FEBRUARY 17th 2008
Ray Kurzweil is only 10 years younger than me so we have probably been thinking about Artificial Intelligence for the same length of time assuming he started very young. I see that he has been careful in his use of language. He says "machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence". Yes indeed - it will not be 'human equivalent' intelligence, and certainly not intelligence as humans can exhibit it.

The key funtions of human intelligence are intentionality and anticipation. These can develop in the mature human mind as draws on its key resources: the subconscious mind and the conscious, conversational properties of the brain in its wakeful state. The entire emotional and reasoning sensibility that the collective system exhibits cannot be duplicated by a non-biological system.

A human-level neural network can never be verifiably constructed and given access to sufficient data to replace a human intelligence, as to do so would take so long that any situation it would be required to pronounce on would have passed. On the other hand a non-biological network and processing system could perform and react far quicker and more reliably that a human precisely because of its limitations. Even if, on a philosophical level, it is claimed that all anticipation is in fact reaction, and that computers react faster and more reliably, a human being or a collection of humans whose roles and interoperational capabilities are the result of billions of years of biological evolution are using intelligence of a different order.

One role that artificial intelligence will no doubt be called upon will be to justify political and economic decisions when there is no logical way humans can discriminate between 2 or more choices. At the moment, if we use democratic mechanisms, we lobby for support and votes. It might be useful if in additon to that we could sometimes submit proposed solutions to systems that have no political history as part of the exposition that is put before the democratic process. But in the end, humans will decide on human destiny.

When it comes to embedding nanotechnology in human brains to improve intelligence I am not sure Mr Kurzweil has accurately assessed human needs, and therefore may not be anticipating the required solution. I think there will be much better ways to improve human health.

One thing is certain, the writer of the story below has once again got the headline completely and utterly wrong, just as the BBC did last week on the subject of the genetic determination of obesity. They just never, never learn. Machines can just about 'match' a man at chess, but that is not a question of intelligence at all in the sense I am talking about. A chess-playing computer uses human programmed intelligence and machine processing and memory, and even then it is pushed. How much more help does it need?

Kurtzweil is an open minded chap. You can look him up at

Machines 'to match man by 2029'
By Helen Briggs
Science reporter, BBC News, Boston

Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted.

Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people's brains to make them more intelligent, said Ray Kurzweil.

The engineer believes machines and humans will eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health.

"It's really part of our civilisation," Mr Kurzweil explained.

"But that's not going to be an alien invasion of intelligent machines to displace us."

Machines were already doing hundreds of things humans used to do, at human levels of intelligence or better, in many different areas, he said.

Man versus machine

"I've made the case that we will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence with the broad suppleness of human intelligence including our emotional intelligence by 2029," he said.

We'll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains... to make us smarter
Ray Kurzweil

"We're already a human machine civilisation; we use our technology to expand our physical and mental horizons and this will be a further extension of that."

Humans and machines would eventually merge, by means of devices embedded in people's bodies to keep them healthy and improve their intelligence, predicted Mr Kurzweil.

"We'll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains through the capillaries and interact directly with our biological neurons," he told BBC News.

Make solar energy affordable
Provide energy from fusion
Develop carbon sequestration
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Reverse engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Secure cyberspace
Enhance virtual reality
Improve urban infrastructure
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Advance personalised learning
Explore natural frontiers

The nanobots, he said, would "make us smarter, remember things better and automatically go into full emergent virtual reality environments through the nervous system".

Mr Kurzweil is one of 18 influential thinkers chosen to identify the great technological challenges facing humanity in the 21st century by the US National Academy of Engineering.

The experts include Google founder Larry Page and genome pioneer Dr Craig Venter.

The 14 challenges were announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, which concludes on Monday.