GDC '08: 'The future, Ray?'

Renowned inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil explains how computer technology will give people superhuman abilities and near immortality.

This year's Game Developers Conference featured two keynote addresses. The first, Microsoft's Wednesday keynote, was all about games, specifically Gears of War 2, Ninja Gaiden 2, and Fable 2. Despite the second keynote's title--"The Next 20 Years of Gaming"--games played only a very small part in the presentation, which nonetheless kept the crowd hanging on every word.

Ray Kurzweil, Futurist!

Delivered by inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, the keynote centered on the idea that Moore's Law, which describes the exponential growth of computing capabilities for cutting-edge hardware. As chips are progressively able to perform more calculations for less money, and in a package that's continually shrinking, Kurzweil said he expects to see the price-to-performance ratio of computers improve a billionfold in the next 25 years. The devices will eventually become small enough, Kurzweil said, that scientists can create fake blood cell-size computers to perform the same functions of natural blood cells.

"But I'm getting a little ahead of myself," the futurist joked.

Modern electronics are so powerful, Kurzweil said, that other fields that rely on them will be subject to advancements at the same pace as the chips that power them. With hardware that powerful, the limiting factor on what can be done with it becomes the software.

"You can't ignore the exponential projections," Kurzweil said. "If you're programming a game or any type of information-based technology for two or three years from now, the world's going to be completely different."

One of Kurzweil's biggest successes as an inventor was a 1979 print-to-speech reading device that was about the size of a washing machine and would "read" text on paper for the visually impaired. Given the advance of technology, Kurzweil knew that the technology would become smaller and more powerful, eventually allowing for a handheld print-to-speech reading machine that blind people could carry with them to read newspapers, menus, street signs, or anything else they pointed at.

In 2002 he estimated that the necessary hardware for the handheld unit would be ready in mid-2006, and that it would take four years to write the complex software that could identify various fonts and cursive writing from different angles and in all the conditions such a handheld would be used.

Kurzweil began working on the software for the device in 2002, even though he didn't think it would be feasible for another four years. He eventually met his projection in the summer of 2006 with a portable unit he admitted was cumbersome. Less than two years after that model was produced, Kurzweil now has the entire thing working on a standard-size, feature-packed cell phone. He pulled out a prototype and had it read a passage about advancing artificial intelligence that impressed the crowd and drew a round of hollers and applause.

Touching on the topic of the convention, Kurzweil said developers should be developing ahead of the curve in the same fashion, considering the constantly changing face of game technology.

Returning to the notion that exponential growth in the power of computer devices will affect everything else, Kurzweil explained how previously unrelated fields will essentially become information technology fields. For instance, in the field of medicine, an artificial red blood cell called a respirocyte could eventually duplicate the work of the real thing, but with 1,000 times the efficiency.

"Biology is very capable and intricate and clever," Kurzweil said, "but it's also very suboptimal compared to what we ultimately can build with information technology and nanotechnology... If you were to replace a portion of your blood with these respirocytes, you could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours."

Kurzweil also believes nanotechnology will solve the world's energy crisis within two decades. Solar panels are hard to manufacture, heavy, inefficient, and expensive, but Kurzweil said the advent of nanoengineered solar panels will change that. Within five years, he believes those high-tech solar panels will become less expensive per watt of energy produced than oil, taking away the financial incentive for people to burn through nonrenewable natural resources. Within 20 years, they will have largely replaced fossil fuels as the primary source of the world's energy.

In a more general view, Kurzweil noted that the average life expectancy was growing at the rate of roughly three months a year. Now that information technology is affecting medicine, Kurzweil projected that in 15 years, the life expectancy of people will start expanding at the rate of more than a year for every year that passes, essentially not just delaying off death, but actually pushing it further away with each passing day.

"We didn't stay on the ground," Kurzweil said. "We didn't stay on the planet. And we have not stayed within the limitations of our biology."

