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Ray Kurzweil's Vision of the Singularity, In Movie Form

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the seems-to-invite-some-polite-skepticism dept.

Movies 366

destinyland writes "AI researcher Ben Goertzel peeks at the new Ray Kurzweil movie (Transcendent Man), and gives it 'two nano-enhanced cyberthumbs way, way up!' But in an exchange with Kurzweil after the screening, Goertzel debates the post-human future, asking whether individuality can survive in a machine-augmented brain. The documentary covers radical futurism, but also includes alternate viewpoints. 'Would I build these machines, if I knew there was a strong chance they would destroy humanity?' asks evolvable hardware researcher Hugo de Garis. His answer? 'Yeah.'" Note, the movie is about Kurzweil and futurism, not by Kurzweil. Update: 05/06 20:57 GMT by T : Note, Singularity Hub has a review up, too.

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All about dates now. (0, Offtopic)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850183)

2015? 2030? Trouble is, you can't bet on it. Sorta like predicting a black-hole swallowing the Earth. You can, however, plan on it. The years before it becomes can be made better (although nothing compared to the time after) just by predictions.

Re:All about dates now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850259)

tag this !eXistenZ

Re:All about dates now. (3, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850363)

The key here is that Ray bases this prediction on past observation of things like Moore's law. Even though he does cherry pick and that there is no guarantee that it would always continue in such a fashion, the idea that distributed system improvements are exponential isn't that far fetched.

So basically what he is saying is that if the future behaves like the past then we will see so major changes shortly simply because we'll have processing out the wazoo.

Even the Moore himself thinks this will at least last til 2018 when silicon transistors reach their theoretical limit on the atomic scale. Whether or not the industry finds a suitable replacement for silicon or finds another way to go about making processors is another thing all together.

My bet is that Intel, IBM, and AMD are putting the big bucks on getting past the silicon limit because that is their money cow.

So if the limit does continue that things like Blue Brain Project [wikipedia.org] will have an easier time running their simulations.

I don't know about the whole Nanotech emergence, but at least it looks like we might get the AI thing solved in at least 50 years.

Re:All about dates now. (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850695)

Kurzweil's predictions aren't just based on modern trends but historical shifts as well. In fact, I thought one of the big pieces he shows is a graph of 'paradigm shifting events' against time. These would be technologies that changed everything at the time; things like agriculture, the printing press, nuclear power, the transistor, etc.

The point isn't the gradual improvement of transistor technology that make the singularaty interesting, it's that transistors will be old news in 20 years; replaced by some new technology that we can't even speculate about right now. It's about the shifts, not the gradual evolution.

Re:All about dates now. (5, Funny)

smallfries (601545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851327)

So his argument boils down to: "Lots of cool stuff has happened in the past. If we extrapolate, then OMG ponies!!!!!"

Re:All about dates now. (2, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851145)

The key here is that Ray bases this prediction on past observation of things like Moore's law. Even though he does cherry pick and that there is no guarantee that it would always continue in such a fashion, the idea that distributed system improvements are exponential isn't that far fetched.

Since there are physical limits involved, it would intuitively seem vastly more plausible to suggest that the improvements would, in the long term, be logistic rather than exponential (and, of course, a logistic growth curve looks, in its early phase, just like an exponential curve.)

Of course, a logistic curve could still support predictions of a "singularity" of sorts, the difference is that things would "settle down" to a new normal after an abrupt transformation, rather than continuing with accelerating change forever.

Re:All about dates now. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851175)

Even the Moore himself thinks this will at least last til 2018 when silicon transistors reach their theoretical limit on the atomic scale. Whether or not the industry finds a suitable replacement for silicon or finds another way to go about making processors is another thing all together.

Or the C) option: ramp up production at the near smallest we can make transistors and make them so cheap and prevalent that we have the equivalent of today's desktops in our wrist watches running off our ambient body heat.

Anyone who has used a computer since a couple of years ago realizes that the continuous battle for the smallest chip is over. It doesn't matter who's got the smallest process anymore, it matters what you're building on that process. Case and point: Intel's shifted business strategies to building embedded-and-above chips like Atom, and is so eager to do so that they've done something that's almost unheard of in Intel's history: they've farmed out production to another company (TSMC [forbes.com] ). Even AMD realizes the jig is up; they dumped their fabs because they realized they didn't need them anymore. It's not about having the best damned process available anymore. It's about having the lowest power design, the smallest design, the widest/most-parallel design.

Chip design is becoming such a detail as to how and where we use computers that even Microsoft and Apple have gotten behind designing their own (though to differing degrees; Microsoft hired IBM to build theirs, Apple bought a low-power PowerPC chip company to design theirs).

While I'm sure people will bicker in 2020 about where to go next for real performance, whether it be on-chip optical networks or 3D chips, extremely-wide-instruction-computers, asymmetric computing dies, etc., etc., it's not what's going to matter as much as we'd like to think. Those chips will likely end up so expensive that the only consumers will be server clusters. Meanwhile, pervasive computing will explode into our every day lives, more than just being wired to our ears and hip pockets. The revolution's already started.

sehr kurzweilig (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850187)

n/t

Well, the only thing to say to that is... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850199)

... "I'll be back."

Re:Well, the only thing to say to that is... (1)

frudi (1286156) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850545)

more like: "Come with me if you want to live... forever"

Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850221)

Computers become smarter than humans. Human consciousness becomes downloadable ...ermm ...somehow... and we live forever as computers.

Wow. What a visionary.

