically” communicate with other.
- The same nanotechnology should also allow people to alter the neural connections within their brains, changing the underlying basis for the person’s intelligence, memories and personality.
- The many variations of “Human Body 3.0” are gradually implemented during this and the following decade; It mostly likely lacks a fixed, corporeal form and can alter its shape and external appearance at will via foglet-like nanotechnology.
- People spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality.
- Nonbiological intelligence will be billions of times more capable than biological intelligence
2045: The Singularity
- $1,000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human combined.
- The technological singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Technological development is taken over by the machines, who can think, act and communicate so quickly that normal humans cannot even comprehend what is going on. From this point onwards, technological advancement is explosive, under the control of the machines, and thus cannot be accurately predicted (hence the term “Singularity”).
- The Singularity is an extremely disruptive, world-altering event that forever changes the course of human history. The extermination of humanity by violent machines is unlikely because sharp distinctions between man and machine will no longer exist thanks to the existence of cybernetically enhanced humans and uploaded humans.
All of this sounds incredible, but think back 10 or 20 years ago. Just like Ray’s predictions sound like science fiction today, the internet, the iPhone, Google would have seemed like science fiction not too long ago.
Ray’s predictions are a byproduct of the power of Moore’s Law.
Moore’s Law contends that as components get smaller, products gain efficiency and become more powerful. Moore’s law is part of a continuum of exponential expansion of computational power that extends back hundreds and hundreds of years. This means that in addition to accurately charting the progress of semiconductor technology from 1960 until now, it goes further. As before that there were other computing technologies, back to the abacus and beyond.
What this means is, that you can think of current wearables as the Osborne Executive portable computer strapped to your wrist.
This image shows an Osborne Executive portable computer, from 1982, with a Zilog Z80 4 MHz CPU, and a 2007 Apple iPhone with a 412 MHz ARM11 CPU; the Executive weighs 100 times as much, has nearly 500 times the volume, costs approximately 10 times as much (adjusted for inflation), and has about 1/100th the clock frequency of the smartphone.
As devices become smaller, faster and more feature packed, jewelry like gadgets will increase. This will be followed by conductive fabrics or sensor-clad smart garments which we are already seeing.
As hard as it is to believe, ultimately wearables will go much further, even going into ingestible technology. By the early 2020s, it is likely that we will start to rely on embedded devices – technology that is physically implanted into our bodies.
There is little doubt that human beings are increasingly merging with technology. Some think this is a good thing, others would tend to disagree. What is clear is that computers are no longer just for our desks and pockets. They are now proudly displayed on our bodies and will one day be merged with them. The innovations that will enable this are inevitable and already well underway!
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