Ray Kurzweil has received 20 honorary doctorates, has been awarded honors from three presidents of the United States and has written 7 books (5 of which were national bestsellers). Ray is the principal inventor of technologies ranging from the CCD flatbed scanner to the first print-t0-speech reading machine for the blind. Kurzweil is the chancellor and c0-founder of Singularity University, and the man chosen by Google to direct their artificial intelligence development.
Ray Kurzweil is the guy that Bill Gates calls "the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence."
There's no question that Kurzweil is a bright guy, but what he's also really, really good at is predicting the future when it comes to technology. Let's take a look at some of the predictions Ray has made in the past.
In 1990, Kurzweil predicted that a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. (In 1997, IBM's Deep Blue defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov.) In 1990, he predicted that PC's would be capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the internet by 2010. He predicted that by the early 2000's, exoskeletal limbs would allow the disabled to walk. (Ekso Bionics and other companies have technology that does that and more).
In 1999, Ray predicted that people would be able to talk to their computers to give commands by 2009. Although they were still in their infancy in 2009, natural language interfaces like Google Now and Apple's Siri were and are on the rise.
In 2005, Kurzweil predicted that by the 2010's, virtual solutions would be able to perform real-time language translation. Words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as a subtitle to users wearing special glasses. Microsoft (using Skype Translate) and Google (using Translate) have made this happen. One app called Word Lens actually uses your camera to find and translate text imagery in real-time.
Okay, so Ray Kurzweil has a pretty good track record. So now onto the good stuff. What's coming at us in the next 25 years according to Ray?
Ray says that by the late 2010's, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina, and ten terabytes of computer power (that's roughly the same amount as the human brain) will cost about a grand.
By the 2020's, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. It will become possible for "normal eating" to be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test (a test in which artificial intelligence becomes indistinguishable from human intelligence) begins to be passable. Self-driving cars will start to take over the nation's roads, and people won't be allowed to drive on highways.
Kurzweil says that by the 2030's, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real, and we will be able to upload our mind and/or consciousness before 2040.
In the 2040's, Ray says that non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence. He also says that Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in the physical world at a whim.
Ray predicts that by 2045, humans will multiply their intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from their neocortex' to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.
[Image via Forbes]