Why We Geeks Should Care
So what does this all mean to the average geek? First of all, it means that the average geek is going to have to get smarter, faster. This has been going on for a while. Most of us in the software-development business have to spend at least 20% of our time learning new technologies and programming paradigms. If we don't, our "thinking" skill becomes obsolete and our value to our enterprise becomes questionable.
Kurzweil asserts that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when we will need to absorb knowledge faster than is "humanly" possible. Just as our need to move or lift outgrew the capabilities of our bodies (the solution was to use animals and then, later, increasingly complex machines to do what we could not do for ourselves), our need to think will grow beyond the capabilities of our brain. We will have to alter our brains to be able to keep up.
The second thing to understand is that the notion of programming will go way beyond writing lines of code to provide instruction sets to a microprocessor on some personal computer, mobile device, or embedded device. In the not-too-distant future (about 10 years out), we will be writing code that runs on a wireless mobile device, running under the "thinking" power of a molecular processor(s).
This device will be about the size of a blood cell. In fact, it might well be an artificial blood cell that can hold 40 times the amount of oxygen of a "naturally" produced blood cell. As Kurzweil puts it, a person who has this type of blood cell could sit at the bottom of a pool for four hours. Such programs would be very valuable to the pearl divers of the Pacific, if they could afford it.
I am not trying to make a jokethis is no laughing matter. Who would have thought that 10 years ago wi-fi tablet computers would be standard equipment for a UPS driver? And who would have thought that 10 years ago you could get a state-of-the-art wireless communication device for free by simply signing a one-year contract for cellular phone service?
According to Kurzweil, the key to successful innovation is not to invent things for the world as it is now, but to invent things for the world as you thoughtfully imagine it to be tomorrow. Given his track record, I believe what he says.
Kurzweil's new book, The Singularity Is Near, is scheduled to be released sometime in 2005. You can read a collection of his writing at http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?m=10.