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Thursday 26th January 2012
10:00 - 10:30 Theatre 6
The web within us: when minds and machines become one
The onset of the 21st century is an era in which the very nature of what it means to be human is both enriched and challenged, as our species breaks the shackles of its genetic legacy, and achieves inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity.
The paradigm shift rate is now doubling every decade, so the twenty-first century will see 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate. Consider how much the world has changed recently. Just a few years ago, people did not use social networks (Facebook, for example, was founded in 2004 and now has over 800 million active users), wikis, blogs, or tweets. Most people did not use search engines or mobile phones in the 1990s.
Imagine the world without these. That sounds like ancient history, but it was not so long ago. The world will change even more in the near future. By 2020, we will have the means to programme our biology away from disease and aging. Information technology will be the majority of the economy in the 2020s and by the end of that decade virtual environments will be indistinguishable from reality. Virtually all technology will be nanotechnology within two decades, solving the energy problem and providing every kind of material resource that we need from mere information and inexpensive raw materials.
While the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes will be profound, and the threats they pose considerable, we will ultimately merge with our machines, vastly extend our lives, and become a billion times more intelligent - all within the next three to four decades.
Futurist, author and one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray Kurzweil has been described as “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison” and PBS included Ray as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America.”