You may recall this thread.
Aside from a title that's more sure of itself, I've also gone back and changed a few of the contents after realizing that plenty of predictions were truncated, rewritten to alter their original meaning, or omitted entirely. And as a bonus, I added a few links. I may add more in the future.
One of the memes involving Kurzweil's predictions is that you're supposed to add ten years to whatever date he gives.
Turns out, that's true.
- The majority of reading is done on displays rather than paper, though paper documents (including print books) are still common. [Contention: Did he mean reading literature or reading anything? If the latter, then yes: he's overwhelmingly correct. In the original thread, print books were the sole focus, which is why I thought it was a failed prediction.]
- Most text will be created using speech recognition technology. [Failure: speech-to-text is less comfortable and efficient than typing for the time being, and there'll always probably be a ceiling of comfort considering texting is silent and feels more private]
- Intelligent roads and driverless cars are in use, mostly on highways. Local roads still require full human interaction. [Contention: Did he mean they are common? Or simply 'in use?' If the latter, then he's definitely correct. Level 2 autonomous is an increasingly common thing, and the first commercial Level 3 autonomous vehicle was released last year by Audi]
- People use personal computers the size of rings, pins, credit cards and books. [Contention: Did he mean PCs as in desktop PCs? Or any 'personal' computer? Because the desktop is not changing— the form will remain the same and we'll throw more power into it; we're not shrinking it to remain at a level that existed five years ago. If the latter, then yes: computers take on many forms nowadays, including watches and wristbands]
- Most portable computers do not have moving parts or keyboards. [Success. Some people lament the ubiquity of on-screen typing, but I've never looked back]
- Though desktop PCs are still common for data storage, individuals primarily use portable devices for their computer-related tasks. [Success. The PC market isn't dead by a longshot, but mobiles have long overtaken it. Not to mention that most of the developing world skipped over PCs to go directly to mobiles]
- Personal worn computers provide monitoring of body functions, automated identity and directions for navigation. [Success: Gee, I wonder what this sounds like.]
- Many devices offer high-speed network access via wireless technology. [Success]
- Digital products such as books, songs, games, movies and software are typically acquired as files via a wireless network and have no physical object associated with them. [Success. Some people lament this just as they do the decline of physical typing. Of course, the need to not spend money to create a physical product is part of why Steam Greenlight went to shitbollocks]
- Cables are disappearing. Computer peripherals use wireless communication. [Success: In the developed world, they definitely are. Contention: Again, does he mean this is common and ubiquitous or just something they can do now?]
- People can talk to their computer to give commands. [Success. Siri, can people talk to their computers to give commands?]
- Computer displays built into eyeglasses for augmented reality are used. [Contention: Technically, he's gotten it right. But in case you've not noticed a trend, I can't tell if he meant this was a common, mainstream thing or if smartglasses just 'exist' in the same way graphene exists— it's seen commercial releases, but not to any great success yet]
- Computers can recognize their owner's face from a picture or video. [Success. Overwhelmingly successful, even. Biometrics is advancing very rapidly]
- Three-dimensional chips are commonly used. [Failure. At least for 2018, 3D chips are experimental with limited releases.]
- Sound producing speakers are being replaced with very small chip-based devices that can place high resolution sound anywhere in three-dimensional space.
- A $1,000 computer can perform a trillion calculations per second. [Success.]
- Supercomputers have been built that can operate at 20 petaflops (roughly the hardware-equivalent of the human brain according to Kurzweil). [Contention: We've passed this but it took longer than 2009 to get there.]
- Consumer-level computers across the world can network together to form decentralized supercomputers, many of which have the computational capacity of the human brain. [Success. It's gotten to the point that the application this has become, blockchain, is actually causing some negative footprints.]
- There is increasing interest in massively parallel neural nets, genetic algorithms and other forms of "chaotic" or complexity theory computing. [Success. Starting around 2012 or so, this has been the case.]
- Research has been initiated on reverse engineering the brain through both destructive and non-invasive scans. [Contention: It's kinda sorta started, but as laid out here, it's definitely something you'll want to keep your eye on]
- Autonomous nano-engineered machines have been demonstrated and include their own computational controls. [Contention: They have been demonstrated, but I'm unsure if they included their own computers.]
- Digital documents routinely display moving images and sounds. [Overwhelming success]
- Artificial voices sound fully human. [Contention: This is 90% true, but there's still that tiny gap left to conquer. We'll almost certainly pull it off this year, in fact.]
