If present trends are to continue, it is likely that computers will have more advanced and powerful ‘brains’ than humans within 25 years.
“If you go back 500 years, not much happened in a century. Now a lot happens in 6 months.” says Ray Kurzweil. “Technology feeds on itself and it gets faster and faster, it’s going to continue, and in about 40 years it is going to become so fast, the pace of change is going to be so astonishingly quick that you won’t be able to follow it, unless, you enhance your own intelligence by merging with the intelligent technology we have created.”
The Science, Technology & the Future conference will explore important ethical and philosophical dimensions to exponential change – whilst sharing the very latest scientific and technological breakthroughs.
This conference will challenge and enhance your view of the future.
Accelerating Change[/heading] In futures studies and the history of technology, accelerating change is a perceived increase in the rate of technological (and sometimes social and cultural) progress throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future. While many have suggested accelerating change, the popularity of this theory in modern times is closely associated with various advocates of the technological singularity, such as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil.
The mathematician Vernor Vinge popularized his ideas about exponentially accelerating technological change in the SF novel Marooned in Realtime (1986), set in a world of rapidly accelerating progress leading to the emergence of more and more sophisticated technologies separated by shorter and shorter time intervals, until a point beyond human comprehension is reached. His subsequent Hugo award-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) starts with an imaginative description of the evolution of a superintelligence passing through exponentially accelerating developmental stages ending in a transcendent, almost omnipotent power unfathomable by mere humans. His already mentioned influential 1993 paper on the technological singularity compactly summarizes the basic ideas.
In his 1988 book Mind Children, computer scientist and futurist Hans Moravec generalizes Moore’s law to make predictions about the future of artificial life. Moore’s law describes an exponential growth pattern in the complexity of integrated semiconductor circuits. Moravec extends this to include technologies from long before the integrated circuit to future forms of technology. Moravec outlines a timeline and a scenario in which robots will evolve into a new series of artificial species, starting around 2030-2040. In Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind, published in 1998, Moravec further considers the implications of evolving robot intelligence, generalizing Moore’s law to technologies predating the integrated circuit, and also plotting the exponentially increasing computational power of the brains of animals in evolutionary history. Extrapolating these trends, he speculates about a coming “mind fire” of rapidly expanding superintelligence similar to the explosion of intelligence predicted by Vinge.
n his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines Kurzweil proposed “The Law of Accelerating Returns”, according to which the rate of change in a wide variety of evolutionary systems (including but not limited to the growth of technologies) tends to increase exponentially. He gave further focus to this issue in a 2001 essay entitled “The Law of Accelerating Returns” which argued for extending Moore’s Law to describe exponential growth of diverse forms of technological progress. Whenever a technology approaches some kind of a barrier, according to Kurzweil, a new technology will be invented to allow us to cross that barrier. He cites numerous past examples of this to substantiate his assertions. He predicts that such paradigm shifts have and will continue to become increasingly common, leading to “technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.” He believes the Law of Accelerating Returns implies that a technological singularity will occur before the end of the 21st century, around 2045.