Today (3 February) sees the launch of Transcendant Man, a film about the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil.
I touched on Kurzweil in a previous post about the virtual chatbot Ramona with whom I spent a pleasant half hour or so conversing about everything from the weather to high flown philosophical matters. Ramona embodies Kurzweil’s belief that machines can ape and (eventually) surpass human intelligence. The point at which machine intelligence surpasses that of humans is called, by Kurzweill “the Singularity” and he propogates this thesis in his book of the same name.
I haven’t seen the film, however I understand from its website that it is intended to popularise Kurzweil’s ideas by bringing them to a mass audience.
In the film and in his other works (“the Age of Spiritual Machines”, the “Age of Intelligent Machines” and “The Singularity is Near”) Kurzweil conjectures that the Singularity will occur around 2045. Indeed Kurzweil sees that we are, already merging with machines (E.g. people walk around with artificial hearts and experiments have already been carried out as regards the implanting of chips in the human body enabling individuals to interact with computers).
Kurzweil sees a future in which nanobots will cleanse our blood and malfunctioning body parts (including brain cells) will be replaced. According to this thesis once scientists have reversed engineered the brain it will be possible to create back up copies of our brains so in theory at least we need never die as a worn out brain can be replaced by an exact duplicate.
Obviously all of the above raises profound ethical and philosophical issues, for instance would a copy of my brain (however exact) really be the same as my current self? Are we mere machines or is there something (perhaps a soul) which would be lost if our thoughts were transfered to a computer?
For information on the film please see http://www.kurzweilai.net/transcendent-man-film-heralding-the-coming-singularity-launches-february-2011-via-new-distribution-model
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