|8 shocking predictions for life after 2020 from Google's genius futurist
Ray Kurzweil is the world's foremost futurist, authoring bestsellers like "The Age of Spiritual Machines" and "How to Create a Mind."
He's so influential that Google hired him to lead its artificial intelligence efforts.
Kurzweil is known for making predictions, which are right about 86% of the time.
Here are some of his most promising (and terrifying) visions of the 2020s and beyond.
By the 2030s, "nanobots" will plug our brains straight into the cloud.
These nanobots, Kurzweil said in a webinar earlier this year, will give us "full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system."
In other words, our brains will be connected to the cloud.
"Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today," he says "we'll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud."
So we'll be able to live, basically, in a virtual world — Matrix style.
Those nanobots will also lead to "radical life extension."
Earlier this month, Kurzweil said that nanobots will "finish the job" of the natural human immune system.
We'll be able to defeat any disease, even cancer.
This leads to what futurists call "radical life extension." Kurzweil, like other futurists, considered death a disease to be cured — and nanobots are one of the ways to cure it.
And they'll make us way funnier.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Comedy Central
Kurzweil thinks that our cyborgification will make us more, not less, human. As Kathleen Miles noted at the Huffington Post, nanobots and the like won't just increase our logical intelligence, but our emotional intelligence.
"We're going to ... create deeper levels of expression," he said.
Say Kurzweil runs into Google cofounder Larry Page while moseying down the street. If he wanted to say something clever to his boss, he won't need to rely on his brain's computing power. He'll be able to accelerate his wit digitally.
"I'll be able to access [something clever to say] in the cloud— just like I can multiply intelligence with my smartphone thousands fold today," Kurzweil says.
You'll be able to 3-D print basically everything.
Peter MacDiarmid/Getty Images
As 3-D printing becomes more large scale and open source, more of of the world around us will become information technology.
Kurzweil says that by the 2020s, you'll be able to "live extremely well and print out everything you need."
Already, 3-D printed houses, rib cages, and bridges are becoming a reality.
We'll be able to 'reincarnate' people who have died through AI.
Kurzweil has said multiple times that he'll be able to "bring back" his father Frederick Kurzweil through artificial intelligence.
He says that by the 2030s, we'll be able to send nanobots into people's brains to extract memories of loved ones. Augment that with a DNA sampling of the deceased, and it will be possible to create a convincing virtual version of somebody who's passed on.
Or so Kurzweil believes.
And we'll hit the Singularity.
The most important date for Kurzweil is 2045.
That's the year, he says, of what futurists call the Singularity, the moment when biological evolution's rate of growth is superceded by artificial intelligence.
In "The Singularity is Near," Kurzweil says that the Singularity is:
"... a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself."
Kurzweil says that in 2045, the computational power of artificial intelligence will be a billion times that of human intelligence.
And our species will never be the same.
After the Singularity, we'll be able to 'upload' our minds to computers.
Flickr/Hey Paul Studios
Kurzweil and other futurists see "mind-uploading" as a major consequence of the singularity.
According to this argument, you'll be able to transfer your consciousness from being brain-based to computer-based.
Even Stephen Hawking thinks it's possible.
"I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer, so it's theoretically possible to copy the brain on to a computer and so provide a form of life after death," the physicist said. "However, this is way beyond our present capabilities."
But by 2045, it might not be.
And we'll have 'virtual bodies' to augment our physical bodies.
If your mind is uploaded and virtual reality is fully immersive, then no doubt your body will be virtual, too.
"The virtual bodies will be as detailed and convincing as real bodies," Kurzweil says. "We do need a body, our intelligence is directed towards a body but it doesn't have to be this frail, biological body that is subject to all kinds of failure modes."
So you'll be able to change your virtual body — which will feel physical to you — just like you'd change characters in a video game.
For Kurzweil, the 'law of accelerating returns' rules the future.
To arrive at his predictions, Kurzweil draws upon a reliable theory.
"My core thesis, which I call the 'law of accelerating returns,' is that fundamental measures of information technology follow predictable and exponential trajectories, belying the conventional wisdom that 'you can’t predict the future,'" Kurzweil wrote in a 2010 essay.
To Kurzweil, figuring out whether a company is going to win in the marketplace or if there will ever be peace in the Middle East is unpredictable, but the increasing capabilities of technology are "remarkably predictable" — allowing him to project into the future.