- Phones can translate spoken sentences to different languages and read them back aloud.
- Telephone communication is mostly wireless. [Success. The decline of landlines and phone booths is the perfect example of this.
- Cell phones display high resolution images. Users can engage in audio-video teleconferences. [Success. Even low-end smartphones today can take images that would've been considered professional quality 20 years ago. And yes, it's actually a big thing to engage in teleconferences, even on smartphones. You can even do that on your watch.]
- High resolution audio-visual cybersex is common, aided by falling costs of high-speed internet and computer hardware. [Contention: What does he mean by 'cybersex'? I was assuming internet porn, but it's possible he means teledildonics (yes, that's a thing) or even VR porn.]
- At least 50% of all transactions are conducted over the internet. [Contention: E-commerce is certainly a huge market, but I don't know how it compares to real-world transactions, and I'd like to think e-commerce is still only a fraction of brick-and-mortar sales worldwide]
- Personal artificial digital assistants are in widespread use. They can understand spoken language, look up answers to questions, set appointments, conduct transactions, tell jokes, and more. [Success. It's clear that they have limits, but it's getting creepy how much further you have to push to reach them]
- An increasing share of the population is working from home and while traveling. [Success. I'm actually an example of this]
- The typical home has over 100 computers in it, many of which are embedded in appliances. [Contention: I know he must be referring to objects with some level of digital programming including things you might not immediately catch like programmable fans, smart TVs, and exercising equipment. 100 of them, though? Unlikely for right now.]
- Though not yet ubiquitous, many households have one or more robots that perform some type of housekeeping. [Success. Thankfully, he said 'many' and not 'most'. Roombas are the most famous example, but I'm bringing up that programmable fan again because that is technically a robot too, as are some types of dishwashers. Older appliances, not so much]
- People often play music alongside digital musicians. (In "How My Predictions Are Faring" written in 2010, Kurzweil cited Guitar Hero and Apple’s Magic GarageBand Jam as two examples.) [Contention, possibly failure: It's the wording that gets me. Is he saying that bands now include virtual members? If so, that's not something that's happening. Usually, it's either all virtual or all flesh. Did he mean common people literally playing with recreations of musicians? Again, not really beyond these applications.]
- Audio-visual virtual reality has entered the mass market. Users can digitally tour real locations or play in highly immersive fantasy worlds. Tactile (haptic) VR technology is still primitive however. [Success. Anyone who is still unaware of the modern VR explosion, I salute you— because that is some epic ignorance.]
- Militaries rely heavily on armed unmanned airborne devices. [Success. We all know the memes about "Dronebama", and things have only gotten much worse since then with Trump. Not to mention that insurgencies and mercenary groups across the planet now actively use commercially-available drones. It was destined to happen because we always dedicate the bleeding edge of tech to sex and violence first.]
- Death rates for cancer and heart disease have continued to fall as a result of improvements in medical technology. [Success. We still hear of tragedies with others and in our own families, and we also hear of nigh-magical clickbait featuring promises that a certain rare food or therapy or previously unknown aspect to a popular food will end all disease ever, but things are rapidly improving.]
- Telemedicine is common. Devices monitor and relay health-related data of many patients and send that information to doctors remotely. Teleconferencing between doctor and patient is also popular. [Success. I'm less aware of this, but again, devices that monitor your health are a major thing nowadays. Fitness freaks, health nuts, and those who just want to maintain their bodies kept smartwatches and other wearables alive.]
- Computers and medical software are capable enough at image and pattern recognition that they are routinely used to help diagnose diseases by analyzing scans of patients. [Success, fading contention: it's being used now, but it's still pretty new.]
- Doctors and medical students often train in virtual reality environments, which include haptic feedback and simulated patients. [Contention: Shouldn't have used 'often'. This is a growing part of medical training and it will likely be the dominant means early next decade, however.]
It's really uncanny how bang-on he got all these predictions. Literally (classically literally, not figuratively literally) the only hang-up is that he set them ten years too early and then doubled-down on them when shown that they were wrong at the time.
To those who think he's somehow still right: well, here's the thing.
- The computational capacity of a $4,000 computing device (in 1999 dollars) is approximately equal to the computational capability of the human brain (20 quadrillion calculations per second). [If this were the case, you could buy the third most powerful computer on Earth for $6,016.45 (aka $4,000 in 1999 dollars).]
