Bill Gates calls Ray, “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.” Ray is also amazing at predicting a lot more beyond just AI.

This post looks at his very incredible predictions for the next 20+ years.

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So who is Ray Kurzweil?

He has received 20 honorary doctorates, has been awarded honors from three U.S. presidents, and has authored 7 books (5 of which have been national bestsellers).

He 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 tagged by Larry Page to direct artificial intelligence development at Google.

In short, Ray’s pretty smart… and his predictions are amazing, mind-boggling, and important reminders that we are living in the most exciting time in human history.

But, first let’s look back at some of the predictions Ray got right.

 

Predictions Ray has gotten right over the last 25 years

In 1990 (twenty-five years ago), he predicted…

… that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. Then in 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov.

… that PCs would be capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the Internet by 2010. He was right, to say the least.

… that by the early 2000s, exoskeletal limbs would let the disabled walk. Companies like Ekso Bionics and others now have technology that does just this, and much more.

In 1999, he predicted…

… that people would be able talk to their computer to give commands by 2009. While still in the early days in 2009, natural language interfaces like Apple’s Siri and Google Now have come a long way. I rarely use my keyboard anymore; instead I dictate texts and emails.

… that computer displays would be built into eyeglasses for augmented reality by 2009. Labs and teams were building head mounted displays well before 2009, but Google started experimenting with Google Glass prototypes in 2011. Now, we are seeing an explosion of augmented and virtual reality solutions and HMDs. Microsoft just released the Hololens, and Magic Leap is working on some amazing technology, to name two.

In 2005, he predicted…

… that by the 2010s, virtual solutions would be able to do real-time language translation in which words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as subtitles to a user wearing the glasses. Well, Microsoft (via Skype Translate), Google (Translate), and others have done this and beyond. One app called Word Lens actually uses your camera to find and translate text imagery in real time.

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Ray’s predictions for the next 25 years

The above represent only a few of the predictions Ray has made.

While he hasn’t been precisely right, to the exact year, his track record is stunningly good.

Here are some of my favorite of Ray’s predictions for the next 25+ years.

1.

By the late 2010s, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina. Ten terabytes of computing power (roughly the same as the human brain) will cost about $1,000.

 

2.

By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads, and people won’t be allowed to drive on highways.

 

3.

By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.

 

4.

By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.

 

5.

By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.

 

I want to make an important point.

It’s not about the predictions.

It’s about what the predictions represent.

Ray’s predictions are a byproduct of his (and my) understanding of the power of Moore’s Law, more specifically Ray’s “Law of Accelerating Returns” and of exponential technologies.

These technologies follow an exponential growth curve based on the principle that the computing power that enables them doubles every two years.

exponential-growth-of-computing-1

As humans, we are biased to think linearly.

As entrepreneurs, we need to think exponentially.

I often talk about the 6D’s of exponential thinking

Most of us can’t see the things Ray sees because the initial growth stages of exponential, DIGITIZED technologies are DECEPTIVE.

Before we know it, they are DISRUPTIVE—just look at the massive companies that have been disrupted by technological advances in AI, virtual reality, robotics, internet technology, mobile phones, OCR, translation software, and voice control technology.

Each of these technologies DEMATERIALIZED, DEMONETIZED, and DEMOCRATIZED access to services and products that used to be linear and non-scalable.

Now, these technologies power multibillion-dollar companies and affect billions of lives.

Source: Peter Diamandis at Singularity Hub

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  • Mark Totton

    And how many predictions did he get wrong?

    What is meant by Ten terabytes of computing power? Memory, that’s not computing power. It must refer to the CPU, but they aren’t rated by bytes, so what is he talking about?

    By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Within 5 years? Not likely is it considering the current state of nanotechnology. Or does he meant by the end of the 2020’s in which case I would say still not likely.

    • AdaptorLive

      The ‘terabytes of computing power’ was a great sign of the writer’s knowledge on this subject…

      Also curious where the Moore’s Law graph came from. As long as the human brain and consciousness are not completely understood there is no way of mapping our capacities to X amount of computer processors. Looks very unscientific to me.

      • yeah seems so @mark_totton:disqus, @AdaptorLive:disqus . Maybe we should look at Nikolas Tesla’s approach instead and consider that consciousness may not be bound by a physical limitation…

        “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

    • Globalstomp

      Your right they are rated in Hz. Ten terra hertz maybe but thats a stretch today considering the majority of home computers right now are under 5 gHz.

  • AdaptorLive

    He might have guessed some things right in the past but, well, a lot of this is just bullshit. The human brain and its capacities are not completely understood, quantified or mappped. Not even by a long shot. Let alone human consciousness! There will be no surpassing, uploading or obsolence of our minds anytime soon.

    • I suppose there’s a lot of credulity around his predictions because of previous predictions but really I don’t think any of us have any idea. With exponential growth of technology combined with awareness becoming more aware of itself every day, it seems we’re on a crash course with absurdity that’ll force a complete shift in our current belief systems.

      • AdaptorLive

        Thanks for the response 🙂 How do you envision this absurdity? How would the complete shift in our belief system differ from the constant shifts we had to make as a result of technology all through the ages? IMO technology is getting more ubiquitous but its effects not inherently less understandable or predictable, because it’s all built on something that we understood before. If that makes sense.

        • Travis J.

          I agree with you in some sense. However, I think there is a difference to be made between what could be termed evolutionary technological change versus a revolutionary technological leap.

          The former is what I imagine you are speaking of. That is, small but recognizable shifts in technological development. For example, going from the telephone to cell phones to smart phones. Our beliefs here may alter a little but remain relatively intact. The latter however consist in changes of a different magnitude. Perhaps these changes were previously unthinkable or simply existed in the realm of imagination. The invention of electricity, the airplane, or the internet could possibly be examples. These changes, or technological revolutions, when they become manifest, do not merely alter our beliefs but shift them entirely.

          Of course this is sort of begging the question. The issue of how an “altering” of our beliefs differs from a “shift” in our beliefs is a complicated one most likely predicated on how one defines a belief system. I imagine though that any technological leap that introduced new identifications with ourselves, with others, with the world, might qualify. If we suddenly had the technology to travel the universe and made contact with an alien civilization I imagine there would be a shift in belief structure. That is, we would have introduced elements into the structure that were previously unrevealed.

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  • Globalstomp

    This I would say is technocracy propaganda. The global elites plans for technocratic rule are to merge with machine by uploading their consciousness into a cyborg or machine. What they do not understand is that your consciousness survives your death, so why would I want to be bound by a machine holding my conciousness hostage here on earth when I could be perusing the heavens? Remember power can niether be created nor destroyed, it can only be manipulated. Your conciousness is pure power.

  • Tony Aidinis

    It’s very sad that a person once so far ahead in technology appears to lack basic understanding of what computers are and what human brain is.
    Expecting to upload (!!!) one’s consciousness to some highly advanced quantum-something device is like an astrophysicist claiming the earth is flat… not quite good reputation-wise.

  • Great list of predicting for future of artificial intelligence.