Prepare for the Nanorobots, Futurist Says

 
 
By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-06-16
 
 
 

Prepare for the Nanorobots, Futurist Says


LOS ANGELES—Internet-connected nanorobots that travel within our bodies. Virtual assistants that appear before our eyes. Virtual worlds that intermingle with our senses.

Welcome to the future according to Ray Kurzweil.

The inventor and author, who wrote the recent best-seller "The Age of Spiritual Machines," offered a glimpse of his predictions for technologys evolutions during a keynote at the opening day of the Business 4Site conference here Tuesday. (Business 4Site is produced by Ziff Davis Media Inc., the parent company of eWEEK.com.)

Technological innovation is growing exponentially, with metrics such as price/performance, capacity and bandwidth doubling every year, Kurzweil said. Couple that growth with a similar pace of advancement in fields such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, and a future filled with microscopic robots replacing red blood cells or a lifelike representation of a person appearing at a conference becomes possible, he explained.

"The future of information technology will deeply influence every aspect of our society," Kurzweil said.

Bill Gates charts computings future. Click here to see his vision.

While the IT industry focuses on Moores Law and its dictum that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit board doubles every year or so, such a rate of innovation extends beyond chips, said Kurzweil, also the founder of Kurzweil Technologies Inc.

A similar pace of advancements is occurring across technology—from telecommunications to the Internet.

Next page: Growth rate in computing power.

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And even once Moores Law reaches its expected end in coming decades, the rate of growth in computing power wont slow, Kurzweil said. Instead, the paradigm will shift to a new form, which Kurzweil predicts will be 3-D molecular computing and nanotubes replacing transistors.

"Sometime around 2020 or 2015, the key features of transistors will be a few atoms," he said. "Will that be the end of Moores Law? Yes, but not the end of exponential growth in computing."

By 2020, with computing power continuing its growth rate unabated, Kurzweil expects that $1,000 worth of computation will be able to emulate the computational power of the human brain.

Among the trends he foreshadowed was that by 2010, computers as theyre now known will disappear. People will interface through retinal images directly within their eyes, Kurzweil said.

Software will evolve thanks to the reverse engineering of the human brain, enabling artificial intelligence to be applied directly in the brain itself, he said. By 2029, Kurzweil envisioned millions of nanorobots implanted in the human, all wirelessly connected and tapping into the Internet.

By then, $1,000 worth of computation will equal 1,000 times the computational power of human brain, he said.

"There will be a significant expansion of human intelligence," Kurzweil said. "Were already able to do intellectual feats that would be impossible without technology."

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