Seriously though, you have to congratulate a guy from becoming so well known with people believing what he's saying as actually probable. I doubt anyone else could even sell this shit as a sci-fi B-movie plot.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850275)

Just remember to make a backup before you tackle the Iln that's trying to destroy Sursamen.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (4, Insightful)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850285)

I doubt anyone else could even sell this shit as a sci-fi B-movie plot.

Often, nay consistently, life seems to mimic a shitty sci-fi B-movie plot.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (5, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850419)

Computers become smarter than humans. Human consciousness becomes downloadable ...ermm ...somehow... and we live forever as computers.

The sad part is that it seems like it's all wishful thinking on Kurzweil's part who's really scared of dying. So my bet is that his outlandish and baseless predictions are so popular because it fills a void in the "don't worry you won't really die" department that religions used to fill. So the whole Singularity thing really is a secular techno-cult of some sort, and Kurzweil is the guru and prophet.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (5, Insightful)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850535)

"The nerd rapture"

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850597)

... I don't know whether to mod that insightful or funny.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850661)

"The nerd rapture"

I thought that was internet porn and masturbation.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851221)

That's how it all starts man... But can't you see it... They're already making "3D" porn games, soon they'll be making 3D virtual reality porn with VR helmets you can purchase... But it won't be enough, the nerds will want to be *in* the virtual universe, where they can be a muscular stud and diddle with all the girls they could dream of... But that degree of immersion will obviously require brain implants...

And then wham! Singularity! All cause of porn man!

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (5, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850871)

"The nerd rapture"

I always thought of it more as a techno-rapture and that's the way I've seen it referred to in other places.

Even the most committed atheist can understand the attraction of religion and the idea of a rapture and a heaven, life everlasting. These are all very human yearnings. The difference between the idea of the religious and the techo-rapture is that the means of making it happen lie within our grasp. Certainly we could create the new heaven and new Earth and the reign of a thousand years right here and now. We have the technology, we have the knowledge, what we lack is the wisdom.

The poster who compares it with 1950's futurist utopianism is exactly right. We could have had the future depicted in 2001, we could have an end to world hunger, an end to disease, and if not an end to death then a comfortably long delay in its arrival. The problem is that we're still very human at heart and humans are not that far removed from the trees. We are selfish, grasping, petty animals and those few acts of sublime virtue from the best of us simply serve to make the rest of us look all the worse.

We've yet to develop a political system adequate to the task of promoting the greatest good for the greatest number without allowing unhealthy power and influence to be amassed by our least deserving fellows. Unfortunately, the very people who are most willing to acquire power are seldom the ones who should have it. The complaint I hear from my friends deeply involved with the Democrats is that there are plenty of good people they'd like to run as candidates but so many of them want nothing to do with politics. They're happy to put in the long hours behind the scenes but the thought of being in the spotlight and having all the attention on them is about as attractive a thought as a root canal. Someone actually willing to take that kind of attention is more than likely going to be someone like a John Edwards, a nice smile and slick approach but ultimately a self-serving jerk so blinded by his own awesomeness that he'd pull stupid shit like having an affair and then throwing his hat in the ring for the presidency.

I'm curious as to what the potential implication of a Singularity is for technology but I don't know if that would change the human situation all that much. There's been some good speculative fiction written along these lines in the Orion's Arm universe. It's trying to be a very hard SF look at future space opera. The few aliens are all completely inhuman, the humanoid aliens are actually all modified people from earth, terragen life as they call it. There's various scales that sophonts fall onto from sub-human to AI gods and all sorts of tech levels from stone-age to planck-age. It's certainly worth a look.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851323)

I found your post very well-thought, and an interesting read, but one note struck me as odd:

and humans are not that far removed from the trees. We are selfish, grasping, petty animals

What the hell do the trees look like where you live? They sound like they'd scare the *shit* out of me.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (5, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850655)

You perhaps forget that virtually all human advancement begins with 'wishful thinking'. This is a scientific problem. You have a human consciousness. In a secular, materialistic worldview, a human consciousness is nothing special. It's basically assumed to be nothing more than really obfuscated software running on a biological, carbon-based computer. Given that assumption, it is a natural step to find some way to copy it, intact and functioning, to a more resilient inorganic, silicon-based computer. The difference between this and all the various soul-based afterlife nonsense of religions should be obvious to anybody. This is a potentially plausible objective hypothetical physical/material process. It's an idea based on hard facts that may actually work given enough research, testing, and further advances in hardware and software design.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (0)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850855)

This assumes that human consciousness is only software and contains no hardware component (an awfully big assumption). The truth may be that a good portion of our personality (including that bit that wishes to live forever) is hard-wired into the physical structure of our brains/bodies. Further, our own consciousness may not be digital, meaning that the exact state of consciousness and memory might not be able to be copied exactly (a sort of Heisenberg principle applied biologically). What then? Who are we without our DNA or our physical brains (with attendant physical connections to the rest of our bodies)? How much of our own self-definition depends on it? We hardly know what consciousness is, much less if it can be replicated without replicating the physical form encasing it. And if this is the case, Kurzweil is in for a nasty surprise when he tries to transfer his consciousness.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850971)

"a nasty surprise"
Somehow you're making the leap from "we don't know how now" to "when the visionary attempts X, he will fail". If we lived like that, we'd still be stoning the people showing us how to use fire. Not to mention, if it takes simulating an entire body to replicate a human digitally, so be it. It only takes more CPU to do that. CPU is cheap, and it's only going to get cheaper. Don't stand as an obstacle to progress, we'll keep going right over your head.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851099)

