Ray Kurzweil has made a name for himself for making outlandish technology forecasts, many of which have proven accurate. Here, we summarize some of his predictions that could have the largest implications on medicine.
Although Ray Kurzweil's initial claim to fame was his inventions (including the flatbed scanner, the first print-to-speech convertor for the blind, and a groundbreaking music synthesizer), he has received more attention in past decades for his predictions and his books. In the 1990s, he made 147 projections for 2009. In 2010, he reflected on them and determined that 86% of them were correct.
While his critics dispute the accuracy of some of his forecasts, Kurzweil has predicted the age of mobile computing, digital books, wearables, self-driving cars, and high-speed wireless data transmission. In the 1980s, he eerily predicted the emergence of a global online network long before the Internet as we now know it exists. Bill Gates has called Kurzweil "the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence."
[Kurzweil will be giving a keynote address at MD&M West in Anaheim, CA on February 10.]
Many of Kurzweil's ideas seem outlandish at first glance, a necessity, he argues, because our human brains are only equipped of thinking linearly why technology is evolving at an exponential rate.
One of his most famous theories is that of the Singularity, which contends that technology will continue to evolve at exponentially, ultimately irrevocably changing human destiny, and possibly giving humans the option of immortality.
In the WSJ, he deflected criticism from theologians who insist death is necessary by quipping: "Oh, death, that tragic thing? That's really a good thing."
Ultimately, Kurzweil sees humans heading for a tipping point where humans ultimately are able to add more than a year to our life expectancy each year, potentially dramatically increasing our lifespans.
Biology is inherently an information process, Kurzweil argues, and in the coming decades, humans will gain the ability to not only turn-off disease genes but also reprogram our own biology.