Ray Kurzweil, keynote speaker at the 30th Emerging Issues Forum, held in Raleigh NC, February 9 & 10, provided a fascinating look into the near future. Perhaps making his talk most interesting is his track record of innovations, inventions, insights, and forecasts. Introduced to the audience as, “Our country’s futurist,” and frequently referred to as the, “Thomas Edison of our time,” Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google and founder of the Singularity University, predicted the overwhelming influence of the Internet in the mid-1980s. In, “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” published in the late 90’s, he made predictions for specific decades, beginning with 2009. Of the 147 predictions for the decade, 127 proved to be entirely, or essentially correct.

Applying his law of accelerating returns (LOAR), Kurzweil makes a number of exciting predictions for amazing advancements in healthcare and technology. A critical milestone in his predictions is his belief that computers will exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from humans by 2029. In 2030 he predicts the advent of rapid advancements in medicine through biogenetics and nanotechnology. Our nanocortex’s will have direct access to cloud based intelligence. Nanorobots smaller than a red blood cell will be injected into the blood stream, programmed to perform medical repairs, such as attacking cancer cells.

The most intriguing prediction is immortality via the ability to, “reprogram our outdated genetic software,” (already in the early stages at Harvard), and the use of 3D printers to reproduce vital organs. Simple organs have already been replicated and transplanted into humans. Complex organs have been reproduced and successfully inserted into animals. In the meantime, Kurzweil seems to be working on an alternative AI based solution: collecting personal data to create an avatar of a real person. (Likely the inspiration for the Black Mirror episode, “Be Right Back.”)

According to Kurzweil, “Health and medicine is now an information technology.” And as with all information technology during in the past 100 years, he predicts that health and medicine will follow with the same exponential growth.