In the year 2050, if Ray Kurzweil is right, nanoscopic robots will be zooming throughout our capillaries, transforming us into nonbiological humans. We will be able to absorb and retain the entirety of the universe’s knowledge, eat as much as we want without gaining weight, shape-shift into just about any physical form imaginable, live free from disease, and die at the time of our choosing. All of this will be thrust on us by something that Kurzweil calls the Singularity, a theorized point in time in the not-so-distant future when machines become vastly superior to humans in every way, aka the emergence of true artificial intelligence. Computers will be able to improve their own source codes and hardware in ways we puny humans could never conceive. This will result in a paradigm shift that sees mankind coalescing with its own creations: man and machine, merging into one.
I have very little time for Kurzweil.
My reading of his work (full disclosure: not all of it) gives me a strong sense of deja vu, because I was reading this shit back in the very early nineties, in places like the Extropy-L mailing list and in books by Moravec and Vinge and elsewhere.
Kurzweil seems to me to be claiming to have invented a lot of the ideas he’s working hard to popularize, and that’s just plain wrong: I know where he got them — the same place I got them. More to the point, he hasn’t done a lot of critical thinking since then.
If you want the Singularity, read Vernor Vinge’s 1993 lecture on the Singularity. If you want mind uploading, read Hans Moravec’s 1988 essay on physical mind/body dualism (actually a veiled attack on Searle’s Chinese Room argument). If you want nanobots, read Eric Drexler’s 1986 book ‘Engines of Creation’. But Kurzweil? Get back to me in 2051