RAY Kurzweil loves the future. Not the vague concept that most of us carry around — essentially a picture of a world like today’s but worse, thanks to global warming, population growth, resource depletion and war. Kurzweil’s rather cheerier vision is a place where super-smart computers augment the brains of their human creators, while nanotechnology — microscopic robots — eliminate disease, reverse the ageing process, and provide unlimited quantities of any desired resource. Clean water? Got it. Copper, aluminum, diamonds? Go ahead and close those mines. Worried about pollution? Don’t be. Nanotech will break down that waste and reconvert its molecules into anything from hamburgers to the latest Shakira DVD. (Shakira in 2030 will look just like Shakira in 2006.) Kurzweil claims that nanotech will become feasible in about 20 years; computer augmentation of the brain will begin a decade or two later. Many people reading this article will still be alive.
Combine the prospect of radically increased mental capacity — possible by linking your biological brain, via a series of tiny implanted nanocircuits, to a computer — with the possibility of a halted ageing process, and you have a recipe for virtually eternal life for radically intelligent people in a pollution-free environment. Even global warming won’t be a problem, once nanotech-designed solar cells become practical. It all sounds a bit idyllic, but Kurzweil makes no apologies: he loves this future. Who wouldn’t?