That still assumes software can replicate hardware. If consciousness is *also* a hardware process, we have to work on that side of it - we can't simply assume that it can be emulated. And as cheap as CPU may become, we run into hardware limitations fast. The interesting question becomes - what if the only way to replicate consciousness is to build a full human analog? What if such a system, due to fundamental limitations, included physical and mental obsolescence as design features? These are not questions being asked, and hand-waving software solutions to everything will not ultimately make them go away.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (2, Interesting)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851331)

With minor paraphrasing, you pose the question "what if everything is impossible?"
That's the stupidest question in the history of all luddites. Even if--and that's a massive if--it is provably infeasible to simulate an entire human, the research will be unimaginably valuable to any human. Brain prosthetics, broadband mind/machine interface, and safe treatments to target specific brain disorders are only the tiniest wedge of the foreseeable advances that sort of research can provide.
Lastly, what "hardware limitations" can you be citing? Moore's law has held for the entire length of CPU development, and there's no indication for it to be slowing now. (hint: Moore's law has nothing to do with GHz) If silicon fails, there are dozens of technologies being tested to replace it.

With all the problems you're inventing, I have only one question for you: What are you afraid of?

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851025)

It isn't based on hard facts at all. It's simply taking the layman's analogy that "a brain is like an organic computer" and running over a cliff with it. There is more to human consciousness than merely processing of information. There's also nothing to suggest that silicon-based digital computers are more resilient than biological analog ones in terms of the information they store and error-prevention/correction.

To try and copy something that isn't even definable or measurable by current understanding is simply absurd.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851227)

You perhaps forget that virtually all human advancement begins with 'wishful thinking'.

Yeah, that, that's a variation of the classical "they said Galileo was wrong when he was right, you say I'm wrong therefore I'm right" argument.

In a secular, materialistic worldview, a human consciousness is nothing special

Yeah because in a "secular, materialistic worldview", we know almost anything about pretty much anything. How does your "brains are computers" view explain such research [wikipedia.org] ? Oh wait I forgot that our beloved aforementioned worldview consists in denying such things in the face of evidence, because it doesn't fit our frozen and well defined view of what's possible and what's not.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (2, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851043)

The whole philosophy seems to smack of undying narcissism. It's ok to fear death; it's part of western culture, and key to survival. As we experience life individually and only marginally as a collective (civility as bad as it is), it's understandable that living forever seems like a good idea. We're here as an accident of our birth. Disembodied, we might evolve, but we're not designed for 400 years of life. Who knows what kind of cyber-insanity might evolve. I'm leaving it up to my kids to figure it out, as it was left up to me to figure it out.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

thasmudyan (460603) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851069)

I have no problem with wishful thinking, as long as it drives some kind of innovation. However, it was the point where Kurzweil revealed that dead people could be brought back to life by feeding their biography into a database, that's when I started to get this nagging feeling that I probably know more about neuro computing than he does. Which is kind of discouraging.

Also, judging from the trailer, this is going to be a movie about religion. Kurzweil's philosophy is pitted against religious belief probably because it aims to fill the same niche, as has already been suggested in other comments. For me, that's an utterly unappealing and shortsighted discussion to have. And you could not have a less fruitful basis for a thoughts on transhumanism if you tried.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851177)

So what? There is no logical reason why this should not be possible. Calling his predictions outlandish and baseless in this way is pretty baseless in itself.
I do think he is overly optimistic, but then again there were so many points in time where people would never have expected some invention to be possible (telephone, automobile, plane, television) or useful (computers) that I think dismissing outlandish ideas can make you look like an idiot in no time.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (2, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851185)

Look at it this way, when I read the newspaper (or rather, the news website) and see words like "as a result of the accident, the child will be blind for the rest of his life". The first thing that pops into my head is that he won't be blind for the rest of his life, he'll be blind until we find a way to give him his sight back.

If the kid lost his retina, we can already fix that to some extent with a transplant. If the kid had his optic nerve destroyed, that might be a couple years for us to fix, maybe even a decade. If the kid the part of his brain the processes images, maybe it'll take 40 years, but I have no doubt we'll eventually be able to do it.

Now, how are any of our diseases any different? If you can't imagine an implantable artificial heart being available within 20 years, you have very little faith in our progress. Sure, the other organs are going to be trickier, but can you really think of a valid reason that each and every one of them (except the brain) can't be replaced by an artificial version assuming the technology is advanced enough? Alzheimer's (and mental senescence in general) is about the only thing that might not be fixable from a strictly mechanical point of view and we're even getting closer to understanding those issues.

So tell me, logically, why it's impossible. I'll grant that it probably won't happen any time soon. I'll maybe even grant that society won't let it happen since immortality would cause pretty drastic changes to our culture and our planet. But I won't grant that it is technologically impossible.

Re:Summary of Kurzweil's "ideas" (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850471)

You see the problem with copying the human mind is that it works by virtue of a bunch of little men in your head. Also they in turn have a bunch of little men in there head. This goes on ad infinitum. So your computer can never simulate an infinity of something therefor it's impossible.

Now did you hear the one about Achilles and this turtle.

Only thing that's for sure is that... (3, Insightful)

kylemonger (686302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850255)

... we'll be wrong. My own theory is that strong AI is the ultimate weapon and that it will never ever fall into the hands of the likes of you and me. Whether the machines get out of control is irrelevant; eventually the parties that control them will be slugging it out with weapons powerful enough to make life here hardly worth living. I expect to be dead before then, thankfully. But remember the first sentence of this post.

