Kurzweil interview: The Singularity Is Near

Regular readers know my interest in future evolution. Of course in some senses the future is unknowable, especially over the evolutionary time scale.

But over the shorter term, a lot of people think that technology will fundamentally alter humanity. The only thing is, these people never seem to agree on what form that alteration will take.

One of the most prolific futurists is Ray Kurzweil. One of his fundamental assumptions is that the technological progress toward artificial intelligence proceeds exponentially. Anybody who's seen an exponential curve knows that after a critical point, things start to change really, really fast.

InstaPundit is running an interview with Kurzweil, touching on his book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. </p>

Here's an excerpt:

Arguably we already have powers comparable to the Greek gods, albeit, as you point out, piddling ones compared to what is to come. For example, you are able to write ideas in your blog and instantly communicate them to just those people who are interested. We have many ways of communicating our thoughts to precisely those persons around the world with whom we wish to share ideas. If you want to acquire an antique plate with a certain inscription, you have a good chance of quickly finding the person who has it. We have increasingly rapid access to our exponentially growing human knowledge base.

And there's this:

Our biological thinking takes place at chemical gradient speeds of a few hundred feet per second, millions of times slower than electronics. And our communication speeds are at the speed of human language, again millions of times slower than what machines are capable of. Of course, our language ability has been very important -- other animal species don't have species-wide knowledge bases at all, let alone exponentially expanding ones, and the ability to share them.
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A key insight here is that the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will expand exponentially whereas our biological thinking is effectively fixed. When we get the mid 2040s, according to my models the nonbiological portion of our civilization's thinking ability will be billions of times greater than the biological portion. Now that represents a profound change.

Some interesting thoughts on the nature of intelligence and its relation to power, some facile thoughts on the history (and prehistory) of technological change, and some fairly frightening thoughts about the chance that spambots will ultimately colonize our brains.

That's why I don't enable comments in my brain, either.