SpeechTEK Keynoter Highlights the Shrinking Technological World

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NEW YORK (SpeechTEK 2008) -- Technological progress and the power of information technologies are accelerating in a way that will greatly transform human life, said Ray Kurzweil in his keynote address, "Technology and the Emergence of Intelligent Machines," that kicked off SpeechTEK 2008 today at the New York Marriott Marquis.

"Let’s talk about where this technology will go," said Kurzweil, the author of The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence and The Age of Intelligent Machines. "Very soon computers are going to start to disappear. Computers are now in our pockets. They’ll make their way into our clothing and our belt buckles."

According to Kurzweil, in the future, humans will be online all the time. "We’ll have augmented real reality—we’ll see real reality but we’ll have virtual reality overlaid on it. There are already car prototypes where the navigation system is not on a little display on the right, which is distracting, but actually shows you right on the road with a display built in the windshield where you should be going. These will be built into our eyeglasses, so as you look at someone it will remind you what their name is, that it’s their birthday next week."

"And we’ll have a seamless interplay of real and virtual reality—at least visual and auditory," said Kurzweil to an enthusiastic audience in the Broadway Ballroom. "We’ll have real-time language translation. We’ll have search engines that are like little assistants that won’t wait to be asked—if they see you struggling with some information, they’ll pop up information."

Kurzweil—called the "ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes—predicted that by 2029, "We’ll have a deep integration of our biology with our technology. We’ll have millions of devices inside us keeping us healthy from inside. We already have harbingers of that. There are many devices being put inside the human body for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes."

This year, SpeechTEK focuses on technology in the mainstream and beyond, a topic frequently addressed by Kurzweil: "We’ve always used our tools to extend first our physical reach and now our mental reach. And we will be making ourselves smarter…with this technology."

"If I were to say someday you’ll have blood cell-size devices inside your body keeping you healthy from inside, that sounds very futuristic," said Kurzweil. "At MIT they have a blood cell-sized device that can detect cancer cells…and then block them and then destroy them."

Kurzweil said research indicates that, "If you were to replace a portion of your red blood cells with these robotic versions you could do an Olympic sprint in 15 minutes without taking a breath. Or sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours. So, ‘honey I’m in the pool’ will take on a whole new meaning … These [devices] are actually good for your health, lead to better oxygenation of your tissues, slower aging, protection from disease."

"Technological progress is accelerating," said Kurzweil. "The power of these information technologies are doubling in less than a year and that ultimately will greatly transform who we are."

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