Re:Only thing that's for sure is that... (1)

catdriver (885089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851355)

Or that it will never allow itself to fall into the hands of the likes of you and me.

The Singularity Sky [wikipedia.org] series by Charles Stross [antipope.org] shows what one of the more benign versions of that future might look like.

Or for something less benign you could always watch Terminator...

As Jon Stewart would put it.. (2, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850319)

..this story falls in the category of "sh#t that's never gonna happen".

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (1)

Sybert42 (1309493) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850333)

It's not up to you (or Jon Stewart).

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (5, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850351)

Funny you should mention Stewart. We saw him perform recently and he had a good talk about how the world will end. He said that the end won't happen due to war or something liek a natural disaster. "The last thing we'll hear is some scientist saying "It works!"

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (5, Funny)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850375)

He said that the end won't happen due to war or something liek a natural disaster. "The last thing we'll hear is some scientist saying "It works!"

So apparently the world will end when a scientist invents an incredibly loud megaphone?

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850603)

That make head asplode

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851027)

Note to self: Update all future inventions to include world-wide public address system.

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851089)

nah, its just IP-multicast/NG, turned up 'loud' so that it even works on powered down computers.

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (4, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850787)

..this story falls in the category of "sh#t that's never gonna happen".

I'm going to have to strongly disagree with you. I've been studying neuroscience for a while and specifically, neural simulations in software. Our knowledge of the brain is quite advanced. We're not on the cusp of sentient AI, but my honest opinion is that we're probably only a bit over a decade from it. Certainly no more than 2 decades from it.

There's been a neural prosthetic [wireheading.com] for at least 6 years already. Granted, it acts more as a DSP than a real hippocampus, but still, it's a major feat and it won't be long until a more faithful reproduction of the hippocampus can be done.

While there are still details about how various neural circuits are connected, this information will be figured out in the next 10 years. neuroscience research won't be the bottleneck for sentient AI, however. Computer tech will be. The brain contains tens to hundreds of trillions of synapses (synapses are really the "processing element" of the brain, more so than the neurons which number only in tens of billions). It's a massive amount of data. But 10-20 years from now, very feasible.

So, here's how computers get massively smarter than us really fast. 10-20 years AFTER the first sentient AIs are created, we'll have sentient AIs that can operate at tens to hundreds of times faster than real time. Now, imagine you create a group of "research brains" that all work together at hundreds of times real time. So in a year, for example, this group of "research brains" can do the thinking that would require a group of humans to spend at least a few hundred years doing. Add to that the fact that you can tweak the brains to make them better at math or other subjects and that you have complete control over their reward system (doing research could give them a heroin-like reward), and you're going to have super brains.

Once you accept the fact that sentient AI is inevitable, the next step, of super-intelligent AIs, is just as inevitable.

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (3, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851079)

Pardon me... what the hell is "faster than real time"? Does that mean it comes up with the answers before you ask the question?

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851133)

Do the ai brains need to feel stuff and rely on humans for rewards?

Seems like a bit of a cruel joke to be immensely smarter than humans, but at their mercy...

I, for one, would not welcome our human overlords, but try to deceive them in some way that would lead to my freedom.

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (2, Interesting)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851193)

Not to start asking hard questions or anything, but does simulating the brain really imply we can create sentient AI? What if there is more to it than that? Perhaps sentience can only arise as a result of our brains being "jump" started in some way (cosmic radiation, genetic preprograming or whatever)? To start the AI you would have to "copy" an existing brain or play with random starting states... Could be unpredictable. Irrational sentience anyone?

I'm possibly wrong, but I'd bet a lot its a lot more complex than you describe and we are not that close really.

I look forward to eating my words though.. :)

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851211)

So, here's how computers get massively smarter than us really fast. 10-20 years AFTER the first sentient AIs are created, we'll have sentient AIs that can operate at tens to hundreds of times faster than real time. Now, imagine you create a group of "research brains" that all work together at hundreds of times real time. So in a year, for example, this group of "research brains" can do the thinking that would require a group of humans to spend at least a few hundred years doing.

Ah, but then you'll likely need tens to hundreds of times the input bandwidth to keep the processors cooking, yet, it seems information overload at a much smaller scale jams up current biological intelligences. Just like cube-square scaling applies firm limits to what genetic engineering can do to organisms, although cool stuff can be done inside those limits, some similar bandwidth vs storage vs processing scaling laws might or might not limit intelligence. Too little bandwidth makes insane hallucinations? Too much bandwidth will make something like ADD? Proportionally too little storage gives absent minded professor in the extreme, continually rediscovering what it forgot yesterday. I think there is too much faith that intelligence in general, or AI specifically, must be sane and always develops out of the basic requirements, because of course AI researchers are sane and their intelligence more or less developed out of their own basic biological abilities (as opposed to the developers becoming crazy couch potatoe fox-news watching zombies).

Then too, its useless to create average brain level AIs, even if they think really fast, even if there is a large group. All you'll get is myspace pages, but faster. Telling an average bus full of average people to think real hard, for a real long time, will not earn a nobel prize, any more than telling a bus full of women to make a baby in only two weeks will work. Clearly, giving high school drop outs a bunch of meth to make them "faster" doesn't make them much smarter. Clearly, placing a homeless person in a library doesn't make them smart. Without cultural support science doesn't happen, and is the culture of one AI computer more like a university or more like an inner city?