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Discussion

229 comments
CrazyGeneral
CrazyGeneral

It's been hypothesized that the first biomolecules were formed between layers of rock in the ocean billions of years ago, the argument being that all the chemicals that make up RNA and other biomolecules are present in the rock, and that the gentle motion of the oceans currents could have caused the different atoms to collide with each other and form "cells without membranes". http://physorg.com/news115988029.html There's the link, there's my answer for the creation of life on earth. As for the universe, well we don't know yet, but it doesn't mean we won't find out in the future.

xRandyx
xRandyx

ha freakin atheists. Atheism is the most pointless perspective, like I don't believe anything and everything just became what it is spontaneously. Something doesn't come out of nothing. There is nothing that can defy that rule. Pretty much there has to be something that we don't understand that we came from, and pretty much you should believe in that. I mean, at least agnosticism is a step above atheism. Then like Scientology would be at the bottom of the hierarchy of beliefs. Then like there's the people that believe in science as opposed to the bible which is a step above Scientology. Well if you believe that science is the foundations of everything then what scientist created us? Or what chemical reaction formed all of life? Or what system of equations equals existence? You have to have a creator, to create something. So to believe that nothing created you is naive. And no it wasn't your mom. Something created life in the first place and you're a product of that. So get off of your scientific pedestal like humans hold the secrets to life.

MaceKhan
MaceKhan

One guy (I went through all of these comments trying to find his, but I couldn't find it so he must have deleted it) said that the best scientific and philiosophical minds are those that have nothing to do with religion, so I thought I'd point out that that was incorrect. Copernicus, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein, Tesla, and Thomas Edison, (just to name a few) were ALL Christians who advanced science because they wanted to better understand God's creation.

norabbitnofun
norabbitnofun

Having talked to a nano-scientist recently, I would say we have a good 10 years in front of us before nano-engineered solar panels come saving the World from big bad oil shortage. On a second thought... damnit, he likes to dream as much as I! Can his device really read anything? I thought we had a lot of progress to make still on automated recognition (of shapes and text). Of a visually impaired person needs to point the device at a sign, then the person needs to be told about poles and the likely location of the sign... in any country. :-)

Meta-Gnostic
Meta-Gnostic

I had an idea in 8th grade, 15 years ago, for the same device this guy is bringing to market... His comments sound enlightened and exciting, yet dependent on good social environmental conditions. I wish Gamespot posted more stuff like this.

itBit
itBit

how could blind ppl point at stuff mr. futurist?

CrazyGeneral
CrazyGeneral

I usually don't give a crap about the GDC but when I heard Ray Kurzweil was going to be a keynote speaker I was very interested. Ray Kurzweil is a freaking genius and I always want to hear what he has to say. Anyways, if you want to know more about Ray Kurzweil and his ideas check out www.kurzweilai.net or read one of his books, his latest is "The Singularity is Near", it basically explains in greater detail how the future technology he envisions will come to be and what implications they have for the world. If you read that book by the way it should set aside any doubts you have about the claims he makes in this article, it certainly made me optimistic about the future. And for those of you who think Ray Kurzweil is crazy, consider this: He's founded 14 successful companies, invented the first CCD flat bed scanner, he received the national medal of technology from Bill Clinton in 1999 and he's on the DoD's scientific advisory board among many other things. My point is this: Don't base your judgment of Ray Kurzweils ideas on this article because this is a gaming website, not a scientific review and it won't fill you in with as much depth, which there is lots of on the subjects he talks about, ranging from feasibility to the moral implications. More importantly, don't take my word for it. Do some research yourself and decide for yourself, but make an informed decision. This is the future of the human race after all, I think it deserves lots of careful consideration from everyone.

iory2
iory2

This man has some vision nice ..

BSantamorena
BSantamorena

Wow this is ridiculous to be presented at a game conference.

V-Nine
V-Nine

I'm surprised this hasn't sparked a more intense reponse.

sampleking
sampleking

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Gregomasta
Gregomasta

If I were one who thought the bible to be full of nonsense and the Christan religion nothing but a fairy tale then I also wouldn't believe in a heaven or hell. Now if I don't believe in a place that I'll go to after I die then all I have is my experience on this planet; well of course I'm going to attempt every possibility to extend my time on this planet. If I were one to believe that there is a better place then earth, then my point of view is that I'm just passing though. Just my 2cents.

fortysix_too
fortysix_too

I don't understand how a nanomachine could do the same functions as a blood cell. That doesn't even make sense. How can a computer chip, no matter how small, perform like a biological cell? Don't human bodies reject foreign substances and try to excrete or get rid of them? He says we could sit underwater for hours if we had these fake blood computers flowing through our veins. What? Now a tiny computer can create oxygen? This sounds like science fiction to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for it if it's possible, but I remain skeptical for the time being.

