Don’t Let Innovation Widen Gap Between Haves, Have-Nots

Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold. But what competitive advantage does that give a person and at what cost?

Ray Kurzweil, one of the most forward-thinking scientists alive today, has a pretty good track record when it comes to tech predictions, including his 1990 prediction about the rise of the internet.

OpinionsIn a 2015 piece for Singularity Hub, Peter Diamandis—a visionary in his own right and someone who knows Kurzweil well—outlined some of his favorite Kurzweil predictions for the next 25 years, including: “By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.” And “By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.”

Both predictions fascinate and scare me at the same time. Given my age, I probably won’t be around to see robots becoming smarter than us. And as a serious foodie, I am not sure I like the idea of nanotech foglets taking control in the kitchen, although that sure could help solve the world’s food crisis.

As for multiplying our intelligence by a billionfold, the big question is what competitive advantage it gives a person and at what cost? Imagine the potential gulf between the haves and have-nots that would arise.

If we don’t control this with serious ethical checks and balances, we are inviting chaos despite these technologies’ great value. I’ve said it before, but I’m deeply concerned that our tech creators do not look hard enough at the possible downside their creations have on mankind.

The result of this myopic thinking is that we now are seeing serious governmental interest and legitimate queries into the impact of technology for good and evil. In talking with many major high-tech companies, they are not equipped to deal with governmental intervention.

Kurzweil’s predictions are fascinating and should be taken seriously. However, I would suggest considering how these innovations impact society. For Silicon Valley to continue to drive our tech world, these types of deep-thinking exercises must become part of its DNA. If not, our future might not be as bright as some think it will be.