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Human race on the verge of a massive upgrade

Jon Brodkin | Oct. 14, 2009
The exponential growth of technology will greatly expand our lifespans and eventually let humans settle in other galaxies, famous inventor and author Raymond Kurzweil has said

Kurzweil's predictions typically focus on the next few decades, but one audience member challenged him to predict whether humans will be able to escape the solar system before the Sun dies out billions of years in the future.

"Our technology will be unimaginably powerful in 50 years," Kurzweil said. "If we're talking a billion years from now, our technology will be beyond galaxy-wide and will be beginning to be universe-wide. That's the destiny of our human civilization. Humans spread out, beginning about 100 years from now."

In addition to making grand predictions about the future of the human race, Kurzweil demonstrated a technology he has developed to improve the lives of blind and Dyslexic people. Kurzweil has created a reading technology that can be installed on mobile devices and read restaurant menus, signs and other printed material to the blind. The reader works in 16 languages, can work on Nokia phones and will likely be on the iPhone within six to nine months, Kurzweil said.

While Kurzweil is generally an optimist, he did address the dangers of future technology ending up in the wrong hands.

"We have technology that could wipe out all of humanity," he said. "Those thermonuclear weapons are still there at a hair trigger, and we've kind of gotten used to that."

Laws of accelerating returns could also help bioterrorists engineer ever more deadly viruses to make entire populations sick and die, Kurzweil said. But we won't be defenseless against misuse of technology, he said, noting that computer scientists have largely been able to deflect the negative impact of software viruses.

"We need to give a lot of attention to keeping these technologies safe," he said, "while harnessing their potential."


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