Monday, June 26, 2006

Heaven or hell

This article from CNN speculates about our possibly exciting, possibly scary near-future. Lots of quotes from Ray Kurzweil, one of the most brilliant futurists out there and one of my favorite authors:

"Humanity is on the verge of an incredible future. Technologies that seem like science fiction are already becoming science fact as researchers develop innovations that will transform the very essence of what it is to be human.

"The pace of change is exponential, not linear," says inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil. "So things fifty years from now will be very different. That's pretty phenomenal. It took us fifteen years to sequence HIV, we sequenced SARS in 31 days."

Nanotechnology, genetics and cybernetics will mean that we will become faster, stronger and more beautiful; we will live longer and banish disease; we will be more intelligent and quicker-witted with photographic memories and the ability to go days without sleep.

"We're doubling the power of computers every year for the same cost," says Kurzweil. "In 25 years, they'll be a billion times more powerful than they are today. At the same time we're shrinking the size of all technology, electronic and mechanical, by a factor of a hundred per decade, that's a hundred thousand in 25 years."

Kurzweil argues that the growth of computing power, miniaturization and increased technical prowess will turn the world into an incredible place -- free from the conflicts over resources and wealth that have plagued it and in the last century and almost led to our obliteration in the fires of global thermonuclear war.

That is, if you believe one particular school of thought.

Other, equally eminent, minds believe we are on the cusp of an incredible disaster -- possibly even our own extinction -- as the technology we are so rapidly giving birth to moves beyond us, and self-replicates, casting us aside or even exterminating us.

What kind of future do you envision? Where do we go from here?

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