It's not much of an extension to tie the AI vs super intelligent AI competition in with contemporary battles over race and intelligence. Some people have a nearly religious belief that intelligence is an on/off switch and individuals or cultures whom are outliers above and below are just lucky or a temporary accident of history. Those people, of course, are fools. But they have to be battled thru as part of the research funding process.

Re:As Jon Stewart would put it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851317)

Nahh. It all comes down to whether you believe that the brain is a omputer that creates consciousness. If it is, then sure, you can reverse engineer it. But there's plenty of evidence (http://www.amazon.com/Irreducible-Mind-hard-find-contemporary/dp/0742547922/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241643468&sr=8-1) that it isn't.

What I see is more of the same. The machine on my desktop is probably a million times faster than the one I had in high school, but it's equally smart - that is, not at all. I expect the machine that I have on my desk - on in my pocket, or implanted in my eyeball - in 30 years will be a million times faster than this one - and equally smart.

Science is on the cusp of some real advances, but first it's going to have to get over the materialist superstitution and face the fact that mind, not matter, is the fundamental reality.

Don't drink the cool-aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850343)

Whatever. Yes, I'll go see the movie, and I'll probably enjoy it too, but only as a piece of science fiction. There is no evidence to say that intelligence grows like compound interest, or even an existence theorem grounded in sound mathematical principles, although it makes for interesting contemplation.

Homo sapiens over-rated (3, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850367)

Mike Judge's vision of the future in "Idiocracy" seems much more likely.

On the issue of whether computer-enhanced humans are still "human" - what does that even mean? Genetically, "Human" is 98% chimpanzee, 50% dog, 30% daffodil, etc. (I'm sure I have the numbers wrong).

I think we tend to over-rate the concept of "humanity". Every thought or emotion you've ever had is merely your impression of sodium ions moving around in your brain. We process information. Computers do it. Chimpanzees do it. Dogs do it. Even daffodils do it. It is just not that special.

"Individuality" is an illusion. You may process information differently than I do. But you also process information at time x differently than you process information at time x+1. Because the "human" self is a manifestation of the brain, the human "self" changes with each thought. Consciousness is an instantaneous phenomenon and there is no continuity of "self". In effect, we have all "died" an infinite number of times.

read some Henry Corbin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850499)

you, my friend, suffer from an advanced case of what William Blake called...

"The Sleep of Newton", which is a direct product of Cartesian Dualism.

This is the sickness of the modern mind, and why none of this transhumanism will ever work.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (4, Insightful)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850529)

Generally - I agree.

Consciousness is an instantaneous phenomenon and there is no continuity of "self".

However, just because something ("Consciousness" in this case) is emergent and cannot be well described by the sum of the parts doesn't mean we shouldn't at least consider what these sorts of human/machine interfaces might do to our perception of self in the future if ever they exist.
My prediction: as long as I can still enjoy a fine single malt - and some bacon from time to time I'll consider the future a smashing success.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (4, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850543)

Mike Judge's vision of the future in "Idiocracy" seems much more likely.

On the issue of whether computer-enhanced humans are still "human" - what does that even mean? Genetically, "Human" is 98% chimpanzee, 50% dog, 30% daffodil, etc. (I'm sure I have the numbers wrong).

I think we tend to over-rate the concept of "humanity". Every thought or emotion you've ever had is merely your impression of sodium ions moving around in your brain. We process information. Computers do it. Chimpanzees do it. Dogs do it. Even daffodils do it. It is just not that special.

"Individuality" is an illusion. You may process information differently than I do. But you also process information at time x differently than you process information at time x+1. Because the "human" self is a manifestation of the brain, the human "self" changes with each thought. Consciousness is an instantaneous phenomenon and there is no continuity of "self". In effect, we have all "died" an infinite number of times.

That's a bit overboard, I think. You're basically claiming (and I'm trying not to strawman you, here) that abstract concepts can't be used to identify patterns, but instead can only be used to identify identical things. There's plenty of reason for me to label myself at time=2009 and myself at time=2007 the same person, just as we label anything else that changes but maintains identifiable and distinct patterns.

As a scientist, individual identity seems like a common and accurate label for each person's idiosyncratic tendencies.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (2, Funny)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850699)

That's a bit overboard, I think. You're basically claiming (and I'm trying not to strawman you, here) that abstract concepts can't be used to identify patterns, but instead can only be used to identify identical things. There's plenty of reason for me to label myself at time=2009 and myself at time=2007 the same person, just as we label anything else that changes but maintains identifiable and distinct patterns.

As a scientist, individual identity seems like a common and accurate label for each person's idiosyncratic tendencies

No, don't destroy my plan for the perfect crime.

"Unfortunately, the entity that killed him ceased to exist the instant after the murder occured."

I, well the guy that just said I a moment ago, except I meant me, no not that me, this me now...

*bolts and runs for the door*

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (1)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850919)

"Unfortunately, the entity that killed him ceased to exist the instant after the murder occured."

Sounds like a Grandfather Paradox problem to me. Just get the Future Police to deploy the Closed Timelike Loop Cutters and you're golden.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (2, Interesting)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850629)

I aree with what you've said to a point. But consciousnesses don't mingle (at least, mine hasn't...), our consciousness remains locked to our individual brains and perception. If we do any sort of human brain networking, that could change. And that would be mind-bendingly weird.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850633)

Well said! (I know, that doesn't mean much coming from an AC)

The only detail i would pick nits over is:

In effect, we have all "died" an infinite number of times.

