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For some time now, futurists have been talking about a concept called the Singularity, a technological jump so big that society will be transformed. If they’re right, the Industrial Revolution–or even the development of agriculture or harnessing of fire–might seem like minor historical hiccups by comparison. The possibility is now seeming realistic enough that scientists and engineers are grappling with the implications–for good and ill.
When I spoke to technology pioneer and futurist Ray Kurzweil (who popularized the idea in his book The Singularity Is Near), he put it this way: “Within a quarter-century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it.”
Even before we reach that point, Kurzweil and his peers foresee breathtaking advances. Scientists in Israel have developed tiny robots to crawl through blood vessels attacking cancers, and labs in the United States are working on similar technology. These robots will grow smaller and more capable. One day, intelligent nanorobots may be integrated into our bodies to clear arteries and rebuild failing organs, communicating with each other and the outside world via a “cloud” network. Tiny bots might attach themselves to neurons in the brain and add their processing power–and that of other computers in the cloud–to ours, giving us mental resources that would dwarf anything available now. By stimulating the optic, auditory or tactile nerves, such nanobots might be able to simulate vision, hearing or touch, providing “augmented reality” overlays identifying street names, helping with face recognition or telling us how to repair things we’ve never seen before.
Scientists in Japan are already producing rudimentary nanobot “brains.” Could it take decades for these technologies to come to fruition? Yes–but only decades, not centuries. The result may be what Kurzweil calls “an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the technological evolutionary process it spawned.”http://www.mindcontrol.se/?page_id=1657