Predictions Made by Ray Kurzweil


American author, inventor and futurist Raymond Kurzweil has become well known for predicting the future of artificial intelligence and the human race. His first book, ‘The Age of Intelligent Machines,’ published in 1990, put forth his theories on the results of the increasing use of technology and notably foresaw the explosive growth in the internet, among other predictions.

Later works, 1999’s ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines’ and 2005’s ‘The Singularity is Near’ outlined other theories including the rise of clouds of nano-robots (nanobots) called foglets and the development of Human Body 2.0 and 3.0, whereby nanotechnology is incorporated into many internal organs.

In his first book ‘The Age of Intelligent Machines.’ Written from 1986 to 1989 and published in 1990, it forecast the demise of the Soviet Union due to new technologies such as cellular phones and fax machines disempowering authoritarian governments by removing state control over the flow of information. In 2005 Mikhail Gorbachev told Kurzweil that emerging decentralized electronic communication ‘was a big factor’ for fostering democracy in the Soviet Union.

In the book Kurzweil also extrapolated preexisting trends in the improvement of computer chess software performance to predict correctly that computers would beat the best human players by 1998, and most likely in that year. In fact, the event occurred in May 1997 when chess World Champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue computer in a well-publicized chess tournament.

Perhaps most significantly, Kurzweil foresaw the explosive growth in worldwide Internet use that began in the 1990s. At the time of the publication of ‘The Age of Intelligent Machines,’ there were only 2.6 million Internet users in the world, and the medium was unreliable, difficult to use, and deficient in content, making Kurzweil’s realization of its future potential especially prescient. He also stated that the Internet would explode not only in the number of users but in content as well, eventually granting users access ‘to international networks of libraries, databases, and information services.’

Additionally, Kurzweil correctly foresaw that the preferred mode of Internet access would inevitably be through wireless systems, and he was also correct to estimate that the latter would become practical for widespread use in the early 21st century.

In 1999, Kurzweil published a second book titled ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines,’ which goes into more depth explaining his futurist ideas. The third and final section of the book is devoted to elucidating the specific course of technological advancements Kurzweil believes the world will experience over the next century.

Kurzweil restated an earlier prediction of the advent of pocket-sized, text-to-speech converters for the blind. The ‘Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader’ was introduced in 2005, though it is not the inexpensive or common product Kurzweil predicted.

In his third book, ‘The Singularity is Near,’ published in 2005, he predicted supercomputers with the computational capacities to simulate protein folding. In 2010, a supercomputer simulated protein folding for a very small protein at an atomic level over a period of a millisecond. The protein folded and unfolded, with the results closely matching experimental data.

In a 2002 article published on his website, Kurzweil stated that ‘Deep Fritz-like chess programs running on ordinary personal computers will routinely defeat all humans later in this decade.’ Deep Fritz is a computer chess program—generally considered superior to the older Deep Blue–that has defeated or tied a number of human chess masters and opposing chess programs. Due to advances in personal computer performance, the Deep Fritz program can now run on ordinary personal computers, and different versions of it are available for purchase.

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