Published by Ny Tid
 
Technological development seems to be speeding up. Most of us remember a time without mobiles phones and the Internet, but this almost feels alien to us now. This is because technological change accelerates over time, as Ray Kurzweil explains.
 
According to Kurzweil, in his book The Singularity is near, is the “rate of change itself accelerating”. In the 20th century, progress for the next 50 years looked pretty much as the progress of the previous 50 years. But according to Kurzweil, this has been deceptive. We actually are experiencing an exponential growth instead of the perceived linear one.
 
Up until a certain point, the “knee in the curve”, exponential growth resembles linear growth, or in other words: it’s pretty flat at the beginning. After the “knee of curve” though, growth becomes steep and noticeable for us all. And according to Kurzweil, we are nearing that point at lightning speed.
 
So the achievements of all of the 20th century, “were equivalent to about twenty years of progress at the rate in 2000. We’ll make another twenty years of progress in just fourteen years (by 2014), and then do the same again in only seven years. To express this another way, we won’t experience one hundred years of technological advance in the twenty-first century; we will witness on the order of twenty thousand years of progress […].”
 
The reason for this accelerated growth is that previous innovations facilitate the discovery of new ones. Just like pen, paper and the printing press were used to design the first computer. Now information technology is used to advance progress in all kinds of areas like manufacturing, health, and even creativity.
 
As an example of this exponential growth, Kurzweil mentions the Internet. “[C]onsider the skepticism [sic] expressed in the mid-1980s that the Internet would ever be a significant phenomenon, given that it then included only tens of thousands of nodes (also known as servers). In fact, the number of nodes was doubling every year, so that there were likely to be tens of millions of nodes ten years later. But this trend was not appreciated by those who struggled with state-of-the-art technology in 1985, which permitted adding only a few thousand nodes throughout the world in a single year.”
 
As technology evolves – one small, but exponential step at a time – the point of mainstream usage becomes nearer. This makes today the right time to look at what will await us very soon, since changes in our day-to-day are closer than we think. Just like the Internet didn’t rock our world until years after its development, there are some technologies that have been around for a while, but their real impact is about to just be shown to us.
 
Let’s have a look at the impact of nanotechnology, Virtual Reality, and robotics. There are of course more technologies to be considered (some will be explored in a next article), but for now I will look at the technologies that will influence our bodies and relationships.
 
Join me while I unlock a future of robotic girlfriends, brains uploaded in the cloud and medicine as small as blood cells soaring through our bodies.
 
Love
 
Technology will bridge distances, allow us to communicate emotions in a new way and soothe the lonely.
 
Virtual reality, for example, enhanced with tactile, smell, and sound options allow for connecting with loved ones abroad beyond the ordinary video call option. It will also allow all of us to adopt a different persona if we choose to for that moment. Switching between body types or gender will become effortless.
 
This could be especially helpful for transgender or bi-gendered individuals. Without surgery, they can assume an online identity that matches the way they identify. Gender becomes more fluid and adaptable with possibilities for online relationships that really feel like ‘being’ with someone. And you can assume the identity you desire and switch whenever you feel like it.
 
If you don’t have a significant other to connect to online, you could get a robotic girlfriend (or boyfriend, but available models so far seem to be mainly female). Some models come with virtual reality glasses while others are designed for an offline experience resembling human skin, humanlike micro facial expressions, and respond to questions.
 
The quality of the ‘conversation’ might not be very good at the moment. But Kurzweil predicts that a computer will be able to sustain a conversation like a human being (the Turing Test) by the end of the 2020s.
 
There are of course also dangers to be considered relating to a robotic significant other. It may not increase mental health to go for the easy way out instead of facing intimacy issues. And virtual reality full body suits can be used to meet strangers online for all sorts of things like sex dates: it’s Tinder 2.0. You don’t even have to leave the house for a date.
 
Health
 
From sports to sickness and death: pretty much any human bodily experience will be influenced by technology.
 
Sports can be enhanced drastically with technology. One option is to replace blood cells with nanobots that improve transference of oxygen. Kurzweil explains: “Robert A. Freitas Jr.—a pioneering nanotechnology theorist and leading proponent of nanomedicine (reconfiguring our biological systems through engineering on a molecular scale), and author of a book with that title —has designed robotic replacements for human blood cells that perform hundreds or thousands of times more effectively than their biological counterparts. With Freitas’s respirocytes (robotic red blood cells) a runner could do an Olympic sprint for fifteen minutes without taking a breath.”
 
Leaving us to wonder if we will allow Olympic athletes to improve their performance with this kind of technology. If we would, sports essentially become about who has the most money to buy the best enhancements. Or if we decline the use of enhancements in sport, ordinary humans will be the ones using these technologies run and swim faster than Olympians. Will we want to look at athletes if their performance fades in comparison to our own?
 
Nanobots can also alleviate sickness according to Kurzweil. “[N]anoengineered blood-borne devices that deliver hormones such as insulin have been demonstrated in animals. Similar systems could precisely deliver dopamine to the brain for Parkinson’s patients, provide bloodclotting factors for patients with hemophilia, and deliver cancer drugs directly to tumor sites.[sic]”
 
And when we do die our loved ones will still be able to talk to us and get our opinion, because our mind will continue to be around. In the middle of the 21st-century, we will be able to “store and restore the thousands of trillions of bytes of information represented in the pattern that we call our brains” predicts Kurzweil. A form of immortality is near in the sense that all the information in our brain will be available long after our passing.
 
Immortality has always been alluring because we hate the idea of being forgotten. Soon we can leave something behind that’s really part of us when we pass away. Artists always had their paintings to remember them by, writers their books and entrepreneurs their businesses. Technology allows us to be creative about our own death and leave a legacy like never before. You can upload your personal beliefs, analytical thinking processes, dear memories and favourite jokes.
 
Singularity
 
Our bodies and the way we love will be changed forever when these technologies become mainstream. And because new technologies will emerge faster, initiating even more technologies, we will soon live in a time where our sense of a ‘normal’ day is completely gone. Every day will be completely different from the previous one as new technologies enter our routine on a daily base.
 
All of this is leading up to the moment of singularity according to Kurzweil. “The Singularity will represent the culmination of the merger of our biological thinking and existence with our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but that transcends our biological roots. There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality.”
 
“We will be able to assume different bodies and take on a range of personae at will. In practical terms, human ageing and illness will be reversed; pollution will be stopped; world hunger and poverty will be solved.”
 
Progress will be so steep that it will tear up the fabric of our human existence with ever-changing possibilities and realities. The current rate of progress is already changing our societies vastly. Imagine how fast everything will change if indeed, the rate of change itself is accelerating.
 
Welcome to the journey towards singularity. Predicted to arrive in 2045.
 

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