By Dick Pelletier
While some scientists see danger with tomorrow’s super-intelligent robots, others say not to worry – our destiny is secure.
For years, entrepreneurs have been trying to create robots to perform life’s physical drudgeries. Building mechanical bodies has been easy, but creating artificial minds to control those bodies has been frustrating.
After countless commercial failures, things are beginning to change. Computer power has increased to 1,000 million impressions per second (MIPS), which provides enough thinking ability for today’s robots to become financially viable.
Lawrence Livermore National Labs robots will soon handle nuclear and hazardous waste. NASA Rovers explore Mars and send pictures back to us.
Sales of “Roomba” and “Karcher” robot vacuum cleaners are beating expectations. Thousands of Sony AIBO robot pets have sold for more than $1,000 each. Robots are now becoming main stream.
Research Professor Hans Moravec at Carnegie Mellon University says future robot development can be divided into four generations:
2010 – First generation robot will: pick up clutter; store; retrieve and deliver; take inventory; guard homes; open doors; mow lawns; and play games. Compare its 5,000 MIPS brain to a lizard.
2020 – Second generation robot will think before it acts and respond to dog-like training. “Good robot,” “bad robot.” Compare its 300,000 MIPS brain to a mouse.
2030 – Third generation robot will understand human moods. It knows if you are happy, angry, in a hurry, or tired. It handles limited conversations. Compare its 10 million MIPS brain to a monkey.
By Dick Pelletier
As our 21st century unfolds, revolutionary changes will appear at mind-boggling speeds. Most of these changes will be driven by major happenings – increases in computing speed, mapping the human genome, and nanotechnology development.
By 2020, computer power will have doubled several times, which will help researchers unravel many of our genetic mysteries – and nanotechnology, the science of building things atom by atom, will provide us with a host of new miracles making our lives more pleasurable.
Things that will change by 2020
• Cancer and heart disease deaths are expected to diminish or disappear completely according to the National Institutes of Health.
• Organ transplants won’t be needed. Doctors will grow new organs from a patient’s own tissues.
• Coronary bypass procedures will be passé as doctors use gene therapies to grow new blood vessels to replace those that are blocked.
• False teeth will be replaced by stem cell therapies that grow natural teeth. Clinical trials of this new procedure are underway in Europe now.
• Your signature on a legal document will be considered quaint because of biometric Identification – iris, facial print, and voice-recognition. You become your own secure ID.
• Film scores played by real orchestras will be replaced with computer-synthesized music.
• Nearly all movie stunt doubles will be replaced by computer-animation.
• Getting lost will be nearly impossible with GPS chips in cell-phones and watches – and implanted under the skin on children and older people.
By Dick Pelletier
Humanity is facing what many see as the most important decision in its history – to move from nonrenewable fossil fuels as the primary source of energy to renewable sources that could, some believe, allow us to achieve Type 1 Civilization status.
In 1964, astronomer Nikolai Kardashev devised a method to categorize future civilizations based on energy consumption. Type-1 utilizes all solar energy striking its planet, Type-2 controls all the energy in its solar system; and Type-3 harnesses power from every star in its galaxy.
Today, physicists rate Earth at Type-0.7. In The Runaway Universe, astronomer Don Goldsmith reminds us that we receive only one billionth of the suns energy, and we utilize just one millionth of that; but with nanotech advances expected by mid-century, experts predict we could reach Type-1 by 2100.
In order to see a clearer picture of how we might advance in the future, Kardashev-type ratings have been assigned to past evolutionary events. We begin at the dawn of humanity:
400,000-to-250,000 years ago; Type-0.0 – Wikipedia identifies this period as the time when Homo sapiens split from the great apes and evolved as modern humans in Africa.
150,000 years ago; Type-0.1 – In Cooking and Cognition: How Humans Got So Smart evolutionary anthropologist Philipp Khaitovich explains how emergence of the hearth allowed humans to eat cooked food for the first time. This increased caloric intake enabling us to send more power to our brains, which resulted in huge intelligence boosts. Human brains require 20 percent of our calories, while other vertebrate brains use only 2 percent of their caloric intake.
100,000 years ago; Type-0.2 – A Sumatra volcano eruption caused a 1,400-yr freeze which nearly drove humans extinct, reducing populations to under 10,000. This prompted cooperation between tribes. Illinois anthropologist Stanley Ambrose calls this the “troop-to-tribe transition.”
By Dick Pelletier
As the 21st century unfolds, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics will change our lives in many ways. We will enjoy better health, a longer lifespan, and new conveniences. But these developments pale in comparison to simulated reality systems projected for future entertainment.