R3DN1N3
R3DN1N3

Technology IS growing fast....sometimes a little too fast if u ask me. It seems to me like every year and now every few months that something new replaces the current. And after that the next best thing is only a few months away. Super human capabilities using nano-technology? It's the obvious road the world is taking. Everything were' doing by making things smaller and more efficient is based on nano tech. I guess I don't have that much of a problem with what he said, BUT, I do think all nations should address the upcoming problem. OVERPOPULATION. If we live longer, we keep consuming the same resources the new generation of people will use. On top of that were' gonna use more and more land. living longer is awsome period but if a plan to control the human population isn't made, it wouldn't matter how efficient we use our resources because eventually we'd be so many. The next thing is either to place a 5-15 year ban on human birth world-wide. OR Start looking at space colonies. Living on Mars or the Moon. Hell, maybe even living in a space colony heading towards a faraway system light years away from ours.

iuns
iuns

This guy is a genius !! =)

TheBrownBlazer
TheBrownBlazer

A lot of people just bash this guy as crazy right of the bat lol. This guy has 15 count it 15 degrees. He is not crazy, he is a genius that learns new things all the time. (he also eats like 250 vitamin suppalments and 8-10 glasses of alkaline water to extend his life) I hope his predictions come true. Even the us military is recearching nanotechnology and biotechnoloogy as there main mandate. And anyone who says that humans dont have the right to tamper with "Gods creation" is ignorant. You dont have to tamper with it but if I want to thats my choise. People need to stop being bible pushers lol (or not if thats how you want to live ur life, nothin worng with it). I just hope countrys dont ban this like they banned cloneing.

tman978
tman978

What if the Nanites take over your brain and cause you to do things that you normally wouldn't?

taurian0205
taurian0205

i betcha this guy already got himself a nanotech implanted in his brain. otherwise he'd be dead! look at him!! he's old!! where do old ppl goes? either nursing homes or Graveyard!! cmon man, give us some of them nanotech already, i need one for sex, bang bang for days!!

Gamer_152
Gamer_152

I think we could see amazing advances in technology in the next couple of decades. Whether all this will come true within that time-frame, I'm a little skeptical about, but it's amazing to think that this kind of thing will be possible one day and even how far we've come over the last few decades.

Razzi65
Razzi65

i guess he need Wii2 in future..

tobyneil
tobyneil

So the Highlander will come true?? There can be only one!!

OneShot112
OneShot112

Mmm cloning human torsos for future organ use.. mmm

SyrusKahn
SyrusKahn

sounds cool but i'll long gone and 7 feet under by time this happens

revolution2k6
revolution2k6

i dont believe it, but its a fun thing to think about, wouldnt that be cool if everyday you grow father from death instead of closer xd (unless i get so old that i cant move)

CaptainHerlock
CaptainHerlock

Tasteforblood, you failed to include my quote from Decartes. That makes my statement have more context. As for "personification", isn't it said that we are created in God's image? So doesn't that make man that personification? It's pithy stuff I know. This is not the proper forum for a debate about theology or religion. I also doubt that many people here have the experience and/or education to properly debate this topic, myself included. This is supposed to be about video games and the people who play them. So that's all I'll say about that.

G_W_X
G_W_X

What a load of nonsense.

DoubleAxe
DoubleAxe

wait... Im 20 years old now.... does that mean by the time Im 35 that I will basically be imortal? or somthing... wait what?

Darm0k
Darm0k

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okassar
okassar

This somehow made me think as to the next-gen of gamesystems(...well,exclude Nintendo's next one).They're going to be so good considering the exponential growth of technology.If the next systems come in,let's say 2011,each one's definitely going to have motion sensing,built in motion sensing cameras, atleast 300 GB,ALOT of memory...you know what,I probably can't even see what's coming up.The next-gen is just going to be too good.We already went from SNES to 360 and PS3...This jump is probably going to be as big as half of that jump(and yes,in much less time...).

imnodewd
imnodewd

Back on topic please. Religious commentary, pro or con, has nothing to do with this article and is offensive to many users. Please be considerate of others and keep your opinions on God, whatever they may be, to yourself. As far as the article goes, I find Kurzweil's ideas fascinating, if not a little bit far-fetched sounding. I'm especially interested in his views on how technology will impact healthcare. I'm not convinced that nanites will have the fantastic potential to fix or replace body parts or cells in the future. Anytime you put an artificial object into blood or vasculature (stents, valves, etc), that person has to be on medication for life to prevent dangerous clots from occurring, and having a bunch of nanites in the blood could potentially create the same effect. I can't see someone taking a serious risk and going on drugs for life just so they can beat their buddies at holding their breath underwater. There would have to be some serious life-saving applications to make it worth it.

oli54321
oli54321

Wasn't it predicted a while ago that human beings would be living on the moon in the year 2000? :P Things don't happen this fast

