by Victoria Woollastan
19 June 2013
* Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, believes we will be able
to upload our entire brains to computers within the next 32 years - an event
known as singularity
* Our 'fragile' human body parts will be replaced by machines by the turn of the century
* And if these predictions comes true, it could make humans immortal
In just over 30 years, humans will be able to upload their entire minds to computers and become digitally immortal - an event called singularity - according to a futurist from Google.
Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, also claims that the biological parts of our body will be replaced with mechanical parts and this could happen as early as 2100.
Kurweil made the claims during his conference speech at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York at the weekend.
The conference was created by Russian multimillionaire Dmitry Itskov and featured visonary talks about how the world will look by 2045.
Kurzweil said: 'Based on conservative estimates of the amount of computation you need to functionally simulate a human brain, we'll be able to expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold.'
He referred to Moore's Law that states the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years quoting the developments from genetic sequencing and 3D printing.
In Kurweil's book, The Singularity Is Near, he plots this development and journey towards singularity in a graph.
WHAT IS SINGULARITY?
Technological singularity is the development of 'superintelligence' brought about through the use of technology.
The first use of the term 'singularity' refer to technological minds was by mathematician John von Neumann. Neumann in the mid-1950s.
He said: 'ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.'
The term was then used by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge who believesbrain-computer interfaces are causes of the singularity.
Ray Kurzweil cited von Neumann's use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann's classic The Computer and the Brain.
Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 while Vinge predicts it will happen before 2030.
This singularity is also referred to as digital immortality because brains and a person's intelligence will be digitally stored forever, even after they die.
He also added that this will be possible through neural engineering and referenced the recent strides made towards modeling the brain and technologies which can replace biological functions.
Examples of such technology given by LiveScience include the cochlear implant - an implant that is attached to the brain's cochlear nerve and electronically stimulates it to restore hearing to someone who is deaf.
Other examples include technology that can restore motor skills after the nervous system is damaged.
Earlier this year, doctors from Cornell University used 3D printing to create a prosthetic ear using cells of cartilage.
A solid plastic mould was printed and then filled with high-density collagen gel.The researchers then added cartilage cells into the collagen matrix.
Kurweil was invited to the conference because he has previously written books around the idea of singularity.
Expanding on this idea Martine Rothblatt, CEO of biotech company United Therapeutics introduced the idea of 'mindclones'.
These are digital versions of humans that can live forever and can create 'mindfiles' that are a place to store aspects of our personalities.
She said it would run on a kind of software for consciousness and told The Huffington Post: 'The first company that develops mindware will have [as much success as] a thousand Googles.'
Rothblatt added that the presence of mindware could lead to replacing other parts of the body with 'non-biological' parts.
This is a concept that Kurweil also discussed and was the basis of his book Fantastic Voyage.
In this book he discusses immortality and how he believes the human body will develop.
He said: 'We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more.
'In fact the non-biological part - the machine part - will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part. So even if that biological part went away it wouldn't make any difference.
We'll also have non-biological bodies - we can create bodies with nano technology, we can create virtual bodies and virtual reality in which the virtual reality will be as realistic as the actual reality.
'The virtual bodies will be as detailed and convincing as real bodies.
'We do need a body, our intelligence is directed towards a body but it doesn't have to be this frail, biological body that is subject to all kinds of failure modes.
'But I think we'll have a choice of bodies, we'll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body in something like Second Life, but it's just a picture on the screen.
'Research has shown that people actually begin to subjectively identify with their avatar.
'But in the future it's not going to be a little picture in a virtual environment you're looking at. It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality.
'So we'll be routinely able to change our bodies very quickly as well as our environments. If we had radical life extension only we would get profoundly bored and we would run out of thing to do and new ideas.
'In additional to radical life extension we're going to have radical life expansion.
'We're going to have million of virtual environments to explore that we're going to literally expand our brains - right now we only have 300 million patterns organised in a grand hierarchy that we create ourselves.
'But we could make that 300 billion or 300 trillion. The last time we expanded it with the frontal cortex we created language and art and science. Just think of the qualitative leaps we can't even imagine today when we expand our near cortex again.'
DIGITAL AVATARS USED TO CURE SCHIZOPHRENIA
An avatar system that can help schizophrenics control the voices in their heads is being developed by British researchers.
As part of the therapy, patients create an avatar by choosing a face and a voice for the person, or persons, they believe are inside their head.
Therapists can then encourage the patients to oppose the avatar and force it away, which boosts their confidence in dealing with their hallucinations.
The first stage in the therapy is for the patient to create a computer-based avatar, by choosing the face and voice of the entity they believe is talking to them.
The system then synchronises the avatar’s lips with its speech, enabling a therapist to speak to the patient through the avatar in real-time.
The therapist encourages the patient to oppose the voice and gradually teaches them to take control of their hallucinations.
The avatar doesn't address the patients' delusions directly but the study found the hallucinations improve as an overall effect of the therapy.
This is because patients can interact with the avatar as though it was a real person, because they have created it, but they know it cannot harm them.
Many of the voices heard by schizophrenics threaten to kill or harm them and their family.