Below is a quote from Ray Kurzweil’s book The Singularity is Near. To put it in context: The singularity is a time when humanity as we know it will suddenly change drastically, due to advances in technology. For example, our brains will be enhanced by nonbiological computers, and we’ll spend half our time in fully immersive virtual reality. Some of the major advances that will lead to this change are what Kurzweil refers to as “GNR”, which stands not for the name of a band with a perpetually delayed album, but for “genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics.” Here is the quote:
“The most powerful impending revolution is “R”: human-level robots with their intelligence derived from our own but redesigned to far exceed human capabilities. R represents the most significant transformation, because intelligence is the most powerful “force” in the universe. Intelligence, if sufficiently advanced, is, well, smart enough to anticipate and overcome obstacles that stand in its path.”
Is it just me, or is that terrifying? This isn’t science fiction; Kurzweil actually believes this will happen in the not-to-distant future, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Yet it sounds like science fiction, and not happy utopian future science fiction, but The Matrix / Mad Max / Blade Runner / oops we destroyed the earth science fiction.
Sure, it could go either way. Maybe the obstacles standing in the path of these superhuman, superintelligent, and presumably supersized robots will be obstacles that overlap with humanity’s: global warming, crime, obesity, premature baldness. But what if their obstacles are us? We with our dull neuron-based brains and squishy bodies?
I’m sure Kurzweil has speculation on how we’ll prevent this from happening (I’m only halfway through the book). I just hope he doesn’t underestimate the human race’s ability to make extremely stupid decisions, or overlook the fact that when it comes to world-altering technology, it only takes a small group of sketchy people to get their hands on it to do great harm. Let’s hope we can overcome that stuff, though, because virtual reality would be kickass, and I do like my squishy body.