The Singularity Is Near

Inventor, Author, Futurist
With Time magazine's recent cover story on futurist Ray Kurzweil, his theories about the singularity have entered the mainstream. Now hear them straight from the source.
  • Transcript


Ray Kurzweil: Well, by 2020 we’ll have computers that are powerful enough to simulate the human brain, but we won’t be finish yet with reverse engineering the human brain and understanding its methods.

One of my main themes, and I’ve developed this thesis over 30 years, is that information technology grows exponentially; the power of computers are understanding the human brain, specializes solution of brain scanning, the number of bits we move in the internet. Many different measures of information technology double every year, or every 11 months, 13 months; depending on what you’re measuring. These technologies will be a million times more powerful within 20 years.

In fact, the speed of exponential growth is itself speeding up. So, in 25 years these technologies will be a billion times more powerful than they are today. And we’ve already seen that kind of progress.

When I was an undergraduate we all shared computer at MIT that took up half of a building. The computer and your cellphone today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion fold increase in price performance of computing since I was an undergraduate.

By 2029, and I’ve been quite consistent on this date, we will have completed the reverse engineering of the human brain. And we’ve already made very good progress on that. We’ve reversed engineered a number at different regions, like the cerebellum, which is responsible for our skill formation and slices of cerebral cortex where we do our cursive thinking and the auditory cortex, the visual cortex and so on.

By 2029, we’ll have reverse engineered and modeled and simulated all the regions of the brain. And that will provide us the software/algorithmic methods to simulate you know, all of the human brains capabilities including our emotional intelligence. And computers at that time will be far more powerful than the human brain. And we’ll be able to create machines that really do have subtlety and suppleness of human intelligence. And they’ll combine that power with ways in which machines are already superior to us. They can impart us all of human knowledge with the few keystrokes, it can remember billions of things accurately. They can share knowledge in electronic speeds that are million times faster than the human language.

So, it will be very powerful combination.