- The summed computational powers of all computers is comparable to the total brainpower of the human race. [Estimates on the brainpower of the human race is up in the air, ranging from 20 petaflops to 1 exaflops. In either case, they're flat-out unapologetically wrong]
- Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.). [Computers are indeed increasingly embedded in the environment, but it's primitive and noticable.]
- People experience 3-D virtual reality through glasses and contact lenses that beam images directly to their retinas (retinal display). Coupled with an auditory source (headphones), users can remotely communicate with other people and access the Internet. [Retinal display VR and AR headsets have been worked on for years (the Avegant Glyph is a good example), but they're still prototypes. Putting that into contact lenses is still about ten years off.]
- These special glasses and contact lenses can deliver "augmented reality" and "virtual reality" in three different ways. First, they can project "heads-up-displays" (HUDs) across the user's field of vision, superimposing images that stay in place in the environment regardless of the user's perspective or orientation. Second, virtual objects or people could be rendered in fixed locations by the glasses, so when the user's eyes look elsewhere, the objects appear to stay in their places. Third, the devices could block out the "real" world entirely and fully immerse the user in a virtual reality environment. [Mixed reality is a prototype right now; give it another decade and we'll see results.]
- People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures instead of with keyboards. Furthermore, most of this interaction occurs through computerized assistants with different personalities that the user can select or customize. Dealing with computers thus becomes more and more like dealing with a human being. [Not even close. Only speech has been done, and we're still in the very early days.]
- Most business transactions or information inquiries involve dealing with a simulated person. [Extremely few business transactions require dealing with a simulated person.]
- Most people own more than one PC, though the concept of what a "computer" is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes. [This is true, though not to the extent I feel Kurzweil envisioned]
- Cables connecting computers and peripherals have almost completely disappeared. [Absolutely untrue.]
- Rotating computer hard drives are no longer used. [Absolutely untrue.]
- Three-dimensional nanotube lattices are the dominant computing substrate. [Absolutely untrue.]
- Massively parallel neural nets and genetic algorithms are in wide use. [Somewhat true.]
- Destructive scans of the brain and noninvasive brain scans have allowed scientists to understand the brain much better. The algorithms that allow the relatively small genetic code of the brain to construct a much more complex organ are being transferred into computer neural nets. [Not true. We're just now getting destructive and noninvasive scans]
- Pinhead-sized cameras are everywhere. [Absolutely untrue* ]
- Nanotechnology is more capable and is in use for specialized applications, yet it has not yet made it into the mainstream. "Nanoengineered machines" begin to be used in manufacturing. [Strong contention: if he means nanotechnology as we've been using it, then yes, it's something that's made it into the mainstream. But I know he doesn't. He's referring to molecular nanotech, which is a different thing entirely]
- Thin, lightweight, handheld displays with very high resolutions are the preferred means for viewing documents. The aforementioned computer eyeglasses and contact lenses are also used for this same purpose, and all download the information wirelessly. [I'm stopping here]
- Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely obsolete.
- Most learning is accomplished through intelligent, adaptive courseware presented by computer-simulated teachers. In the learning process, human adults fill the counselor and mentor roles instead of being academic instructors. These assistants are often not physically present, and help students remotely.
- Students still learn together and socialize, though this is often done remotely via computers.
- All students have access to computers.
- Most human workers spend the majority of their time acquiring new skills and knowledge.
- Blind people wear special glasses that interpret the real world for them through speech. Sighted people also use these glasses to amplify their own abilities.
- Retinal and neural implants also exist, but are in limited use because they are less useful.
- Deaf people use special glasses that convert speech into text or signs, and music into images or tactile sensations. Cochlear and other implants are also widely used.
- People with spinal cord injuries can walk and climb steps using computer-controlled nerve stimulation and exoskeletal robotic walkers.
- Computers are also found inside of some humans in the form of cybernetic implants. These are most commonly used by disabled people to regain normal physical faculties (i.e. - Retinal implants allow the blind to see and spinal implants coupled with mechanical legs allow the paralyzed to walk).
- Language translating machines are of much higher quality, and are routinely used in conversations.
- Effective language technologies (natural language processing, speech recognition, speech synthesis) exist
- Access to the Internet is completely wireless and provided by wearable or implanted computers.
- People are able to wirelessly access the Internet at all times from almost anywhere
- Devices that deliver sensations to the skin surface of their users (i.e.--tight body suits and gloves) are also sometimes used in virtual reality to complete the experience. "Virtual sex"—in which two people are able to have sex with each other through virtual reality, or in which a human can have sex with a "simulated" partner that only exists on a computer—becomes a reality.
