Electronic Design

On The Cusp Of Immortality

Ray Kurzweil has written five books, including The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, and Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever (co-authored with Terry Grossman, MD). The first discusses the accelerating rate of technological change.

"The price-performance and capacity of information technology doubles in less than a year, which means an expansion by a factor of a billion in 25 years," says Kurzweil, in describing his theory called "the law of accelerating returns." "This exponential expansion applies to our knowledge of the brain, of biology, and any other aspect of technology that we can describe in information terms."

The genome project, for example, doubled each year in terms of the amount of genetic data that was sequenced, while the cost came down each year by half. "As a result, we have an acceleration of the understanding of biology, as well as tools of increasing effectiveness to reprogram the information processes underlying biology," Kurzweil says.

"Within two decades, we will have the biotechnology tools to substantially extend human life, something that Terry Grossman, MD, and I call bridge two. That will bring us to bridge three, which is the full application of nanotechnology to human health and longevity, which will extend human life indefinitely," he explains.

"Death is a tragedy. We’ve gone to great lengths in our philosophies and religions to say it is a good thing, to rationalize it. In my view, life gives life meaning, relationships give life meaning, and death is a profound loss to relationships, to creativity," he says.

"If we were to live hundreds of years yet everything else remained the same, that would lead to a deep ennui. But that is not what will happen," he says. "We will also be expanding our ability to create and experience knowledge, to expand our horizons, so life will be anything but boring."

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