Published December 19, 2012
Is he brilliant or insane?
Google made a very important hire this past week when it decided to bring on famed futurist Ray Kurzweil as its new director of engineering. What makes the hire particularly intriguing is Kurzweil is equal parts brilliant and insane: He is a pioneer in fields such as speech recognition technology but he also thinks he will live forever after he uploads his consciousness onto a computer.
After learning about the Kurzweil hire, I decided to take a peak back at my copy of The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil’s most famous futurist tome where he predicted that human beings would soon “transcend biology” and traverse the universe as immortal cyborgs. In no particular order, here are some of Kurzweil’s craziest predictions.
* In the 2040s, humans will develop “the means to instantly create new portions of ourselves, either biological or nonbiologicial” so that people can have “a biological body at one time and not at another, then have it again, then change it, and so on.” (The Singularity is Near, Page 258)
* By the late 2020s, we’ll be able to eat as much junk food as we want because we’ll all have nanobots injected into our bodies that will provide us with all the proper nutrients we need while also eliminating all the excess fat we’ll gain from eating 20 bags of Doritos every day. (Page 304)
* By 2010, “computers… will become essentially invisible: woven into our clothing, embedded in our furniture and environment.” Although the concept of “wearable” computers has been tossed around quite a bit, we’re a long way off from a time when Samsung will be able to sell its first Galaxy Sweater model. (Page 312)
* At an undetermined point in the future, we’ll be able to beam ourselves into another person’s brain and experience the world as they see it, just as in the film Being John Malkovich. (Page 316)
* By 2033, “virtual prostitution” will be legalized. (Page 318)
* By the mid-21st century, people will evolve into “software-based humans” who will “live out on the Web, projecting bodies whenever they need or want them, including holographically projected bodies, foglet-projected bodies, and physical bodies comprising nanobot swarms.” (Page 325)
Kurzweil, who is now 64 years old, knows that there’s a chance that his flesh body (or as he calls it, “Body 1.0″) could die before he gets to upload his brain into a computer and fly around the world as a swarm of nanobots. To ensure that he lives long enough to see such technological marvels, Kurzweil says he takes “250 supplements (pills) a day” and receives “a half-dozen intravenous therapies each week (basically nutritional supplements delivered directly into my bloodstream, thereby bypassing my GI tract).” (page 211)
While that may sound excessive to you flesh-based humans, it’s also the price Kurzweil is willing to pay for a far-flung chance at immortality. So while you may scoff at Kurzweil’s projections right now, he may have the last laugh when you’re dying in a hospital and he’s whirring about as a software-based human in Body 2.0.