21 February 2008

rise of the machines

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting held recently in Boston, Dr Ray Kurzweil spoke on 'From Unlimited Clean Energy to Overcoming Disease: How Engineering Can Do It' within a session titled 'Grand Challenges and Opportunities for Engineering in the 21st Century'.
The paradigm shift rate is now doubling every decade, so the next half century will see 32 times more technical progress than the last half century. Computation, communication, biological technologies (for example, DNA sequencing), brain scanning, knowledge of the human brain, and human knowledge in general are all accelerating at an even faster pace, generally doubling price-performance, capacity, and bandwidth every year. The well-known Moore’s Law is only one example of many of the inherent acceleration underlying this “law of accelerating returns.” Three-dimensional molecular computing will provide the hardware for human-level “strong AI” by the 2020s. The more important software insights will be gained in part from the reverse-engineering of the human brain, a process well under way. Already, two dozen regions of the human brain have been modeled and simulated. We are rapidly learning the software programs called genes that underlie biology. We are understanding disease and aging processes as information processes, and are gaining the tools to reprogram them. RNA interference, for example, allows us to turn selected genes off, and new forms of gene therapy are enabling us to effectively add new genes. Within one to two decades, we will be in a position to stop and reverse the progression of disease and aging resulting in dramatic gains in health and longevity. We can aggressively apply today's knowledge (“bridge 1”) to be in good shape when “bridge 2” (the ability to reprogram biology away from disease and aging) comes into being. We only need to capture one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth to meet 100 percent of our energy needs. This will become feasible with nanoengineered solar panels and nanoengineered fuel cells to store the energy in a highly decentralized manner. Once nonbiological intelligence matches the range and subtlety of human intelligence, it will necessarily soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated in the environment, our bodies and our brains, providing vastly extended longevity, full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses, experience “beaming,” and enhanced human intelligence. The implication will be an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the evolutionary process it spawned.
The media, specifically The Independent picked up on his views on artificial intelligence (AI).

Hmmm... Let's see: Terminator, The Matrix, and Battlestar Galactica are some ficitional accounts of how AI turns on its creator. Scary.

There is never a good time to take time off work given events that crop up, but I am off work Friday and Monday for a long weekend to visit Michelle in Melbourne and to attend a pre-season football game. There is something about planning one's absences in advance and the office having to work around it.

My flight leaves in the morning so I had better get organised.

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