Ray Kurzweil

Extending Our Reach

Excerpts from Ray Kurzweil’s “Introduction to 9”:

Our emotional intelligence is not just a sideshow to human intelligence, it’s the cutting edge. The ability to be funny, to get the joke, to express a loving sentiment represent the most complex things we do. But these are not mystical attributes. They are forms of intelligence that take also place in our brains. And the complexity of the design of our brains – including our emotional and moral intelligence – is a level of technology that we can master. There are only about 25 million bytes of compressed design information underlying the human brain (that’s the amount of data in the human genome for the brain’s design). That’s what accounts for our ability to create music, art and science, and to have relationships.

Mastering these capabilities is the future of AI. We will want our future AI’s to master emotional intelligence and the movie 9 shows us why. We want our future machines to be like the stitchpunk creations, not like the rampaging machines.

My view of the future is that we will work hand-in-hand with friendly machines, just as we do today. Indeed we will merge with them, and that process has already started, with machines like neural implants for Parkinson’s patients and cochlear implants for the deaf. But my vision of the future is not utopian. While I don’t foresee the end of conflict, future conflict will not simply be man-versus-machine. It will be among different groups of humans amplified in their abilities by their machines, just as we see today.

The stitchpunk creations succeed not despite their emotionalism and bickering with each other, but because of it. We will want our future machines to be emotionally, socially, and morally intelligent because we will become the machines. That is, we will become the rag dolls. We will extend our reach physically, mentally, and emotionally through our technology. This is the only way we can avoid the apocalyptic world that 9 wakes up to.

We Bring the Sentience

Here is an excerpt from a fascinating, two-part conversation with Nova Spivak, CEO and Founder of Twine.com, on the Buddhist Geeks podcast:

Researchers such as Ray Kurzweil, who's a big thinker, [and] Vernor Vinge, who's a science fiction author, have been talking about a concept called the singularity. Basically, if you plot the increase in computing power, you can see that it's increasing exponentially while the cost is decreasing exponentially.


So by the year 2029, according to their projections, the computing power necessary to simulate a human brain will cost about one dollar. That's pretty amazing. Even if they're a little aggressive and it's 2040, that's amazing.

They're actually projecting that in 2040, artificial intelligence or computer intelligence will be a billion times more powerful than all human intelligence combined. So, we're entering a world which is going to be quite different from the world we're in.

The notion of the singularity is, when this happens, when we reach this point where essentially computing power becomes infinite or essentially infinite, or it's infinitely affordable, at least, we can't predict what's going to happen next. Now these guys, because they don't believe in anything beyond the scientific material worldview, their vision of what happens after the singularity is that machines become intelligent and sentient and they're the next step in evolution and they replace humans.

I think that's wrong. What's much more likely is a form of symbiosis, where humans and machines merge such that the machines really amplify us and we amplify the machines. We bring the sentience, the machines bring this vast computational capability, and essentially the web becomes and extension of our brain.

That doesn't help us become enlightened. That makes our delusion more functional.