Google’s AI prophet fast tracks singularity prediction

Bill Gates calls Ray Kurzweil ‘the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence’

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 13 March 2024 17:15 GMT
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Renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted that artificial intelligence will herald a new era of hybrid humans capable of ageing in reverse within the next five years.

The Google engineer gained prominence in 2005 when he predicted in his seminal book The Singularity Is Near that the technological singularity – the moment where AI surpasses all humans and triggers an “intelligence explosion” – would take place by 2045.

In an upcoming book, titled The Singularity is Nearer: When We Merge with AI, Dr Kurzweil updates his previous predictions and elaborates on how he believes AI technology can transform humans biologically.

Promoting his book on the most recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Dr Kurzweil said he believed artificial intelligence would overtake human intelligence before the end of the decade.

“We’re not quite there, but we will be there, and by 2029 it will match any person,” Dr Kurzweil said. “I’m actually considered conservative. People think that it will happen next year or the year after.”

One of those who thinks it is a conservative estimate is Elon Musk, who launched his own AI company last year called xAI.

“AI will probably be smarter than any single human next year,” the centibillionaire wrote in a post to X, formerly Twitter, in response to Dr Kurzeil’s comments. “By 2029, AI is probably smarter than all humans combined.”

Other prominent technologists have praised Dr Kurzweil for the accuracy of his predictions, with Google founder Larry Page personally hiring him to the company in 2012, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates describing him as “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence”.

The 76-year-old computer scientist, who has been working on artificial intelligence for more than six decades, cited the exponential progress of computing power in recent decades in order to reinforce his predictions, compiling dozens of charts for his new book.

A chart showing the exponential progress of computers when calculating the price-performance of computation since the 1930s (Ray Kurzweil)

When asked on the Joe Rogan Experience about what kind of revolutionary changes that AI could bring to society within the next few years, Dr Kurzweil said he believed it would soon be able to reverse human ageing.

“One thing I feel will happen in five years, by 2029, is we’ll reach longevity escape velocity. So right now you go through a year and you use up a year of your longevity. You’re then a year older.

“However, scientific progress is progressing exponentially and by 2029 you’ll get back a full year... Past 2029 you’ll actually get back more than a year.”

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