Ray Kurzweil’s Wildest Prediction: Nanobots Will Plug Our Brains Into the Web by the 2030s
I consider Ray Kurzweil a very close friend and a very smart person. Ray is a brilliant technologist, futurist, and a director of engineering at Google focused on AI and language processing. He has also made more correct (and documented) technology predictions about the future than anyone:
As reported, "of the 147 predictions that Kurzweil has made since the 1990s, fully 115 of them have turned out to be correct, and another 12 have turned out to be "essentially correct" (off by a year or two), giving his predictions a stunning 86% accuracy rate."
Two weeks ago, Ray and I held an hour-long webinar with my Abundance 360 CEOs about predicting the future. During our session, there was one of Ray's specific predictions that really blew my mind.
"In the 2030s," said Ray, "we are going to send nano-robots into the brain (via capillaries) that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today, we'll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud."
Let's digest that for a moment.
2030 is only 15 years away…
Directly plugging your brain into the internet? Upgrading your intelligence and memory capacity by orders of magnitude?
This is a post about the staggering (and fun) implications of that future.
The implications of a connected neocortex are quite literally unfathomable. As such, any list I can come up with will pale in comparison to reality…but here are a few thoughts to get the ball rolling.
This will deliver a new level of human intimacy, where you can truly know what your lover, friend or child is feeling. Intimacy far beyond what we experience today by mere human conversation. Forget email, texting, phone calls, and so on — you'll be able to send your thoughts to someone simply by thinking them.
Google on the Brain
You'll have the ability to "know" anything you desire, at the moment you want to know it. You'll have access to the world's information at the tip of your neurons. You'll be able to calculate complex math equations in seconds. You'll be able to navigate the streets of any cities, intuitively. You'll be able to hop into a fighter jet and fly it perfectly. You'll be able to speak and translate any language effortlessly.
Just imagine that you're in a bind and you need to solve a problem (quickly). In this future world, you'll be able to scale up the computational power of your brain on demand, 10x or 1,000x…in much the same way that algorithms today can spool up 1,000 processor cores on Amazon Web Service servers.
Living in the Virtual World
If our brains can truly connect at high bandwidth, you will be able to bypass our current sensory organs (eyes, ears, touch) to the point where brain's perception of reality can be driven completely by a gaming engine — a virtual world. Likewise, the connections would exist in the motor cortex of your brain as well. When you move your limbs, imagine a corresponding set of virtual limbs (your avatar) moving perfectly in the virtual world. This is about creation of The Matrix x 1,000.
Extended Immune System
In my webinar discussion with Ray, he outlined how we already have intelligent biological devices, the size of blood cells, that kill disease. They are called T-cells. They can recognize an enemy and attack it, but they don't work on cancer, retroviruses, et cetera. In the future, nanorobots will be able to communicate wirelessly, download software when new pathogens arrives, and attack cancer, cancer stem cells, bacteria, viruses, and all the disease agents. They can also work on metabolic diseases like diabetes. They could also maintain healthy levels of everything you need in the blood, including nutrients, and basically repair and eventually replace damaged organs.
Remember the scene in The Matrix where Trinity needs to learn how to fly a helicopter, and Tank downloads a program teaching her how to do it? We'll be able to do this. Need to perform emergency surgery? Just download the ER doctor program. Need to learn a new language? Download it. Want to cook the perfect meal? Download the chef module. In fact, you probably won't even need to download it — which takes up memory — you'll probably just "stream" expertise from the cloud.
Expanded and Searchable Memories
We'll be able to remember everything that ever happened to us (because we'll store our memories in the cloud), and we'll be able to search that memory database for useful information. When our memories will become searchable, we'll also be able to make them contextual by cross-referencing our calendars, GPS coordinates, health data, stock market, current news, weather conditions, and anything else that might be relevant to that particular moment in time.
A Higher-Order Existence
Ray talks about how a connected neocortex will bring humanity to a higher order of existence and complexity — expanding our palate for emotion, art, humor, creativity, expression, and uniqueness. He says, "We're going to be funnier. We're going to be sexier. We're going to be better at expressing loving sentiment. We're going to add more levels to the hierarchy of brain modules and create deeper levels of expression. People will be able to very deeply explore some particular type of music in far greater degree than we can today. It'll lead to far greater individuality, not less."
While this future may sound fanciful to many, let's remember that exponential technologies are initially deceptive, before they become disruptive. And today, there are many labs around the world working on molecular machinery, CRISPR/Cas9 systems that allow us to edit our own genome, and brain-computer interfaces (through cortical implants and the field of optogenetics).
So what if these fields of technological progress double every 18 months? In 15 years (2015 - 2030), we will have a 1,000-fold improvement over today. What does a future one thousand times better look like? Perhaps it's what Ray describes…
If this future becomes reality, connected humans are going to change everything. We need to discuss the implications in order to make the right decisions now so that we are prepared for the future.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com
He is the founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation which leads the world in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions.
Diamandis is also the co-founder and vice-chairman of Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), a genomics and cell therapy-based company focused on extending the healthy human lifespan.
He is also the co-founder and executive chairman of Singularity University, a graduate-level Silicon Valley institution that counsels the world’s leaders on exponentially growing technologies.
In the field of commercial space, Diamandis is co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, a company designing spacecraft to enable the detection and prospecting of asteroid for fuels and precious materials.He is the also co-founder of Space Adventures and Zero Gravity Corporation.
Diamandis is a New York Times bestselling author of two books: Abundance – The Future Is Better Than You Think and BOLD – How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.
He earned degrees in Molecular Genetics and Aerospace Engineering from MIT, and holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.
His motto is, “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”