The main thesis of the book is about the future of humanity and the development of artificial intelligence (AI) with a focus on the impact of the later on human consciousness. To illustrate this point and form background on it he starts from the beginning, literally the very beginning on time. He moves forward in sweeping chapters that cover any possible angle of the subject philosophical, scientifically, mathematically, and presents his on thoughts on the present theory’s presented by these subjects.
The general idea he presents is that human like intelligence will be available from affordable computing devices within the next few decades. This will revolutionize every aspect of life leading to humanity and machinery becoming one and the same. This idea has been a philosophical argument since Plato yet he is able to breathe new life into by presenting all of the original points then like a philosopher builds an argument based on all the original information that compels even the biggest skeptic to agree with his view.
If what Kurzweil says is true though this means that very soon, within our lives, everything is going to change. However you do something now it won’t be done that way in the future. For an economist the presence of AI presents so many opportunities. First just in the production of such machines which will have mass demand seeing as the idea has been a part of popular culture for the better part of 100 years. There would be no need to market such a device because selling real science fiction as science fact has never been hard. Look at the space program people didn’t even object because it was to good to believe and when it happened everyone was all for it.
If the robots are just like people as presented in the book then that also means another market an entirely new consumer, the robots themselves. Birth rates can be predicted and tracked, but there is not a set number as there would be with AI. This means that supply and demand trends could be set early for anything sold only to the AI market. The AI will have to earn their buying power just as we all do though. This shouldn’t be a problem because they will become members of the work force just as we are.
With more buying power they will have more spending power, companies seeing this will want to produce more AI just so they can earn more so they can spend more. This could present a problem for us the humans rules for the production of AI would have to be set early on and laws to protect them from exploitation as well. Human needs are easy to understand and prepare for because we all have them hunger, thirst, shelter, etc. The AI will bring with themselves a new set of needs this will increase markets and capital simply because its not an untapped resource it’s a totally new one. Food could be useless to the AI, but they need some source of fuel if it’s synthetic then only the AI’s will use it thus meeting a new demand with a new product both which were unimportant before the arrival of the AI.
It truly is a brave new world and if we are all as optimistic as Kurzweil then it’s a challenge we can all easily meet and make a lot of money off of. These machines could provide a means to an end of the old ways and finally usher in a new age throwing out the exploitation of people. Hopefully we won’t exchange the mistreatment of humans for that of AI.
His predictions for the year 2009 while many appear to be valid to me on some small scale. Do not fully take into account America reluctance to adopt new technology. While he does talk about this small minority, he calls it, they are brushed aside and not really looked at. When in reality people won’t be doing anything different in five years because most people cannot afford the advances in technology now much less in five years. The author feels that it is just a matter of making the available and cheep people will buy it. This is an increasing trend in marketing as well. No longer do they take into account the amount of money people have, but act as if everyone has money. You can even notice at the store when they ask if you would like to add something with your purchase.
People do not have the money for all these advancements and they will not buy them unless they cannot live without them. He acts like as soon as something is available everyone will get it. When in reality it is usually a marketing ploy by which they no longer make the old products so you are forced to buy the new ones at some point. A good example would be Beta then VHS then Laser Disc now DVD. The only reason Laser Disk failed was because VHS was still around and cheaper. What reason does any one have to buy Laser Disc.
The computer being small light weight and having several on you at all times is already a reality, just a few people have them. One because they are hard to operate and two because of cost. I personality have see three or four people in the last few years looking through their email with a finger sensor and an optic piece. So I can see this becoming a reality in the coming years.
His view that modern forms of entertainment such as movies, music, and other forms of media will no longer contain a physical counterpart is also a reality and will only continue to increase. Students learning more with interactive computers than with teacher is also happening more and more. Toy computers like the leap pad taught my brother to read.
His guesses on the advancements of people with disabilities seems overly optimistic. I don’t see speech to text devices or vise versa working all that well. A kind of GPS for blind people seems just as silly because it doesn’t take into account objects that are changing . If everything is wired into this information net work so the GPS will work on everything then it is very behind because right now GPS for cars still doesn’t work very well and that is only for driving directions.
His view of the arts is basic such as in regards to music. Now we have advanced enough to where you can perform music without a band, but those devices are still very hard to use and still require musical talent. Brain-Generated music seems silly and I am not sure why anyone would even want that.
Phone sex improving is his best prediction although we are limited in regards to what we can do to the image in real time we can talk to another person, with a slight delay, and see them just fine. It’s only a matter of time until we can affect the image as we please. I could see this market growing and the advancements get better.
Warfare being a matter of computational and communication has always been true and I assume continue to be. The idea that the battlefield will be occupied by small flying objects no large than birds with their own AI doesn’t seem realistic to me. Because there is no way to maintain and hold ground in this manner. Unless the only function of the devices is to totally destroy the enemy and or structures. I could see such devices being used for recon or limited attacks, but I don’t see them replacing the soldier on the front lines. Nations will still continue to fight because unless everyone is going to learn to get alone in the next few years people will continue armed attacks. Terrorism will increase as more and more people are disenfranchised by the increase in technology. In third world nations the gap between poor and rich will increase with the new advancements causing more unrest and more despair.
The author sees the world getting better in most ways where I see the same old world with new toys. It’s always been this way we improve on the old stuff and make new stuff. That doesn’t mean we change much at all. We still lust, we still fight, and we still have urges outside the bounds of any advancement. So only looking at the good side of these advancements sounds great, but where is the con I did not see in any part of this chapter, this could lead to unrest (Replace unrest with war, population decrease, antisocial behavior, etc). I’m not saying I know the effect of future advancements, but I expect the author of a book on the subject to have something.
The future in the spirit of progress is always going to bring about many marvels that we only consider fiction now, but it is foolish for us to act like that has never happened before. I feel the author is saying the whole world is going to change in a radical new way. Nah, we all see it coming popular culture is always looking at the future even if we don’t know it. Fiction becomes fact, but this doesn’t upset the entire world.