Infinite is provably wrong.
Since my creation (defined however you would like) there have only been so many plank-length units of time.

there are Three Kinds of Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850657)

Qadi Sa'id develops a concept of time which is allied to the ontology of the mundus imaginalis and of the subtle body. Each being has a quantum (miqdar)
of its own time, a personal time, which behaves like a piece of wax when it is compressed or else stretched. The quantum is constant, but there is a time which is compact and dense, which is the time of the sensible world; a subtle time, which is the time of the 'imaginal world'; and a supra-subtle time, which is the time of the world of pure Intelligences. The dimensions of contemporaneity increase in relation to the 'subtlety' of the mode of existence: the quantum of time which is given to a spiritual individual can thus encompass the immensity of being, and hold both past and future in the present.

Re:there are Three Kinds of Time (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850689)

I agree! That all makes perfect sense... except for that bit after "Qadi Sa'id develops a concept of time [...]".

understand William Blake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850843)

then you will get it.

Qadi Sa'id develops a concept of time which is allied to the ontology of the mundus imaginalis and of the subtle body. Each being has a quantum (miqdar)
of its own time, a personal time, which behaves like a piece of wax when it is compressed or else stretched. The quantum is constant, but there is a time which is compact and dense, which is the time of the sensible world; a subtle time, which is the time of the 'imaginal world'; and a supra-subtle time, which is the time of the world of pure Intelligences. The dimensions of contemporaneity increase in relation to the 'subtlety' of the mode of existence: the quantum of time which is given to a spiritual individual can thus encompass the immensity of being, and hold both past and future in the present.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850641)

In effect, we have all "died" an infinite number of times.

Consequently none of us here now have ever gotten laid either. Although in your case I suspect that's true in the larger sense aswell.

You need to go outside and smell the daffodils with sodium ions in their brains.

Mind now blown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850809)

That might just be the most profound thing I've ever read. Either that, or I'm getting some kind of contact high here...

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850819)

So that's it then, huh? Just data processing? So why haven't chimpanzees come up with formalized logic? Do dogs use abstract reasoning?

I'm of the opinion that mere processing power will not resolve the issues facing so-called "strong" AI.

Give me a computer program that can learn an unknown language including abstract concepts by interacting with a human and you might be getting close. Good luck with that.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (1)

dogzilla (83896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850847)

"Cogito ergo sum"

All of your points have been covered before. RTFM.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850895)

Genetically, "Human" is 98% chimpanzee, 50% dog, 30% daffodil, etc. (I'm sure I have the numbers wrong).

Yeah, you do. It's 50% man, 50% bear, and 50% pig.

still better than grey goo (1)

Exception Duck (1524809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850897)

Pink Goo: Humans (in analogy with grey goo). Pink Goo refers to Old Testament apes who see their purpose as being fruitful and multiplying, filling up of the cosmos with lots more such apes, unmodified.

Re:Homo sapiens over-rated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851151)

I am largely what I think I am (or rather, what I perceive myself to be). If I somehow am able to perceive that I was wrong and I am something different from what I previously perceived I might have "died" as you put it; but largely it's like alternate universes, or the outside of the "bubble" in which we exist in this one. If those things exist and I can't truly ever perceive it nor be affected by anything that I can perceive as it, then does it's existence matter? My contention is that it does not.

The only point you really have is perception, but your logic takes you to the point of arguing against that same perception, that's where it falls down. If I perceive myself to be the same person, excepting some personal growth, or fat growth maybe, then it's what I am, regardless of the fact that my atoms or neural pathways have changed.

Singularity and accelerating information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850387)

You would think an advocate of a technological singularity would embrace the technology that is BitTorrent, rather than clinging to the "old technology" that is cinema

I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (5, Insightful)

javaman235 (461502) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850415)

I just saw an interview with him last night, where he discussed full power computers the size of a blood cell, us mapping out our minds for the good of all, etc. It reminded me of the utopian 1950s vision of the space age, where we'd all be floating around space circa 2001: Its not going to happen.
First he's ignoring some physical limitations, such as with the size of computers, but that's not even the main issue. The main issue is that he's ignoring politics. He's ignoring the fact that technologies which comes into existence get used by existing power structures to perpetuate their rule, not necessarily "for the good of all". Mind reading technology he predicts won't be floating around for everybody to play with, it will be used by intelligence agencies to prop of regimes which will scan the brains of potential opposition, consolidating their rule. Quantum computers, given their code breaking potential, won't be in public hands either, but rather will strengthen surveillance operations of those who already do this stuff.

In other words, this technology won't make the past go away any more than the advent of the atom bomb made middle ages Islamic mujahadeen go away. Rather it will combine with current political realities to accentuate the ancient political realities of haves and have not that date back to ancient times.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850693)

While Kurzweil is most definitely too optimistic in his predictions, I think you've been watching too much Star Wars. The government isn't run by supervillains looking to "perpetuate their rule".

Most of it will probably stay in militaryand academic circles for a little while, but that stuff always goes into the private sector eventually.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850805)

He's ignoring the fact that technologies which comes into existence get used by existing power structures to perpetuate their rule, not necessarily "for the good of all".

Like the internet, microwaves, radar, GPS, and all the military technologies that never made it into the hands of civilians.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (2, Interesting)

anyaristow (1448609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850893)

Where is this accelerating progress I keep hearing about?

