Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist. He’s involved in fields as diverse as optical character recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, and electronic keyboard instruments. He is the author of several books on health, artificial intelligence, transhumanism, technological singularity, and futurism.
Kurzweil first began speculating about the future when he was a child, but only later as an adult did he become seriously involved with trying to accurately forecast future events. Kurzweil came to realize that his success as an inventor depended largely on proper timing: His new inventions had to be released onto the market only once many other, supporting technologies had come into existence. A device issued too early and without proper refinement would lack some key element of functionality, and a device put out too late would find the market already flooded with a different product, or consumers demanding something better.
It thus became imperative for Kurzweil to have an understanding of the rates and directions of technological development. He has, throughout his adult life, kept close track of advances in the computer and machine industries, and has precisely modeled them. By extrapolating past trends into the future, Kurzweil formed a method of predicting the course of technological development.
After several years of closely tracking these trends, Kurzweil came to a realization that the innovation rate of computer technology was increasing not linearly but rather exponentially. As a computer scientist, Kurzweil also understood that there was no technical reason that this type of performance growth could not continue well into the 21st century.
Kurzweil projects that between now and 2050 technology will become so advanced that medical advances will allow people to radically extend their lifespans while preserving and even improving quality of life as they age. The aging process could at first be slowed, then halted, and then reversed as newer and better medical technologies became available. Kurzweil argues that much of this will be a fruit of advances in medical nanotechnology, which will allow microscopic machines to travel through one’s body and repair all types of damage at the cellular level.