Scientist, inventor, author, futurist, and now Director of Engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil is scheduled to appear at Chico State University's Laxson Auditorium this Friday as part of the President's Lecture Series. His multimedia presentation, followed by a book signing, begins at 7:30 p.m. on the topic "The Acceleration of Technology in the 21st Century: The Impact on Business, the Economy, and Society and How to Retain Our Humanity Through It.”
Premium tickets are $32, adult $27, Senior $25, Student/Child $18; contact the University Box Office at (530) 898-6333 or visit chicoperformances.com for more information.
Kurzweil's newest book is "How To Create A Mind: The Secret Of Human Thought Revealed" ($27.95 in hardcover from Viking; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook e-book formats). A pioneering inventor of text-to-speech and speech-to-text technologies, Kurzweil argues that the brain, specifically the neocortex (which is "responsible for perception, memory, and critical thinking") functions by pattern recognition.
Not only perception but thought itself are a hierarchy of simple patterns repeated again and again, just as a simple equation can produce infinitely varying fractals. Complex patterns can be reverse-engineered and duplicated in human-made computers. You don't need to copy the interactions of billions of neurons; all you need do is "identify readily understandable (and re-creatable) patterns in those cells and connections."
At the same time, information technologies are predictably evolving exponentially, so that by 2029 machines will be developed that "appear to be conscious. ... They will exhibit the full range of subtle, familiar emotional cues; they will make us laugh and cry; and they will get mad at us if we say they we don't believe that they are conscious." What Kurzweil calls his "leap of faith" is that such machines "will indeed constitute conscious persons."
That's because "consciousness is an emergent property of the overall pattern of an entity, not the substrate it runs on." We will never able to determine scientifically whether a nonbiological being knows what it's like to experience the color red; this is a philosophical question with "profound meaning to humans," what Kurzweil calls "spiritual." Thus, technological "evolution can then be viewed as a spiritual process in that it creates spiritual beings, that is, entities that are conscious." See the pattern?