Technology makes the world a better

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Google CTO, futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil recently gave a public lecture for Wired, in which he spoke about the new existential risks of humanity, the prospects for the rise of artificial intelligence and why one should not be afraid to grow into one’s smartphone.

We have prepared a digest of Kurzweil’s speech for you. We advise you to take these forecasts carefully, because the predictions made by the futurist come true with amazing accuracy.

Technology will keep getting faster and cheaper

“At the middle of the work of the Human Genome Project, after seven years, 1% of the data was deciphered. Critics said – well, we warned that this was a pointless undertaking, it would take 700 years to decipher everything. My reaction was: “Wow, have we deciphered 1 percent of the genome?  And doubling every year. The project was completed seven years later. But even after that, the law worked – the first genome cost billions of dollars, and now this figure has dropped to a thousand.

The example of the pace of deciphering the human genome is just one of many consequences of the law of accelerating returns. According to Kurzweil, this law is behind the amazing digital revolution we are witnessing. Its essence lies in the fact that in a year we get all the technological advances for half the price. That is, you can buy a smartphone that is twice as good as its prototype two years ago, at a price of 2 times less.

The future is open information and 3-D printing

When an African girl buys a smartphone for $75, in terms of economic activity, we consider it to be worth exactly $75, despite the fact that it would have cost trillions of dollars to program in the 1960s and about a billion in the 1980s. In my opinion, it is a good idea to make information and algorithms publicly available.

Google has laid out all the algorithms related to artificial intelligence. I think it is the combination of open information and the law of accelerating returns that brings us closer to the ideal. Of course, there are questions to which we do not know the correct answers. For example, privacy. Of course, we are all for progress in general, but when we have a certain amount of power, even good intentions can lead to abuse.

The average smartphone has millions of dollars worth of free apps installed – but in terms of economic activity, they are worth nothing. This fact should not be forgotten.

In 2020, a revolution will take place: we will be able to print our own clothes on 3-D printers, using a lot of data in the public domain that can be downloaded for free. We will also be able to grow inexpensive food using vertical farms, use in utero cloning of muscle tissue to create meat. Recently, in Asia, a three-story office building was assembled from tiny 3-D printed modules in a few days.

All these resources – clothing, food, housing – will, in fact, turn into information technology.

We will merge with artificial intelligence

I believe that the Turing test is really a test of the full range of possibilities of the human mind. You need to have all the flexibility of the human mind to pass it. If the human judge cannot distinguish between them, then we will equate the AI ​​with the human mind.

We have to literally “merge” with AI technologies in order to become smarter. It’s already happening. These devices sort of expand our brains, they will soon literally penetrate inside our heads and our bodies. But even now, while they have not yet penetrated there, they still make us smarter and funnier.

He will improve us. He is already doing it. Who can do their job without these brain expanders we have now?

Technology can be dangerous

There is a lot of discussion around AI-related ethical issues right now, how not to turn the technology against you, and this discussion is quite heated. I have been voicing both the prospects and the dangers for quite some time now. Technology is always a double-edged sword. The fire warmed, helped to cook food, but also burned houses.

New technologies are much more powerful than just fire. In this regard, Kurzweil suggests going through 3 phases: the first is the joy of being able to overcome age-old troubles – poverty, illness, and so on. The second is anxiety from the realization of the destructiveness and existential risks of these technologies. And finally, the understanding that people have a moral obligation to continue progress in areas that can alleviate human suffering.

For example, biotechnology: we have revolutionary achievements in immunotherapy, we can reprogram the immune system to fight cancer, but bioterrorists can easily create a virus that will become a superweapon. At the same time, technology continues to become more and more complex, so it is necessary to constantly update ethical standards and safety protocols. And to comprehend new challenges: a classic example here is driverless cars.

Artificial intelligence can become a weapon

The scope of artificial intelligence is the number one issue. Any technology carries existential risks, and AI is no exception.

Machines learn from people, and continue to learn all the time. In such innocuous areas as the game of Go, self-learning algorithms can be applied, but this is not possible when it comes to more complex, life-like issues. Both large companies and independent researchers spend a lot of effort to free artificial intelligence from the prejudices that it can learn from people. This includes racial and gender bias. This is a whole separate complex area of ​​​​research.

Therefore, arming artificial intelligence is not a matter of the distant future. The defense ministries of many countries are already using AI. In this regard, many people are demanding a ban on autonomous weapons, and this is only a good idea at first glance: the same technology underlies a drone delivering medicines to a hospital somewhere in Africa and one that carries weapons.