- William Shakespeare
Yesterday I attended a talk by Ray Kurzweil, a visionary in the field of Artificial Intelligence and a pioneer in technologies for speech and character recognition. The talk was about his new book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. The guy made some pretty interesting claims about where we are headed in terms of AI. He believes around 2030, we will be successful in building machines which will be able to replicate all the possible aspects of a human brain (will pass the Turing test too) and pretty soon go past it. No, this is not a trashy sci-fi movie story. His findings are based on very convincing arguments about the exponential growth of complexity and intelligence since the evolution of life. A very exciting and scary concept.
I am halfway through his earlier book, The Age of Spiritual Machines and I must say it is really overwhelming. None of his extrapolations seem out of hand. They seem to be simple extensions to the technological progress made so far. The book is pretty complete and exhaustive in a scientific perspective. I remember being similarly awed when I read Carl Sagan's Cosmos (which is an absolute must read for anyone and everyone who has cleared 12th grade. If you haven't read it yet, all I can say that is you haven't yet looked at life the way it is meant to be looked at.)
On the topic of REALLY smart guys, I remember another talk I attended back at Rutgers, that of Stephen Wolfram, about his New Kind of Science. In the book, Wolfram proposes his fundamentally new theory explaining the Universe (or God, whichever way you see it). The main theme of his theory is that everything in the Universe - the matter, the energy, the forces, evolution, life, the transience, all can be explained using a very few number of simple patterns. A few simple patterns arranged differently lead to immensely complex systems. A parallel theory is an entirely more courageous and difficult thing to propose, but Wolfram does it with amazing lucidity. I don't believe his theory is widely accepted among traditional physicists, but then it could very well be the case of a genius not being recognized in his time.
Kudos to those brilliant minds who dare to dream.....