HOMIE_G64
HOMIE_G64

I have no clue how religion got into this argument, but I have to say this: they are not relevent. The Bible never said nano-technology is a sin, and it should not be taken as a sin. It is annoying how people like you think you know all about us because you know some annoying kid who is a Christian or your parents are Christians. It is like a 2 feet deep lake in September. You step on it (read: get exposed to religion) and it cracks (read: you get off of religion) but you won't take other's words that the lake is really a 2 feet deep pond (read: you don't accept other's words). It is extremely ignorant to say that science is directly head-to-head with religion, because that is false. Monkey-ism (or w/e you call it) is head-to-head, but the rest of science is not. But religion or not, I seriously doubt his words. "Experts" have predicted many things in the future of technology, and I have yet to see them predict something accurate. The thing is, technology relies on the world, not the other way around, and the world changes too much to predict (Asimov fantasies aside).

chemeleon_789
chemeleon_789

does it not strike anyone as a little wierd that they're actually alive, able to look at this and make sense of it, that they're able to breathe and see and feel and communicate, even though at their hearts they're just a lump of lifeless atoms / chemicals? or is it just me?

fallensymbols
fallensymbols

Dogs, a man's best friend. God, man's best imaginary friend.

white_light91
white_light91

We shouldn't be turning this post into a battle over religion, but I will say this: tasteforblood, you should check out the book "Case for a Creator." The author was a former atheist and interviews scientific experts on certain topics concerning Christianity. It talks about real, concrete, SCIENTIFIC evidence that points toward intelligent design (aka God).

SHACKR
SHACKR

QUOTE- scientists can create fake blood cell-size computers to perform the same functions of natural blood cells. "But I'm getting a little ahead of myself," the futurist joked -QUOTE Yes, we are all laughing at that one! (*sarcasm)

jdt532
jdt532

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jbmccune
jbmccune

GoldenRamoth: It creeps me out a good bit, too, but I think we all have to accept that it's coming eventually. Maybe not the chip in the eyeball idea specifically, but human enhancement with technology. As a culture, I think we need to start accepting that, and figure out how we're going to be OK with it. If we don't embrace it in the mainstream, it will just go underground, which would be much worse. Think about how freaked out people from even a couple of centuries ago, or less, would be by a lot of the things we take for granted today. The problem for us now is that change is happening so rapidly that we have to learn how to adapt to it within our own lifetimes, rather than it happening across multiple generations.

chemeleon_789
chemeleon_789

here's a paradox for you : what if we create a drug / nanotech / whatever which makes us more intelligent... then, when we're more intelligent, would we realize then that what we're doing to our bodies is wrong or right, or doesn't matter? cos surely, increased intelligence is the only way we're going to answer that question, otherwise all we have to go on is an unverifiable belief. would a couple of thousand Einsteins be able to solve that problem?

xmg0
xmg0

Praise Jesus Christ for the technology he has blessed us with. Amen.

carlboehm
carlboehm

hahaha 1357900's comment has been removed

GoldenRamoth
GoldenRamoth

this whole thing is a little creepy. Let's all engineer humans into robots. I'm all for cyborgnetics and helping people without limbs and things, but changing people that are just fine? that's creepy. It's like saying, we've invented the eye-pod! it's a little chip that gets built into your eye and lets you watch movies and music videos. that's creepy.

buffdaddy69
buffdaddy69

"Autolycus If this actually happends, the human race will be no longer. GIve it 100 years and bio organism will mutate and the human race would be in the past. And for those who dont think only the rich would benefit from this, DID YOU KNOW, THAT IN THE UNITED STATES ITS ILLEGAL TO CURE CANCER? I promise, I would never make that up unless i was 100%." Your retarded if you believe that garbage. There has been quite a few people in the United States that beat cancer.

chemeleon_789
chemeleon_789

at it's core, the concept of 'god' is still an unchallenged one. really, it's the ideas and feelings we attach to it as a way of understanding it that have been blown out of the water. it's just that the two, the concept and the erroneous humanistic elements have become intertwined, and people are unable to separate them. the problem with todays push for answers in the science's is that we live in a world where any intelligent explanation has value, even if it doesn't really explain anything.

buffdaddy69
buffdaddy69

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tasteforblood
tasteforblood

@ CaptainHerlock who said "How do you know God isn't real? Have you ever met him?" you cant personify a vague concept like god to make it seem like hes some guy that you can meet. thats silly.

tasteforblood
tasteforblood

doesnt it sound a little more likely that man created god rather than the other way around? just like man has created so many other things. have a little more faith in mankind than in a fictional character.

forchy
forchy

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]