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Kurzweil: Your brain will connect directly to the cloud within 30 years

By the 2030s or 2040s, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil envisions micro-computers embedded non-invasively in the brain that will act as an interface to a "cloud" of storage and processing power.

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil remains coolly confident in his prediction that by the 2030s, blood-cell sized computers will integrate with the human brain and dramatically expand its cognitive capacity well beyond the neocortex's paltry 300 million or so pattern recognizers.

And why shouldn't Kurzweil be confident? By his count, he's been right about 86 percent of the time, and that's not counting near-misses like predicting we'd all be riding in self-driving cars by now.

Advancing technology's capacity to mimic, and eventually deeply integrate with, the human brain was one of the central topics of a public Q&A Kurzweil participated in last night in Louisville, KY as part of a promotional tour for his new book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. The new book draws on his deep knowledge of language and cognitive hierarchy to predict how computers will continue to expand humans' ability to store and relate information in what we call "intelligence."

The talk, which was taped for national airing, ranged widely, as does Kurzweil's influence on technology and almost any discussion of what the world will look like 30 years from now. For the most part, Kurzweil steered clear of the headline-grabbing philosophical and ethical implications of his predictions, most notably that supercomputing will create a macro cyber-intelligence in which human consciousness will live forever. (As I imagine many of you will note in the comments section, that's a gross oversimplification of Kurzweil's fascinating work.) Instead, Kurzweil focused on the fundamentals of the science behind How to Create a Mind, and how current technology already has greatly augmented those lame 300 million recognizers nature gave us.

Kurzweil said his latest predictions are built around his theory of Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind (PRTM), which describes our cognitive processes as a series of nested activities. In How to Create a Mind, he cites the example of how most people struggle to recite the alphabet backward, although the components of the information are clearly stored in the neocortex. But the pattern -- or more precisely, the potentially thousands of patterns -- in which the neocortex connects those data are the essence of intelligence, human or artificial.

This theory is based on Kurzweil's own ground-breaking work on optical character and speech recognition software, and a similar theory was employed in large part to program Watson, the supercomputer that recently whooped up on human Jeopardy! champions. Kurzweil defends the Watson project from criticism that the supercomputer was simply running statistical analysis against specialized programming. Watson actually "read" 200 million Wikipedia pages to build its knowledge store, and the statistical analysis it ran was patterned after the human brain's own hierarchical models of data relationships (Kurzweil dubbed them Hierarchical Hidden Markup Models in his speech recognition work). Kurzweil was quick to note that Watson is not as good as an average human when it comes to understanding a single Wikipedia page; it's the ability to store massive quantities of information and quickly relate it that makes the computer so "smart." He suggested that soon, technology derived from the Watson project will be able to aid physicians in diagnosing illnesses, since doctors don't have enough time or pattern recognizers to read and immediately recall tens of millions of pages of medical research.

And he's confident that his Law of Accelerating Returns will continue to hold true for computational power, even though Intel now predicts Moore's Law will run its course by 2022 or so. (If you haven't read this excellent TechRepublic post by Peter Cochrane, do so now.) Kurzweil describes Intel's 3D structure for transistors as the sixth paradigm of Accelerating Returns (with Moore coming in at number five) that will continue to drive exponential growth in computing power and get us to that technological singularity everyone is so excited (or freaked out) about.

By the 2030s or 2040s, he envisions micro-computers embedded non-invasively in the brain that will act as an interface to a "cloud" of storage and processing power -- it will be like having five or 10 neocortexes on demand. And, given that the adult brain often has to overwrite redundant instances of data to "learn" new things, that won't be so different than our use of external computers to store and process data today. Fondling his own smartphone throughout the hour-long presentation, he repeatedly described such devices as "brain extenders."

Other geeky stuff on the table:

  • Kurzweil really digs Google's Project Glass, and says that within five years the devices will become commonplace. When you see somebody on the street, your visor will tell you their name and other quick information so your brain won't have to do all that work.
  • He's also high on Google Cars, but he still counts that as a "miss" in evaluating his own predictions, given that they are not yet broadly available to consumers.
  • On the ongoing advance of technology, Kurzweil says: "A kid in Africa with a smartphone has more information than a U.S. President had 15 years ago." Process that for a second.
  • If you've never seen it, be sure to check out this video from 1965 of Kurzweil as a 17-year-old on I've Got a Secret, demonstrating a music-composing computer of his own device. Dig brainy Miss America Bess Myerson.

For more details about the event, you can read my post Building the Better Brain: Ray Kurzweil on why reverse engineering the human mind is just to be expected.

Book cover image courtesy of Amazon.com.

About

Ken Hardin is a freelance writer and business analyst with more than two decades in technology media and product development. Before founding his own consultancy, Clarity Answers LLC, Ken was a member of the start-up team and an executive with TechRe...

36 comments
Kostaghus
Kostaghus

I don't think I'd like to remain trapped in a neural network for all eternity (or at least till the next great power failure). Luckily, with my life style chances are I'll be dead before 2030.

b_slice
b_slice

This topic has definitely been covered extensively in sci-fi for years. My two favorite depictions are Ghost in the Shell - via neural implants. Very cool stuff (and even thought up WAY back in the early 90's). And Stargate SG1 in Season 7 episode 5 (circa 2003), where the entire society has little neural links (but the computer ends up erasing memories, etc.) Anyway, fascinating thought and i dont doubt for one second that we'll get there in the next century.

rambotrader
rambotrader

And is the number of the beast 666? The bible has forecast this. God help us all.

phil
phil

... I can't come in to work today because I have a virus!

aandruli
aandruli

And by the year 2000 we'll all have flying cars

Peter.Bourgoine
Peter.Bourgoine

" Ray Kurzweil envisions micro-computers embedded non-invasively in the brain " Sounds rather invasive to me...

rjdbnet
rjdbnet

No more typing keywords into a search field! No more fumbling with encyclopedias! No more asking annoying people for info! As usual, I was born 50 years too soon.

