Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Ray Kurzweil the famous futurist is an amazing person, but like everyone he has his good and bad days.

When it comes to the Singularity–Kurzweil had a very good day.

With the accelerating speed of technology change, the advent of super intelligence and superhuman powers is already here (and continuing to advance) with:

Smartphones all-in-one devices give us the power of the old mainframe along with the communication capabilities to inform and share by phone, text, photo, video, and everything social media.

Google Glass is bringing us wearable IT and augmented reality right in front of our very eyes.

Exoskeletons and bioengineering is giving us superhuman strength and ability to lift more, run faster and further, see and hear better, and more.

Embedded chips right into our brains are going to give us “access to all the world’s information” at the tip of our neural synapses whenever we need it (Wall Street Journal).

In a sense, we are headed toward the melding of man and machine, as opposed to theme of the Terminator movie vision of man versus machine–where man is feared to lose in a big way.

In man melded with machine–we will have augmentations in body and brain–and will have strength, endurance, and intelligence beyond our wildest dreams.

However, Kurzweil has a bad day is when it comes to his prediction of our immortality.

Indeed, Kurzweil himself, according to the Journal “takes more than 150 pills and supplements a day” believing that we can “outrun our own deaths.”

Kurzweil mistakenly believes that the speed of medical evolution will soon be “adding a year of life expectancy every year,” so if only we can live until then, we can “Live long enough to live forever.”

But, just as our super intelligence will not make us omniscient, and our superhuman powers will not make us omnipotent or omnipresent, our super advances in medicine will not make us, as we are, immortal.

Actually, I cannot even imagine why Kurzweil would want to live forever given his fear-inspiring Singularity, where advances in machine and artificial intelligence outpaces man’s own evolutionary journey.

Kurzweil should knock off some of the pills and get back to humankind’s learning and growth and stop his false professing that humans will become like G-d, instead of like a better humans. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Superabled, Not Disabled

 

This is a video of South African sprinter and Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius–a double amputee fitted with curved, carbon-fiber prosthetic “Cheetah Blades” that can “challenge the fastest sprinters in the world.” 

There was a fascinating article about this in the Wall Street Journal today (2-3 June 2012)–on how high-tech implants are being put in people’s bodies and brains, changing them from disabled to “superabled.” 

The article explains how “the goals for many amputees is no longer to reach a ‘natural’ level of abilities, but to exceed it, using whatever cutting-edge technology is available.” 

And just like body implants are helping spur superhuman abilities, so too neural implants can stimulate brain activity to focus attention, faster learning, hone skills, and augment performance. 

Last September, Tim Hemmes, paralyzed from a motocycle accident, was able to use a brain implant to move a mechanical arm, just with his thoughts! 

“Technology can give us brains and brawn” and those with disabilities and the elderly who have lost mental and physical capacities will be early adopters–“they have a lot to gain and are willing to face the risk inherent in new medical technology.” 

There are many ethical questions when it comes to human implants–especially when it comes to the possibility of people voluntarily substituting technology for healthy body parts–just to have the Steve Austin-like, Six Million Dollar Man, bionic capabilities. 

Another question is once we start replacing our body parts–our very selves–with technology augmentation, at what point do we stop being us?  And at what point, do we potentially stop being human and become something else–half human, half machine–or even more machine than human? 

Like the mythical creature, the centaur, which was half man and half horse–it seems like humans have always wondered about what makes them who they are and ultimately what they might become if they try to co-exist or meld with something altogether different. 

By combining technology into our humanity, we are becoming something different–maybe a super human, if we use it ethically and for the good. Or perhaps we may become something more malevolent, if we go on to abuse our superabled powers to dominate or otherwise harm those less souped-up than us. 

Only time will tell where technological implantation and human augmentation ultimately takes us–it holds both enormous promise that we need to leverage and frightening risks that must be carefully planned and managed. 

 

 

Helping The Disabled Get Their Groove Back

I love this evolving technology using bionics to help the paralyzed stand and walk again.This technology for exoskeleton suits with motors, sensors, and external power supplies was first developed for the military to run farther, lift more, and so on.However, the application has been expanded to those who have had strokes, accidents, or otherwise have lost use of their limbs and movement.

Additionally, there is potential for industrial workers to use these robotic suits to do their work with less effort and more impact by augmenting their movement with hydraulic and battery power.

What Exso Bionics seems to have really gotten right is that the suit looks almost perfectly sculpted for a human body, appears to go on the person with relative ease, and helps the person move in a balanced and controlled fashion.

While these suits are still pricey and according to Fast Company (April 2002) cost approximately $130,000, Exso is looking get the rates down to between $50,000 and $75,000 retail.

Further, the article notes that other companies are building competing devices, such as Argo Medical of Israel that offers the ability to climb stairs and that activates by gesture without a therapist pressing buttons.  Similarly Rex of New Zealand offers a device that is controlled by a simple joystick.

I think the future for these bionic suits for the military and industrial use will be truly transformative in terms of providing superhuman speed, strength, and stamina to advance our capabilities and increase our productivity.

Moreover, the use of these exoskeletons by people who are elderly, frail, or sick is compelling and provides hope for people to live with greater mobility, self-reliance, and human dignity.