Transcendent Man

Ray Kurzweil, noted inventor and futurist, is a man who refuses to accept the inevitability of death. He proposes that his Law of “Accelerating Returns” — the exponential increase in the growth of information technology — is first of all sustainable and will result in a “singularity”, a point where humans and machines will converge, allowing one to ‘transcend’ biological ‘limits’. He claims that advances in genetics will provide tools to ‘reprogram’ biology, eliminate disease and ‘stop the aging process’; that nanotechnology will keep humans ‘healthy’ from the inside using robotic red blood cells; and that a human-computer interface within the brain will make direct ‘superhuman intelligence’ possible, including the ability to ‘backup’ the mind.

But there are many who share deep concerns about the consequences of working towards such a world. Physician William B. Hurlbut warns of tragedy and views Kurzweil’s claims as lacking a more ‘moderate approach’ necessitated by biological science. AI engineer Ben Goertzel champions the transhumanist vision, but acknowledges the possibility of a dystopian outcome. AI researcher Hugo de Garis warns of a coming war in which ‘god-like’ artificial intellects and those who want to build them, will fight against those who don’t. Kevin Warwick, professor of Cybernetics at University of Reading, advocates the benefits of the singularity, but suggests a ‘Terminator’ type-scenario may also occur. Dean Kamen observes that advances in technology have finally made immortality a “reasonable goal.”