Pruduch
Pruduch

Yes after the New World Order has been established and after the comming genocide of 90% of the world population the remaining people will be chipped and brainwashed anyway. Rockefeller & Rothschild clans are working eagerly to reach their goals.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

How do you [b]embed[/b] micro-computers [b]non-invasively[/b] in one's brain?

sparent
sparent

I think embedding technology into humans is a stop-gap solution. The ultimate solution is for technology to interact with us, without contact.

flotsam70
flotsam70

I think the difficulty will be finding any non-sheople willing to "link up".

dave
dave

But what happens if you're hacked not just by hackers but what about the network hacking you and controlling you. This possibility was depicted by: The Outer Limits Season 3, Episode 5 Stream of Consciousness

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and there has been some success, but it's not YET small enough to make it mobile or 100% accurate. I have no doubt it will eventually get there, and then the issue will be cost per unit and soon followed by bandwidth and inter connect-ability for person to person communications.

techrepublic
techrepublic

Already in information overload, the very last thing I would want is for my brain to be connected to the cloud, Internet, or any other massive data source. Enough is enough.

scotth
scotth

My head is already in the clouds. Seriously though, this is interesting. I think once humans learn to manipulate our genes, everyone born will have an IQ that will make Einstein look a little on the slow side. Things like this will appear incredibly simple-minded.

eric.smith
eric.smith

The human mind is far more complex than you, simplisticly, imagine. Add 100+ years to your prediction and you may be right.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

a removable implant device in the temple to store data and link into computers for direct neural access.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

that's just how it got translated by some dumbass back in King James' day. The number of the beast is based on a numerology canon and should be written as 6-6-6 as it's a name in three parts like William Henry Gates where the numbers of each name add up to 6. And you also need to know if they were using the lesser canon or the greater canon too. But say each letter had a value equal to that of it's place order in the alphabet - won't really work in English as the original was done in Greek, but for an example: G=7, a=1, t=20, e=5, s=19, you get 7+1+20+5+19=52 which condenses to 5+2=7 in on version; in the other version t=20 condenses to 2+0=2, s=19 condenses to 1+9=10 condenses to 1+0=1, thus it's 7+1+2+5+1=16 condenses to 7.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

With a Shot Gun and then the Surgeon closes the Opening. ;) What they mean by Non-Invasively Inserted is that the Surgeon doesn't do the Invasive Surgery they just get to close it up. But seriously I would Imagine that are talking about Nano-probes which are injected into the Blood Stream and then settle in the brain. Not really sure how you would interface with them though. Col

rjdbnet
rjdbnet

We've made a start. I think there was an episode of NOVA Science Now showing mind control. The user wears an uncomfortable headdress with a bunch of electrodes that pick up scalp electrical activity. It's primitive, but we are on the way to when I can merely think "Wash the bathroom" at my robot, instead of yelling at it.

turnier
turnier

... they will be lining up and fighting to be in front of the line.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

" ... his prediction that by the 2030s, blood-cell sized computers ..." bring on the NanoProbes you will be assimilated by "free will" or by force

dave
dave

the sheep will fall all over themselves to get an implant. However just wait until reboots start happening. LOL

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

way - Elizabeth Moon has the sue of such a device as an integral part of society in one of her series and the story Oath of Feality also has a useful way of using such as device but protections would be needed.

rjdbnet
rjdbnet

You don't have to absorb everything in the cloud; just look for the interesting stuff. Like this blog!

rjdbnet
rjdbnet

We might be able to craft antibodies targeted to pathogens.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

You're just not hearing about it. Of course being at an early, and underground stage, means that there are probably a massive number of rejects and defectives. Remember, Edison's group had a hundred (roughly) failures to invent a light bulb before they got one to work to spec. Now apply that to genetic manipulation.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

you have to be invasive even if it is in your arm. :) On a serious note, tho. The blood brain barrier would probably not let those little Nano-probes get anywhere near brain tissue.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

[b]Bring On Real Google?[/b] Who would have ever thought of that? All that the Cybermen would require is the Lie that you'll be part of Google or Apple and the majority would rush in and overload the Conversion System. ;) They would get even more takers if they charged them enormous prices for the privilege. :0 Col :D

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

How do you stop the Crackers from cloning your Brain and totally destroying your life? Within the past few days a Romanian Gang was caught who had cracked several Hundred Business in AU and stolen Plastic Details. They then made their own plastic and ran up 30M + in sales on those stolen Bank Cards. Just how much more harm could they manage to do if they could clone your brain? [i]They got details on 30,000 Cards and ran up sales of $30,000,000.00 which is effectively $1 Million per card.[/i] Thanks but [b]NO THANKS[/b] there still is no where near enough security for Dumb Plastic Cards right now to even consider linking your Brain to the Cloud. Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Hypospray that is not very invasive. Col

mckinnej
mckinnej

No doubt these things will have some sort of monitoring capability built-in. The corporations will LOVE these things. Think about it. Not only can they feed ads directly into our brains, they might even be able to "force" us into buying something. The copyright police will go totally ballistic too. They'll figure out a way to determine every time we hear or see a piece of copyrighted material and charge us for it. The wheel? Sliced bread? Bah! Mere trinkets when compared to being a part of the corporate hive mind.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

On the grounds I'll get into so much trouble that it's not worth the time and effort. But didnt there used to be a Apple Queen once upon a time? It was in Stanthorpe AU and she was crowned at the Apple Carnival. See you learn what the Mighty Apple Corp has been doing under the Radar without even asking before they got into electronics. :^0 Col