Psychologists list our most enjoyable recreation activities as: visiting family and friends, watching TV, browsing the Internet, playing video games, making phone calls, shopping, eating out, and catching a flick.
U.S. Census reports 98% of American families own 2.4 TV sets per home and watch 32 hours of TV each week. 75% access the Internet from home, and nearly everyone uses the telephone.
Sales drive this multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. Consumer Electronics Association projects more than 18 million TV sets will be sold this year. New models are larger and thinner; some with fancy features such as live-show pause and smart program selection.
Experts believe future entertainment systems will satisfy much more of our recreational needs. In his web article, “Views of the Future,” British Telecom futurologist Ian Pearson predicts by:
2015 – TV, computer, and phone converge into a wall-size, interactive, 3D screen, delivering entertainment and information tailored to our wishes. When idle, it displays beach, forest, or other scenes so real, we think we are there.
2020 – Nano-size electronics inside “active contact lenses” receives TV, video games, Internet, and phone calls; and displays images directly onto the retina. Tune program with pocket keyboard initially; later with thought control. Watch TV; browse the web, or video-phone a friend; all with eyes open or closed.
By Dick Pelletier
Futurist Ray Kurzweil, in his recent book, Fantastic Voyage, dubs the 2020s as “the golden age of nanotech”. Nanotech first gained worldwide attention in 1986 with Eric Drexler’s book, Engines of Creation, which detailed amazing wonders to come that would change humanity beyond our wildest dreams.
At the heart of Drexler’s vision is a small machine called an assembler, which, when loaded with nanobots, can build things one atom at a time. With instructions from the Internet, assemblers can extract atoms from raw materials such as dirt, air, and seawater and turn them into food, clothes, and appliances; or any item desired. They can even build another assembler.
Some companies are already creating nano-enhanced products, such as makeup, lotions, and sunscreens, which last longer and look better. But Drexler says by the 2020s, nanobots will do much more. On command they can change hair and skin color, and remove wrinkles and excess fat. Future nanobots will give us great health in a perfect body.
Already in design are nanobots that repair cells, fix damaged DNA, remove toxins, eliminate cholesterol, stop cancer, and reverse aging. You could even mix and match your age: distinguished hairline of a senior, sturdy frame of a thirty-year-old, lusty libido of a twenty something, and sharp eyesight of a child.
In the entertainment world, nanobots promise full immersion of virtual reality systems. By mid-2020s, “neuro-bots” will provide artificial environments indistinguishable from real ones. Enjoy a trip to Mars or a memorable romance – without leaving home.
Scientists predict by the late 2020s, nanobots will enable optic nerves to receive and send information. We will view and understand TV without using our eyes – and transmit thoughts without using our voice.
By Dick Pelletier
Biotech – Driven by baby-boomers’ quest for better health and longer life is making headlines with stem cell research and other advances. National Cancer Institute director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach recently declared, because of biotech, “By 2015, nobody will die of cancer – it won’t be cured by that time, but drugs will be available to prevent the pain, sickness and death that cancer now dishes out.”
Nanotech – By building things one atom at a time, this amazing technology promises “super bodies” that never age, get sick, or die; with vast amounts of intelligence downloaded to our brain.
At a recent Foresight Institute seminar in Palo Alto, CA, Gregory Stock and Ray Kurzweil participated in the “Debate of the Decade: Bio Future or Machine Future?”
Stock, UCLA professor and author of “Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future” faced off against Kurzweil, entrepreneur and author of “The Age of Spiritual Machines: How We Will Live and Think in the New Age of Intelligent Machines”.
Stock began by challenging Kurzweil’s rapid timetable for turning humanity into cyborgs, which Kurzweil sees happening within a few decades. “Biological enhancement sounds stodgy compared to some of the things talked about by Ray,” Stock said. “But I don’t think migration to a non-organic body will happen any time soon.”
Stock believes biotech advances, already underway, will soon give us a body free from sickness and disease with an extended lifespan of 150 years.
By Dick Pelletier
The funny thing about life is that so far, nobody has managed to get out of it alive. Even with healthy diets; a lifelong commitment to exercise; the most powerful nutrients money can buy; and the best positive attitude imaginable, it sadly seems everyone is doomed to die sometime.
However, forward-thinkers believe that biotech and nanotech revolutions expected over the next three decades, will change this age-old thinking about life and death; even challenge our traditional views on what it means to be human.
Cutting-edge science and technologies, experts say, will one day provide everyone with radically increased intelligence, futuristic healthcare that prevents sickness and disease from ever happening, and a lifespan approaching immortality.