- Just as visual- and auditory virtual reality have come of age, haptic technology has fully matured and is completely convincing, yet requires the user to enter a V.R. booth. It is commonly used for computer sex and remote medical examinations. It is the preferred sexual medium since it is safe and enhances the experience.
- Worldwide economic growth has continued. There has not been a global economic collapse.
- The vast majority of business interactions occur between humans and simulated retailers, or between a human's virtual personal assistant and a simulated retailer.
- Household robots are ubiquitous and reliable.
- Computers do most of the vehicle driving—-humans are in fact prohibited from driving on highways unassisted. Furthermore, when humans do take over the wheel, the onboard computer system constantly monitors their actions and takes control whenever the human drives recklessly. As a result, there are very few transportation accidents.
- Most roads now have automated driving systems—networks of monitoring and communication devices that allow computer-controlled automobiles to safely navigate.
- Prototype personal flying vehicles using microflaps exist. They are also primarily computer-controlled.
- Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities, which hold some advantages over human partners. The depth of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be accorded more rights.
- While a growing number of humans believe that their computers and the simulated personalities they interact with are intelligent to the point of human-level consciousness, experts dismiss the possibility that any could pass the Turing Test.
- Human-robot relationships begin as simulated personalities become more convincing.
- Interaction with virtual personalities becomes a primary interface
- Public places and workplaces are ubiquitously monitored to prevent violence and all actions are recorded permanently. Personal privacy is a major political issue, and some people protect themselves with unbreakable computer codes.
- The basic needs of the underclass are met. (Not specified if this pertains only to the developed world or to all countries)
- Virtual artists—creative computers capable of making their own art and music—emerge in all fields of the arts.
*(this comment has been paid for by the NSA)
Just for lulz, here's Kurzweil's 2029:
- A $1,000 personal computer is 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain.
- The vast majority of computation is done by computers and not by human brains.
- Further progress has been made in understanding the secrets of the human brain. Hundreds of distinct sub-regions with specialized functions have been identified. Some of the algorithms that code for development of these regions have been deciphered and incorporated into neural net computers.
- Massively parallel neural nets, which are constructed through reverse-engineering the human brain, are in common use.
- The eyeglasses and headphones that used to deliver virtual reality are now obsolete thanks to computer implants that go into the eyes and ears. The implants are either permanent or removable. They allow direct interface with computers, communications and Internet-based applications. The implants are also capable of recording what the user sees and hears.
- Computer implants designed for direct connection to the brain are also available. They are capable of augmenting natural senses and of enhancing higher brain functions like memory, learning speed and overall intelligence.
- Computers are now capable of learning and creating new knowledge entirely on their own and with no human help. By scanning the enormous content of the Internet, some computers "know" literally every single piece of public information (every scientific discovery, every book and movie, every public statement, etc.) generated by human beings.
- Direct brain implants allow users to enter full-immersion virtual reality—with complete sensory stimulation—without any external equipment. People can have their minds in a totally different place at any moment. This technology is in widespread use.
- Most communication occurs between humans and machines as opposed to human-to-human.
- The manufacturing, agricultural and transportation sectors of the economy are almost entirely automated and employ very few humans. Across the world, poverty, war and disease are almost nonexistent thanks to technology alleviating want.
- The rise of Artificial Intelligence creates a real "robot rights" movement, and there is open, public debate over what sorts of civil rights and legal protections machines should have. The existence of humans with heavy levels of cybernetic augmentation and of larger numbers of other people with less extreme cybernetic implants lead to further arguments over what constitutes a "human being."
- Although computers routinely pass the Turing Test, controversy still persists over whether machines are as intelligent as humans in all areas.
- Artificial Intelligences claim to be conscious and openly petition for recognition of the fact. Most people admit and accept this new truth.
- Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
- Non-biological intelligence combines the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
- Non-biological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed in its rate of growth
Phew! That was longer than I remembered it being. It's around 24,000 characters now, actually! But I needed to prove a point— Ray Kurzweil has made a lot of very precise predictions, but they lack accuracy. Uncannily, they all lack accuracy by the same amount of time— roughly ten years.
He's planning to release The Singularity is Nearer next year (IIRC), and if he does, I really hope he takes all this into account. It serves no one to keep doubling down on failed years for proven predictions. It's possible that the timeline of predictions will begin smooshing together as time goes on thanks to increased computing power and increasingly powerful and generalized AI so that his "2029" or "2039" predictions may wind up coming true on time.