Get ready for Singularity: it’s closer to reality than we think

Hooked to a computer, your brain will be able to answer a question before you even knew to ask it

I HAVE spent a lot of the past week checking out Ray Kurzweil’s world after reading Carole Cadwalladr’s interview with him in The Observer. It is a pretty eye-opening experience. Google’s new director of engineering estimates that computers will gain ‘consciousness’ by 2029 – i.e. when the machines have learned to make their own decisions.

Kurzweil is one of the poster boys of Singularity, defined by Wikipedia as the “moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence”. Associated with this are the concepts of Human 2.0 or Transhumanism, which are when humans begin to augment or replace parts of themselves with robots or computers.

Kurzweil has a great deal to say about a future in which we have reverse-engineered the brain – i.e. figured out what every bit of our grey matter does, how and why. According to Kurzweil,

“By 2030, reverse-engineering of the human brain will have been completed and non-biological intelligence will merge with our biological brains.” (He wrote this in 2003 by the way.)

What does this even mean? Well, it means we’ll have connected our brains to computers. They’ll be able to monitor everything we hear, see and think, plus everything in our email box and answer our questions before we’ve thought of them.

Asked recently ‘why would we do this?’, Kurzweil responded: “Our search engines will… watch everything we’re reading and writing and saying and hearing, and then they’ll be like an assistant.  It’ll say… ‘You were wondering who the actor was in that movie with the robot that can speak six million languages and here she is and here’s background about her.’