I cannot believe this book was published in 2005, after his original essay in 2001. Its' absolutely prescient.
Considering what he says in this book, I am now of the opinion that crypto is just a manifestation of the wrenching break between the capacities of technology versus the capabilities of the institutions that govern the world we live in.
Many of the things that Kurzweil says have now become part of the background lore of the tech sector, but even we only pay reluctant lip service. His most interesting thesis is that the pace of technological development is about to start its visible exponential phase (what he calls the second half of the chessboard, ie one grain of rice per square, doubling every square, and by the time you get to the second half of the chessboard, all the rice in China will be on that square, and by the time you get to the last square, more than the mass of the universe).
And I don't think he's wrong. You can kind of see it in the stepped up pace of tech during the COVID era. Everyone I talk to is just drowning in new developments on a weekly basis. My two fields of interest are AI and crypto. And I hardly have time to keep abreast of either one. Just absolutely drowning.
His sense of optimism on the timing is amazing. He's strongly of the opinion that the major paradigm shift will happen within the first 30 years of this century. That only gives us 10 years left, which is really not a lot of time. Also, he expects twenty thousand years of tech development at the year 2000 pace to happen in the 21st century.
If Kurzweil were to be right, and given what we know about what is at the cuttin edge of science right now, what would the world look like, really?
In the 2020s,
- we will cure all viruses with vaccines
- we will cure most cancers with vaccines
- organ transplants from pigs and other animals will become widely and cheaply available
- robotic surgery will become widely and cheaply available
- Star Trek tricorder for handheld diagnostics will happen
- all 7 billion human beings will become linked by an ever present and all encompassing Internet
- The first factories in space will get built, shipping ZBLAN optical fiber back to earth
- We are likely to achieve the first quantum computers by end of the decade.
- We are likely to get nuclear fusion by the end of the decade.
- The first (legal) CRISPR augmented baby by the end of the decade.
- Some early rejuvenation techniques (young blood factors etc) are likely to be approved for use by the end of the decade.
In the 2030s
- the first widely recognized Artificial General Intelligence will get created. It will be a GPT3 type language model which can reasonably imitate a human being, can learn, and appears to have a sense of humor.
- We will have both a moon colony and a Mars colony by the end of the decade.
- We will start mining asteroids for materials. By the end of the decade most mining activity on Earth will cease.
- Most kids in developed nations will be gestated in artificial wombs. The days of women giving birth will come to an end.
- Brain scan and restore to cloud will work by the end of the decade
Beyond this my imagination ceases to function. What is clear to me is a few things:
a) Elon Musk is the most important entrepreneur of the last 100 years. Several of the things he's championing right now are absolutely going to transform humanity in this century. In fact looking at the way he places bets, Tesla is going to mass market in 20s, while SpaceX is getting its legs. Then SpaceX is going to mass market in the 30s while Neuralink gets its legs. And the Neuralink is going to mass market in the 40s. The man is placing bets decades ahead of time.
b) There is going to be an institutional break in the US somewhere. Our institutions are not going to be able to manage this level of change easily. The most likely path is for the US to go down a slow growth path, ceding the technological advantage to another country. The days of the other countries waiting on US rules are probably over. I think it's likely that we see China focus on reproductive and biological technology, given US reluctance and ethics. I think the US still holds the ground on space and communications tech. India is going to do a Japan, low cost, lower quality products and services to capture the low end of the market, and then move upwards in terms of quality from there.
c) Crypto is going to be the free market capitalism savior. Its going to be in the cloud, supported by techies from China, the US, India etc. to a large part in opposition to their own governments.
d) The final form of the market system is likely to be crypto payments linking to SpaceX cloud. You prove your value to the global network and link directly to it. Can't see any other way to get rid of government intervention.