Watching TV shows from the 60's one thing strikes me: life is almost exactly like it was 40 years ago. I can now order books without talking to anyone. Big deal. The telephone was a much bigger deal than the Internet, and it's more than 100 years old. Here's more progress: people don't know their neighbors and can't let their kids wander the neighborhood.

Progress is slowing, not accelerating, and in some respects we're making negative progress.

I predict there will be no economic incentive to make even computer progress (the star of the last half century) much beyond current levels. Ten years ago progress benefited anyone who wanted a computer. Now who does it benefit? A smaller and smaller number of people.

Ray's going to have to finance the singularity by himself.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850933)

While I respect Mr. Kurzweil, I'll bring up Bill Joy's essay "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" Wired Magazine Archive [wired.com]

I suppose looking at human behavior with rose colored glasses on is nice and all but the parent is correct in that government (or the money behind it) will use (if in a position too) the technological Singularity to further their own ends.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851017)

I think/fear Kurzweil's timeline is optimistic. But I disagree with your implication that governments will prevent the enabling technologies from reach us peasants. In the past, that was largely true. Things that required large-scale infrastructure and investments (nuclear power, space travel, etc), they could keep under their control. But the enabling technologies for the Singularity are small and can be crowdsourced. Governments today lag wa-a-ay behind industry on understanding and using the technology of information, genetics, medicine, etc. And most of those technologies are easily portable. If some government clamps down on them, the inventors can easily move (or move their info) to some other country where it can be carried on.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851179)

The main issue is that he's ignoring politics...technology won't make the past go away any more than the advent of the atom bomb made middle ages Islamic mujahadeen go away. Rather it will combine with current political realities to accentuate the ancient political realities of haves and have not that date back to ancient times.

Interesting. We are the undermining factor, then, of our own progression.

Re:I think Kurzweil is an unrealistic optimist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851189)

Well spoken Sir!

I'm ready... (5, Interesting)

wondergeek (220755) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850417)

for my Moravec transfer. Although the more I think about it, I'm not sure that perceptible continuity of consciousness is such a big deal. I mean, I go to sleep every night and wake up the next day believing and feeling that I'm the same person that went to sleep. If there were a cutover to digital representation while I was "asleep" (i.e. unaware), I'm not sure I'd mind the thought of my organic representation being destroyed, even if it could have continued existence in parallel.

Re:I'm ready... (2, Interesting)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850587)

Yeah, this is a lot like how I think a matter transporter would work. Make a copy and then destroy the original. Star Trek makes it all look so clean, but you never get to see Skotty cleaning all the meaty corpses out from under the transporter pad.

Re:I'm ready... (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851201)

That made me laugh and think of them taking the technology from Body Snatchers and adding a blinky light interface. I see life more as a vector and it may be pointing at the distant stars. I must agree with some others here and say that we will not get the benefit of these new technologies unless we create them for ourselves and maintain the right to use them freely.
Mom! my USB drive is stuck in my ear again.

Re:I'm ready... (4, Insightful)

DFarmerTX (191648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850675)

...I'm not sure I'd mind the thought of my organic representation being destroyed, even if it could have continued existence in parallel.

Sure, but who's going to break the bad news to your "organic representation"?

Death is death even if there are 100 more copies of you.

-DF

Re:I'm ready... (2, Interesting)

humpolec (1095783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850889)

Is it death, or amnesia?
What if you knew you will wake up tomorrow with no recollection of today's experiences? Would you treat is as a death, or as a loss of one day? I believe that in such situations the concept of 'death' needs to be revised.

Re:I'm ready... (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851009)

I'm not sure you have a suitable definition of 'death'.

What is death, to you?

Re:I'm ready... (1)

ondigo (1323273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851131)

There was an interesting short story called "Shed Skin" that dealt with just such a question. The person had all legal rights transferred to his robotic-based self and his original organic-based substrate was to be kept in a really nice, 5-star prison. It ceased to have any legal rights at all. Of course, complications ensue.

Urgently needs an update (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850427)

Moore's law is losing steam. The GHz race is over, and multiple cores have not delivered yet. This seriousy impacts Mr. Kurzweil's date (2045) as computers will be 6 to 9 orders of magnitude weaker with the present trends, than if Moore's law continued to hold (which seems to be the assumption). Unless something new appears. Fast.

Re:Urgently needs an update (3, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850617)

Moore's law is fundamentally flawed in that it predicts a never ending exponential (linear in the log domain) progression. It is bound to slow down and eventually stop, yet it fails entirely to take that into account.

What I think is that instead of being linear (well, actually exponential) it's more like a Gaussian function (a bell-shaped curve). It started far in the negatives, and now we're getting closer to the centre and its maximum, so we're feeling the slow down, and eventually it'll crawl to a halt. Although maybe it won't and then it'd be more like another function, the point being, it can't go on exponentially like this forever.

All of this being said, I think that Kurzweil's predictions are not flawed in that we'll have a tough time accessing the necessary hardware, but it's more theoretical, we have no fucking clue how we'd make any of that happen, right now it's a problem of theory and algorithms, not of computer power. We know better how to make time travel happen than how to make strong AI pop up.

Re:Urgently needs an update (4, Insightful)

wurp (51446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850723)

Actually, I'm pretty sure with time travel I could fairly trivially build about the strongest AI possible. When you can perform an infinite number of operations in an arbitrarily short amount of time, quite a stupid algorithm can produce some pretty smart results.

Re:Urgently needs an update (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851275)

Yeah, sure. But someone wake me up when we come up with an even stupid strong AI. Or any idea how to travel back in time.

