Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Global Future 2045: Kurzweil The Acceleration of Technology in the 21st Century 1

Raymond Kurzweil delivers an address to the Moscow International Conference 2045.
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I went to a school named MIT in the Boston area.  It is a leading technology school in the United States.  I went to MIT because it was so advanced in 1965 that it actually had a computer, most schools didn't have one.  Most schools did not have one.  This computer I carry around is actually several billion times more powerful per dollar or per ruble than that computer.  It's a million times cheaper and several thousand times more powerful.  That's typical on information technology.  I'm probably the only person you'll ever meet that has a dual degree from MIT in Computer Science and Creative Writing.  That was very unusual, in fact there were very few people that majored in Creative Writing and Literature at MIT.  Half of the authors we studied were Science Fiction authors from the 19th century but also some modern ones.  

Andrey Markov (1856-1922)
A lot of the mathematicians that we studied in Computer Science were also Russian, like for example Markov in the late 19th century created Markov chains and hidden Markov models.  That is actually the number one method or algorithm used in artificial intelligence today.  I began using them in speech recognition in the early 1980s.  Then we applied them to national language understanding.  There was recently an IBM computer that won the Jeopardy Game, which is a game in English, I don't know if there's a Russian equivalent but it's language game, a popular television show, and the computer was able to defeat the best two human Jeopardy players.  Those models are largely based on Markov models.  

The Neocortex & Kurzweil's New Book
I'm writing a book on the brain now.  I have a theory as to how the neocortex works.  There's basically one module that recognizes a pattern.  That is repeated three hundred million times by my estimate.  There's organized in hierarchies.  At the very bottom, you have little recognizers that recognize the little parts of letter shapes, the little bar across the T and the S shapes.  At the high level you have recognition of things like humor and irony, jealousy.  They're actually the same pattern recognizers, but they exist at different levels of the conceptual hierarchies.  There's very complex wiring we see in the neocortex.  It actually does not come pretty designed.  The neocortex becomes wired pretty much based on what they learn.  So depending on what you actually think about and learn, it's actually creating wiring to generate this elaborate hierarchy of patterns.  It enables us to actually understand information at a hierarchical fashion.

Hidden Markov Model
The world is inherently made up of hierarchies.  We have forests which are made out of trees, trees which are made up of branches and branches are made up of leaves.  There's a natural hierarchy to the world.  The neocortex can understand that.  Only mammals have that. In my book I describe the method the algorithm that's used by these three hundred million pattern recognizers.  There's four million quotations on Google saying how incredibly complex the human brain is.  This book I am writing is not adding to this collection of quotations.  I explain a relatively simple approach that is repeated three hundred million times, which is able to self-organize into these elaborate hierarchies.  By the time you get to be our age, and you experience life, the neocortex is complex, but, it actually starts out fairly simple.  This method actually turns out to be hidden Markov models.  [For those interested in a detailed look at Hidden Markov Models, we provide this vimeo link: http://vimeo.com/5326061.]  

So this is an elaborate way of saying I am happy to be here, in Moscow and in Russia, where there is a great tradition in learning both in culture and science and math.  I think that positions Russia very well for the future world.  Because the future world is going to be based on creating new knowledge.  One of the things that children need to enter that world is an appreciation of the knowledge of the past and also an awareness of that knowledge to that we can build future knowledge.

Kurzweil on Education
I was asked yesterday what would I recommend for Russian education.  It is truly the same thing that I recommend everywhere.  All throughout the world certainly in my country the United States, we have an educational system that's still based on the 19th century, which is teaching kids a lot of knowledge and information.  Some of that is useful so that we can appreciate the cultural foundation that we inherited from the past.  We can't create the future without it.  

But we really do carry our knowledge with us.  We can access all of human knowledge with a few keystrokes.  A person with a smartphone has access to more knowledge that the President of the United States or Russia had 15 years ago.  These are very powerful tools.  What we really need to teach children is how to create new knowledge.  The best way to do that is actually doing their own projects.  This is a mission that I have, to bring this kind of entrepreneurial experience.  The spirit of actually learning by doing into the schools.  

I started a university called Singularity University.  I cofounded it with Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation.  It's backed by Google, NASA the American Space Agency provided us a campus, in silicon valley in California.  We have about 60 faculties and 80 students from around the world including Russia.  Half of the curriculum is actually doing projects.  These students self-organize into teams.  They take on some world challenge, hunger availability of water, applying three dimensional printing to print out new housing and actually invent technologies of the future.  Those project may very well work out and change the world.    Even if they don't, it's the best way to learn.  What I remember from my youth and from my education is really from my own projects.  I've been doing project since age 5.  It's really the best way to learn.  We should bring that spirit of learning by doing into high schools, junior high schools, elementary schools.  I think we have an outstanding foundation in Russia.  [We include a short video introducing the Singularity University.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/9-aQKRw6XF4.]


An Intertwined World Economy
But I will say that it's really one world now.  I happen to be traveling around the world in October of 2008, when the financial crisis started the world wide recession.  Literally within one week, every industry in every country that I was invited in a conference that month, was suddenly affected.  So it's not just a poetic sentiment that we're all connected, it's really is a one world economy and increasingly a one world culture with many traditions feeding into it.  A country like Russia or the United States are not island.  People ask me in the United States, how is the United States going to compete with emerging countries like like China.  It's really not a zero sum game.  An engineer in Russia or China, or Africa creates a breakthrough in solar panels that benefits everyone.  It's a one world economy but education particularly learning by doing is the key to the future.

We will continue the more of the Kurzwei's address in part two of this series.

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