We begin our trek into this positive future with The Federal Initiative for Regenerative Medicine, an aggressive biotech program that promises to provide tissues and organs “on demand” for every American by 2020, regardless of ability to pay. With replaceable tissues and organs available, doctors will easily prevent deaths from cancer, heart disease, and many other human ailments.
In the following decade, 2020-2030, we will radically upgrade many physical and mental systems using advanced nanotech to replace frail biological parts with powerful non-biological components.
UCLA’s Robert Freitas believes nanotech will provide us with “respirocytes”, tiny robotic blood cells that can store extra oxygen. During a heart attack, these clever ‘bots would keep patients alive for hours until medical care arrived, preventing tissue damage and death.
By Dick Pelletier
In the last two decades, advances in computing technology, from processing speed to network capacity and the Internet, have revolutionized our lives. From sequencing genomes to monitoring the climate, many scientific advances would have been impossible without an increase in computing power.
Now with quantum computers built from carbon nanotubes and superconductors about to harness atoms and molecules to calculate billions of times faster than silicon-based computers, scientists predict even more amazing advances ahead.
Within twenty years experts say, we will have access to something approaching all information all the time. Our lives, much longer by then because of the quantum impact on healthcare, will be improved in many ways from today.
Already much software and data is moving to the Internet. Photos, music, applications like Microsoft Word (which formatted this article), and many other things we use a computer for will be accessible anytime, anywhere.
In a Fortune Magazine article, Peter Schwartz and Rita Koselka describe a quantum computer world that includes reducing our communication systems – cellphone, computer, TV, and radio – to chips on a thin headband that can transmit information between the Internet and our brain; and to other headbands.
UVA researcher Stuart Wolf anticipates that in 20 years, instead of cellphone conversations we will have “network-enabled telepathy;” we will ‘speak’ directly to another person’s headband from anywhere in the world using just our thoughts.
By Dick Pelletier
We often think nostalgically of our past as the “good old days,” but projected scientific and technological breakthroughs suggest the greatest and most exciting times are actually yet to come. Today, breakthroughs rush at us with amazing speeds and the golden ages of biotech, 2010-2020, and nanotech, 2020-2035, promise huge advances in health, entertainment and wealth.
Revolutionary biologist Leroy Hood predicts that in the next decade, we will understand individual genetic predispositions for most sicknesses, and develop powerful tools for preventing them. “We’ll move from a mode of medicine that’s largely reactive to one that’s predictive and preventive,” he says.
Experts believe that by 2025, nanobots swarming through our bodies will stave off most sicknesses and zap viruses before we even start to sniffle. By 2030, all diseases, including aging, will be manageable. And as we gain greater health and energy, we will become more actively involved with entertainment technologies.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates says TVs and computers are finally converging into a single media. By 2015, nearly every movie, TV drama and sit-com ever produced will be available from the Internet to your home, and voice-activation will make selecting programs as simple as talking to your screen.
Games will become more entertaining too with expected speeds of over 10,000 GHz. But no matter how far technology advances, certain aspects of gaming will remain constant. Marksmanship, speed thrills, and strategies will improve, but plots and characters of today’s role players, along with elements that charm the heart will remain pretty much the same as today.
Unlike today’s games that stimulate only sight, hearing, and touch, 2015 games will add taste and smell, creating more realism. As TVs continue to advance, flat screens will morph into holographic displays with characters seeming to hop into the room.
By Dick Pelletier
What will our world be like in 2050? Nobody can predict for sure, but by projecting present-day knowledge, we can make plausible guesses how our planet might evolve and what life will be like in 42 years. We begin our trip by focusing on science breakthroughs that changed our world and offered new insights into what it means to be human.
Earlier in this century, encouraged by healthcare moving from reactive to proactive and the huge rush of data-basing information, scientists quickly unraveled the mysteries of the 100,000 or so proteins produced by our genes. Proteins are the microscopic workhorses behind everything we do – from sweating to thinking.
By 2030, breakthroughs in stem cell research, gene therapy, and nano cell-repair machines enabled the reversal of damages caused by aging. Shortly after that, every human disease became manageable.
By 2040, indefinite lifespan was finally realized when advanced neural research enabled nanobots to continuously scan minds and transmit all our life moments into a storage facility, ready for instant transfer to a new body should disaster strike. No human has suffered an unwanted death in the past 10 years.
Two planet-shaking events occurred in the 2030s that fast tracked evolution: quantum computing, which allows complex simulations of future events, and the Singularity, which describes the point when machine intelligence outpaced human thinking, and also gave our “silicon cousins” the ability to re-produce their robotic bodies, adding increased intelligence to each new generation.