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The final speaker was inventor and self-acknowledged transhumanist Ray Kurzweil, who argues that "The Singularity is Near." The singularity is a metaphorical social event horizon in which accelerating technological trends so change society that it is impossible to forecast what the world will really be like. Kurzweill believes that humanity will accelerate itself to utopia (immortality, ubiquitous AI, nanotech abundance) in the next 20 to 30 years. For example, he noted that average life expectancy increases by about 3 months every year. Kurzweil then claimed that longevity trends are accelerating so fast that the life expectancy will increase more than one year for each year that passes in about 15 years. In other words, if you can hang on another 15 years, your life expectancy could be indefinitely long. He projects that by 2030, AI will be ubiquitous, and most humans will be physically melded to information and other technologies. Kurzweil argued that we must reject the fundamentalist desire to define humanity by its limitations. "We are the species that goes beyond our limitations," he declared.
That's it from Transvision 2007. Next week, I will be sending in dispatches from the World Future Society's annual meeting in Minneapolis, where I will also be giving a keynote talk on "The Great Ecological Restoration of the 21st Century."
Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.