Imagine accessing Wikipedia just by thinking about it. It sounds like science fiction now, but futurist and Google engineer Ray Kurzweil thinks that reality is just a few years away.
At the Exponential Finance conference on June 3, he predicted that humans will be cyborgs by 2030, according to CNNMoney.
"Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking," Kurzweil said. "We're going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves. In my view, that's the nature of being human - we transcend our limitations."
Kurzweil predicted that, in just 15 years, we could choose to become part-human, part-computer. With the help of tiny nanobots made of DNA, he says our mind will be able to connect to the cloud.
DNA nanobots (yes, such things exist) are less likely to be rejected by the body's immune system than traditional hardware, since they're made of biological molecules. Researchers have already used them to target and destroy cancer cells as well as store data.
But Kurzweil thinks that this technology could eventually send emails and videos directly to the brain, or even allow us to back up our thoughts and memories.
"Twenty years from now, we'll have nanobots, because another exponential trend is the shrinking of technology," Kurzweil explained in an 2014 Ted talk about growing beyond our brain's physical limitations. "They'll go into our brain through the capillaries and basically connect our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud."Um... really?
Kurzweil's predictions come with quite a few caveats and warnings. Even if this is possible, having our minds completely melded with the internet opens them up to issues like hacking and other security concerns.
Imagine how dangerous a computer virus or hacker would be if our minds were connected to the internet: Someone could steal our memories or corrupt our thoughts.
Is the potential benefit worth the risk? Kurzweil seems to think so: "As I wrote starting 20 years ago, technology is a double-edged sword," Kurzweil said. "Fire kept us warm and cooked our food but also burnt down our houses. Every technology has had its promise and peril."Is this technology even possible?
While the idea that hardware improves exponentially over the years is true of some components, it's unlikely to apply to getting our brains online.
Scientists warn that we've barely scratched the surface of understanding how the mind works. To think we can infiltrate or link our innumerably complex biological computers with the cloud is fundamentally unsound, some researchers say.
"Theories like Kurzweil's are at odds with biology," Robert Breezing, the author of "Psychotherapy of Character," wrote in Psychology Today.
"This always lead to magical thinking and false beliefs. Kurzweil is the same guy who believes that he can bring his father back from the dead. That will not happen," Breezing wrote. "This is an anti-biological fantasy."Does that mean it won't happen?
Kurzweil has made hard-to-believe predictions before, some of which turned out to be true — about 86% by his own calculations.
He once predicted a machine that would beat a human in a game of chess, for example. That happened in 1996.
But other Kurzwelian predictions have fallen short, like self-driving cars. He anticipated they'd be a common sight by 2009. Although self-driving cars do exist and it seems inevitable they'll wheel into people's driveways at some point, Kurzweil's vision has yet to pass.
He may be more erroneously optimistic when it comes to connecting our brains to the Internet. Supposing it's eventually possible, however, that doesn't mean it won't be ethically fraught.
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