A Discussion of Artificial Intelligence with Ray Kurzweil

I participated in a discussion with Ray Kurweil. Bill Gates said that Ray Kurzweil is “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.” I had the opportunity to meet Ray Kurzweil and here are the key highlights of the discussion. Like Kurzweil, Consumers in Motion Group sees a shift to an Artificial Intelligence first world.

Over the next thirty-six months will see an increase in the rate of change unmatched in human history (see below) whereby we will experience the equivalence of hundreds of years of technical development and knowledge changing annually.

Key Trends That Will Transform People & Business*

  • A connected population of five billion people for the first time in humanity.
  • The rapid connectivity of the world’s objects from cars, houses, refrigerators, offices buildings, medical devices and much more.
  • More industries joining the industrial Internet of Things.
  • A global 24/7 information always-on economy.
  • The industrialization of the cloud and the rapid growth of data centers.
  • A mass commercialization of Graphene for use by industries is a game changer.
  • Entering an AI (Artificial Intelligence) First World


*Source: Consumers in Motion Group 2017

Advertising: A Brand is a Pattern

Kurzweil says “a brand is a pattern, it’s a logo, representing a brand. A simple pattern. But for a brand to establish itself, it tried to associate itself with a certain pattern that people will identify with. Like, this brand is fun, and this brand is reliable. And the essence of your intelligence, the essence of our neocortex, which is part of your thinking, is recognizing patterns. It’s based on patterns and brands take advantage of that, so we recognize a certain pattern of activity. And we need brands to help guide us through all the information resources. And the brand is a pattern. It’s a pattern of reliability. We use them as guide posts. We’ll continue to do that as we extend our brains” in a AI first world.

Exponential Change Example: Predictions on the Human Genome Project

Ray discussed the human genome project. He said “that halfway through the project, seven years into a fourteen-year project, one percent had been completed. Most observers declared it a failure and said, I told you this wasn’t going to work. In seven years, one percent, it’s going to take 700 years, just like we said. That was linear thinking. My reaction was one percent, we’re almost done, because one percent is only seven doublings from 100 percent.” He concluded that it was finished seven years later. We’ve continued that trajectory. These technologies are now ten thousand times more powerful than they were fifteen years ago when the Nano project was completed, and that was the enabling factor which has turned health and medicine into information technology. It’s called biotechnology. We’re reprogramming the software underlying life. It’s already reaching clinical practice. We can now grow organs with new DNA, and all of health and medicine is going to be transformed by this. These technologies will be another thousand times more powerful than they are today, a decade from now. We’re seeing a triple in clinical applications that will be a flood over the next ten years.

Smart Technologies to Change Fashion, Food and Building

Kurzweil said “When a girl in Africa spends $50 for a smart phone, it counts for $50 of economic activity. Even though it’s literally a trillion dollars of research development and communications infrastructure to create information services which count for nothing because they’re free. Okay, this is fantastic gains in digital technology, we know all about that. But you can’t eat information technology, you can’t wear it, you can’t live in it.  So, I said, all of that’s going to change. We’re going to put that clothing at pennies per pound in 2020’s with free open source cool designs. We’ll still make money from fashion, because if you look at other technologies which have done this with products, like things like movies and books, you can now get all these fantastic free products but people still spend money to read Harry Potter or get the latest blockbuster.”
“They’ll do the same thing with fashion and every other industry but it’s a great leveler. We’ll be basically printing out food with vertical agriculture or grow food in vertical buildings controlled by AI, very inexpensive. We’ll stem together houses and buildings with 3D modules, LEGO style, printed out on 3D printers. This was demonstrated in Asia recently. They put together a three-story office building in a few days. It was a demonstration but that’s going to be the nature of manufacturing and construction in the 2020’s. So, indeed we will be able to wear, eat, live in, information technology. It’s basically a 50 percent deflation rate.”

Artificial Intelligence & Consciousness.

Question: Can you talk about the whole area of artificial intelligence. We want to talk about a very specific area of AI, which is about the consciousness. You predicted, that we will connect our brains to non-biological neurons with a simple graft. And in that scenario, we wanted to now, what role does consciousness play? And are the non-biological neurons conscious?

Ray said, “so I’ve written a lot about this. It is not a scientific question. There’s no falsifiable experiment, that’s the basis of science, that you can create that you can create that would definitively say this entity is conscious and this one isn’t. You can’t build a consciousness detector, slide it in to the inner gray line, because okay this one’s conscious, this one isn’t, that doesn’t have some philosophical assumptions built into it. 
Non-conscious entities are only important insofar as they affect the conscious experience of consciousness. So, then the whole important moral issue is who and what is conscious. The whole debate about animal rights has to do with people’s disagreements about whether animals … which animals are conscious … the nature of their conscious experience. So, I believe it’s important, but it’s not a scientific question Which is only to say that there is still a role for philosophy. Furthermore, I say that we can’t get up in the morning and go about our day without taking a leap of faith, as to what and whom we believe is conscious. So, I share my leap of faith, which is, if it seems conscious, if it has the subtle behavior that we associate with subjective states, that it is conscious. That’s a leap of faith. So, we believe that human beings are conscious. At least, some human beings seem to be conscious. And the essence of my prediction, that machines will pass a valid Turning test and be able to handle human intelligent activities like language at human levels by 2029. Except they will be conscious. So, you can have a machine today, like a calculator or a virtual reality game, that says, “I’m very angry at you,” and we don’t believe it because it doesn’t have the subtle behavior we associate with that subjective state. The essence of my prediction is by the 2030s, they will have those subtle behaviors