Ray Kurzweil: 'AI is Still on Course to Outpace Human Intelligence'


Ray Kurzweil: 'AI is Still on Course to Outpace Human Intelligence'

The Singularity is near(er)! At least, that’s what the famous inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil argues. If you’ve ever had an interest in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, or the future in general, you’ve more than likely heard of Kurzweil. Whether it’s through documentaries, his various written works, or the vast number of interviews he’s been involved in these last few decades, he’s always provided a cautiously optimistic analysis of the world of tomorrow.

His latest interview, which was conducted during last year’s RAAD Festival, was no different.

Gennady Stolyarov II, who is the Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, served as the interviewer, whereby he asked Kurzweil a number of questions involving Sophie the robot, Watson-based medical diagnostics, and the potential risks of our future. (Full Disclosure: I currently serve as an Officer of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.)

But, of course, no interview involving Kurzweil goes without discussing the pace of AI in relation to human intelligence.

Using examples of modern-day AI like AlphaGo, there are clear signs that they’re already starting to outpace human intelligence involving specific tasks. This has been a common factor of AI for the last couple decades, starting with the simple goal of defeating the world’s best (human) chess players. Today, they’re outpacing us in chess, Go, various strategic computer games, and even medical diagnostics. The question remains, however, as to whether AI will ever reach the point of superintelligence—also commonly known as the Technological Singularity.

What I found most interesting from Kurzweil’s response wasn’t so much his consistency in the belief that AI will indeed outpace human intelligence as a whole; rather our fears of a dystopian future where AI has gone astray are becoming increasingly unlikely. He makes this arguement with the understanding that there is no singular AI being controlled by singular powerful companies or people. In today’s reality, there are millions of different AIs being controlled by anyone who owns a smartphone.

One could argue that the level of power still isn’t well-balanced between centralized companies and a decentralized populace, especially as companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google (Kurzweil’s current employer) continue making headlines as a result of their egregious negligence. However, with companies like SingularityNET working to democratize the technology, AI isn’t just moving at a pace beyond human intelligence; they’re moving at a pace that’ll empower the human species as a whole, whether that comes in the form of maintaining their longevity, increasing their cognitive capacities, or giving them access to the stars themselves.

If anything I’d acquire from watching Kurzweil’s latest interview, it’s that, no matter what problems we continue having to deal with in the present, the future remains increasingly bright. And for that, I’ll always remain appreciative.