AI And The New Health Care

The first major industry to be fundamentally disrupted by artificial intelligence will be health care, America’s last 19th century industry. Major diseases are being cured at such a dramatic pace that if you can survive the next decade chances are you can live forever. DNA is the software of life and spending $3 billion to decode it by 2003 was the best investment the U.S. government ever made.

These are the opinions expressed by longtime friend Dr. Ray Kurzweil. These ideas may seem like the ravings of a mad lunatic. However, Kurzweil long ago became used to such criticisms. The funny thing is, his very long-term predictions have a nasty habit of coming true. For Kurzweil is the head of engineering at Google (GOOG), the co-founder of the Singularity University, and an early AI evangelist.

The outer shell of the human brain, the neocortex, is where we do all of our higher thinking. problem solving and imagining. It first appeared in our pre-mammalian ancestors some 200 million years ago. The neocortex enjoyed a sudden growth spurt 2 million years ago for reasons no one understands. Maybe that’s when we came out of the trees. This gave homo sapiens a huge advantage over all other life forms on earth.

The next step in our intellectual evolution will be carried out by AI. By connecting our neocortex to the Internet, we will improve our intelligence by a billion-fold. Imagine everyone you come into contact with is a billion times smarter than they are today. Ironically, such advances in human bionic connections have been greatly advanced by our recent wars in the Middle East, which created large numbers of quadriplegic veterans desperate for contact with the outside world.

Defense research dollars have poured in to meet this need. Last year, I saw a classified video of a disabled soldier operating a computer just by thinking about key strokes. Kurzweil calls such a connection the Singularity, where humans and computers become one. He envisions this taking place on a large scale by the mid-2040s. We already know how this will affect civilization because the billion-fold improvement in intelligence is already available in our hand in the form of a smartphone. All that is missing is the human/machine connection.

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