Ray Kurzweil, the author, inventor, computer scientist, futurist and Google employee, shares more of his insights on technology and how it will radically impact our lives — and extend them indefinitely — in a compelling new Playboy interview.
Kurzweil, 68, sat down with contributing editor David Hochman, who said, “Talking to Ray is a little like chatting with Einstein, Mr. Spock and the Google guys all at once. His intelligence is off the charts. He knows everything about everything, and it’s all filtered through the lens of whatever’s at the forefront of the wired world.”
What’s at that forefront in the not-so-distant future, according to Kurzweil, is how technology will make us smarter and healthier. And, because it’s Playboy, Kurzweil discusses how technology will change the way we have sex.
Some highlights from the interview:
- On how technology will make us smarter: “We have limited capacity in our brain. It’s at least a million times slower than computational electronics. The part of our brain where we do our thinking is called the neocortex. By the 2030s we will have nanobots that can go into a brain non-invasively through the capillaries, connect to our neocortex and basically connect it to a synthetic neocortex that works the same way in the cloud. We’ll create more profound forms of communication than we’re familiar with today, more profound music and funnier jokes. We’ll be funnier. We’ll be sexier. We’ll be more adept at expressing loving sentiments. We’re approaching a point where technological progress will become so fast that everyday human intelligence will be unable to follow it. It’s a horizon past which the concepts we’re familiar with are so transformed that it’s hard to see past it.”
- On how technology will make us healthier: “We’re starting to reprogram the outdated software of life—the 23,000 little programs we have in our bodies, called genes. We’re programming them away from disease and away from aging. By the 2020s we’ll start using nanobots to complete the job of the immune system. As they gain traction in the 2030s, nanobots in the bloodstream will destroy pathogens, remove debris, rid our bodies of clots, clogs and tumors, correct DNA errors and actually reverse the aging process. I believe we will reach a point around 2029 when medical technologies will add one additional year every year to your life expectancy.”
On the future of sex: “Not only will people be able to have sex together in different locations, but you will have the ability to change who you are and who your partner is. In virtual reality you don’t have to inhabit the same body you have in actual reality. A couple could become each other, for example, and experience the relationship from the other’s perspective. You could transmit a more idealized version of yourself to your lover, or she may alter how she wants you to look. If you get tired of your partner, you can turn your partner into someone else, or you can transform yourself. You’ll have that option as well.”
- On whose body he would like to inhabit when that happens: “That’s a good question. I haven’t been asked that one before. Probably some attractive woman. If I had to pick one? Amy Adams. I like the perky way she uses her body.”
Among other things, Kurzweil goes on to mention that he’s got a Taylor Swift crush — “I think she’s very soulful, and her voice has gotten better too” — and that he regards death as the greatest tragedy — “I think it’s humanity’s mission to transcend our limitations, and the most profound limitation we have is that of our life span.”
On the point of living longer, or forever, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also gets a mention, as Hochman reminds Kurzweil that Gates said, “It seems pretty egocentric, while we still have malaria and TB, for rich people to fund things so they can live longer.”
“Bill Gates is completely ignoring the 50 percent deflation rate that’s inherent in information technology,” Kurzweil said. “You did have to be wealthy to have a mobile phone 20 years ago. They didn’t work very well. They did one thing, which was make phone calls, and they did it poorly, and they didn’t fit in your pocket. Today there are billions of them doing a million things, and they’re basically free. By the time technologies work well, they’re affordable for almost everyone. By the year 2020, you won’t require as much wealth in general.”