In the future, human thoughts will transcend the brain

September 4, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Abstract impression of artificial intelligence.
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By 2030, it’s possible that humans will have evolved to a new type of thinking — “hybrid thinking” — which would fuse our brains with technology.

Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google, is known for his audacious predictions for the future, many of which have proven to be accurate. Since the mid-80s, he’s predicted technological breakthroughs that were seen as ludicrous sci-fi fantasies at the time — wirelessly accessing information via the Internet, prosthetic legs for paraplegics, self-driving cars, the list goes on.

Now, Kurzweil predicts that by the year 2030, humans will be immersed in an entirely new type of cognition — hybrid thinking. Essentially, hybrid thinking fuses the human brain and technology, providing the brain with instantaneous access to the cloud. (For those wondering what exactly “the cloud” is, it’s an interconnected network of thousands of computers and services that run on the internet, like Dropbox, Netflix, and Google Drive.)

Ray Kurzweill, author of How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (Ed Schipul/Flickr)

An important thing to note about the human brain is the evolution of the neocortex. The neocortex is the area of the brain which makes us capable of new types of thinking and gives us the ability to create new behaviors rather than rigidly sticking to fixed ones. With the neocortex, we can create solutions, expand our knowledge, and evolve to higher levels of consciousness.

When the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, the neocortex grew in mammals. It now forms almost 80 percent of the human brain and is responsible for humanity’s evolvement in the fields of language, art, science, and technology — something no other species has done.

Kurzweil suggests that the leap into hybrid thinking will serve as the next expansion of the brain that’s as significant as the development of the neocortex. He offers that our neocortex will connect to the “synthetic neocortex” in the cloud, basically giving us artificially intelligent "superbrains.”

How will our brains connect to the cloud? Through nanotechnology, Kurzweil believes that nanobots — tiny robots made from DNA strands — will be able to reach our brains through the capillaries. The nanobots will connect our neocortex to the synthetic neocortex in the cloud, making our thoughts a hybrid of biological and nonbiological thinking.

Kurzweil thinks the ability of computers will, too, evolve. He predicts that in 5-10 years, search engines will function based on an actual understanding of the research, books, and articles published throughout the billions of pages. Search engines currently operate using keywords, but with the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Kurzweil is confident that they will develop a deeper understanding of the information.

With hybrid thinking, the computer could connect to the human brain on a deeper level. For example, if someone was suffering from a certain disease, the computer could update the person with new research on it just seconds after being uploaded to the cloud. It could do so based on past searches and increasing levels of intuition that AI is developing.

Kurzweil’s predictions don’t stop at his theory of hybrid thinking. By the 2040s, he predicts that non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence. By 2045, he expects our intelligence to multiply a millionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to the synthetic one in the cloud. His foretelling of the future goes all the way up to 2099.

While some of Kurzweil’s past predictions have been mildly off in timing, the majority of them have come true. He has undoubtedly proven time and time again that his educated forecasting of the future is more than just a hunch. But most importantly, his mind-blowing research and predictions illuminate that we are in the midst of one of the most transformative times in human history.

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