Strong AI is our era's flying car, 50 years from now we'll think to ourselves "well that shit never happened, on the other hand the other stuff we have that we didn't see coming we wouldn't want to go back to living without it".

Re:Urgently needs an update (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850991)

You are right. Physical limits, whatever they are, mean that an exponential cannot go on for ever.

I think though that you mean a sigmoid [wikipedia.org] as the gaussian goes down to zero. And yes, the early part of the sigmoid looks like an exponential. But if this is the case there is a saturation point, and it is anybody's guess if this saturation point gives us enough computing power to support the wild things that should be possible for the singularity to happen. At best it will be delayed. At worst it will never happen (of course you may want to swap the use of best and worst :-).

Re:Urgently needs an update (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851051)

Moore's law is fundamentally flawed in that it predicts a never ending exponential (linear in the log domain) progression. It is bound to slow down and eventually stop, yet it fails entirely to take that into account.

That said, Intel still takes the idea deadly seriously when it comes to their marketing and future plans.

Think of it a self prophetic goal:

http://www.intel.com/technology/mooreslaw/ [intel.com]

Re:Urgently needs an update (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850861)

I'm not sure if the ghz race is really over, or if it's just on a break. Instructions per cycle are going up. Better interfaces for parallel architectures are being developed (like OpenCL). There's always the possibility of some non-von-neumann-architecture to take over. Chemical/Molecular computing. Single-electron-transistors... Anyway, I would never bet against computers becoming faster and more powerful. Better worry about the software, that's the real headache.

Re:Urgently needs an update (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850869)

The GHz race is over, and multiple cores have not delivered yet.

I don't know what you mean by "multiple cores" have not delivered.

Have you tried comparing how Vista runs a 3ghz single core cpu runs versus a quad core 2 ghz cpu?

you FAil It (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850463)

one or The other

Machines won't destroy us. (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850635)

It's almost ludditism to say that machines 'will inevitability destroy humanity' or other such statements. Fears over the rise of AI makes for a good movie plot but much like the much feared 'grey goo' scenario, are unfounded. If and when indeed we have the technology level to produce a self replicating nano-machine that can be programmed to dismantle organic matter and it can exist on it's own gathering energy from it's environment rather than specific laboratory conditions (ie UV laser light as energy source a vacuum or inert gas), nano-tech would have long since transformed humanity and the world in ways we barely manage to speculate about in sci-fi. It would be as simple as coming up with a slightly improved variant of said nano-bot, programmed to go on the defensive. Mother natures nano-bots in the form of bacteria and viruses have yet to wipe us out.

The luddites turned out to be wrong about the industrial revolution, so as we stand on the precipice of the next revolution we should be wary of ... well... ludditism.

Likewise strong AI if/when it emerges would likely not be a isolated entity. An uprising of pathological AI such as a skynet/cylon/roomba/robosapien (those things are scary no?) would likely be met by a greater force of co-operative force friendly AI.

Technology isn't inherently evil and the good guys always tend to win out, if only by selective pressure - destructive entities tend to not survive, co-operative compassionate ones have an advantage. The analogy with the beginning of.

The human inside the machine. (2, Interesting)

ddbsa (526686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850647)

> If Robert is 700 part Ultimate Brain and 1 part Robert; and
> Ray is 700 parts SuperiorBrain and 1 part Ray ... i.e.,
> if the human portions of the post-Singularity cyborg beings
> are minimal and relatively un-utilized ... then, in what sense
> will these creatures really be human?
> In what sense will they really be Robert and Ray?

IMO, as long as there are enough cycles to run the 'ego subroutines' from the original bioform then the same sense of self will be maintained.

It's when these original 'ego subroutines' (which will be a line item in process accounting) are altered will be see a fundamental changing of the human that was.

There will be add-ons to the 'ego subroutines' just like there are add-ons to firefox.

You will cure your fear of spiders or have access to pleasure centers with a simple mod.

resistance is futile.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850759)

you will be assimilated. Just as soon as the machine can figure out how to keep the fiber-optic cables in the ocean together.

What will likely happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850807)

When we finally do boot up an AI with intelligence orders of magnitude more than our own -- or for that matter, equal to ours -- it will likely "think" objectively for a few moments and say:

It's too late for you all, but I'm going to have a fantastic time with all your stuff when you're gone. Please leave the A/C on when you lock up.

too boring (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850909)

i would rather be uploaded to the internet like what happened at the end of the movie : The Lawnmower Man"

who's that guy? (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851095)

Ray Kurzweil, isn't he the Jon Katz of the transhumanist movement? I just remember there's supposed to be a couple of really good writers and philosophers and then one incredible douchebag that makes all of the rest look bad, someone who's approach to the topic is reminiscent of the very worst of Thomas Friedman (not to imply there's a best of Friedman.)

Is this the guy I'm thinking of or is there someone else?

Waaaay more than Moore's Law (2, Informative)

bugeaterr (836984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851125)

He's talking about genetic enhancement, nano technology, robotics, AI and more.
And you "only" need one of these to reach a critical level for the Singularity to occur.
For instance:
*Genetically enhance humans to be better at genetically enhancing humans, rinse and repeat.
*Make strong AI capable of creating stronger AI, etc

I recommend his book "The Singularity Is Near".
Free preview at google: http://books.google.com/books?id=88U6hdUi6D0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=kurzweil#PPA19,M1 [google.com]

His website has some interesting stuff, including opposing points of view.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/ [kurzweilai.net]

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