By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Ray Kurzweil
Narrated by: Christopher Lane
The technological wizardry of Ray Kurzweil’s thoughts breed human optimism. At times, “How to Create a Mind” seems like self-aggrandizement for Kurzweil’s beliefs. Kurzweil believes artificial intelligence will expand the future of humankind.
On the one hand, listeners hope he is right; on the other, (paraphrasing Ted Bell) when artificial intelligence is applied to cyber warfare, it is a threat to everybody.
One is reminded of Kahneman and Tversky’s book, “Thinking Fast and Slow”, that implies human beings act more emotionally than logically. If logic became a bigger part of human decision-making through A.I.’ enhancement, would humanity be better off? Kurzweil implies the answer is yes.
Kurzweil argues that humanity is on the verge of an A.I.’ singularity. Humanity’s existence will change with the physiological introduction of artificial intelligence into human beings. Kurzweil argues the process has already begun with prosthesis being connected to the human nervous system, i.e. artificial human limbs that move at the order of thought.
He notes the expanded understanding of brain function offers knowledge of how human’s think at a physiological level. The building blocks of human thought are being identified. Kurzweil describes the building blocks of the mind as Lego pieces that can be assembled to create human thought. With identification of the building blocks, a giant step toward reverse engineering the brain will be tantalizingly close.
Without question, computers think faster than human beings. Kurzweil notes the creation of Deep Blue and its defeat of the best players of chess, and Watson’s defeat of the best players of Jeopardy as evidence of the superiority of AI to human intelligence. He questions those who argue Deep Blue and Watson are just programmed computers by humans. Kurzweil argues that Deep Blue and Watson border the edge of consciousness by being self-taught with minimal programming from human beings. He recounts the advances in medical treatment from computers designed to absorb all of the relevant literature on human disease to suggest effective treatment for ill patients.
A part of Kurzweil’s cogency is reinforced by the geometric growth of technology from the diminishing Moore’s law (the belief that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles every year) to the age of quantum computing. He argues that Moore’s law may become obsolete but new fields of computing miniaturization are opening as the law begins to fail. With the advent of quantum computing, transistors for binary calculations based on transistors may become obsolete. Kurzweil’s point is that linear thinking misleads those who think technology is either slowing down or failing to open new doors for humanity’s advance.
To Kurzweil, humanity’s future is rosy; not in the sense of their being a surcease of human pain and suffering, but in the sense of technological advance. He suggests technology will continue to expand at a geometric rate to improve human health, reduce societal degradation, and assure human survival. Kurzweil sees a singularity that melds artificial intelligence with human DNA. The combination, in Kurzweil’s opinion, provides a vehicle for humanity’s survival, exploration, and expansion.
So, “Don’t worry, be happy” as Bobby McFerrin said. Or as Leo Tolstoy said, “If you want to be happy, be.” As noted, Kurzweil’s thoughts breed human optimism.