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June 29 2017

PHD at Cannes | Merge launches with keynote from Ray Kurzweil


PHD Media continued its exploration of the implications of new technologies on future marketing strategies at this year’s Cannes Lions with the launch of its latest publication, ‘Merge – The closing gap between technology and us’.

For the book’s launch on the main stage at the Palais des Festivals, PHD’s worldwide strategy and planning director, Mark Holden introduced, arguably the most recognised futurist, Ray Kurzweil, to present a keynote on how we will all ultimately merge with machines, live longer lives and be a lot smarter – all within the next three decades.

Kurzweil told delegates: “The first time we developed a neocortex for our brains, it gave us creativity and the ability to evolve new behaviours. But this was a one-shot deal. The next time we do it, it won’t be a one-off. We’ll be able to augment our intelligence by linking our neocortex with the cloud. We’ll then be able to invent new forms of creativity, art, language and culture. Humanity and technology will become indistinguishable from one another, both virtually and biologically and we will evolve exponentially.”

Before we reach this fifth stage of Merge (2030-2050) however, Kurzweil predicts that during the next decade, the exponential growth of information technology will allow us to 3D print high-quality clothing, plus construction and manufacturing materials, and allow us to reinvent agriculture and food production.

He says: “Many people conclude this will kill the fashion industry but look at what has happened already with industries that have gone from physical products to digital products such as music, books and film. These are now open-source markets with millions of free products, but people still spend money to read Harry Potter or to watch the latest blockbuster at the cinema. The revenues of these industries have actually gone up, not down – fuelled by the ease with which we can now distribute and promote these products, as well as recommend them via artificial intelligence.”

By 2029, Kurzweil believes that machines will be able to handle human intelligent activities like language at human levels, which will effectively give them consciousness.

He predicts: “From this point onwards, bio-technology will grow in maturity and increase exponentially as an information technology, according the law of accelerated returns, so we’ll be able to overcome most diseases and the ageing process. What we don’t clean-up with bio-technology, we’ll get with nano-robots, inserted into our blood-streams.”

As we develop the ability to extend life however, what impact will this have on our environment? According to Kurzweil, the same technologies that will extend life will also be used to extend resources.

He says: “We’ll also apply this nano-technology to emerging energies. Solar power is on an exponential growth curve along with wind and geothermal. We’re awash with natural energy and the technology to turn it into electricity is expanding exponentially.”

As machines decrease in size until they’re small enough to be inserted into the body and then into the brain, humanity will be given the opportunity to develop the neocortex via a synthetic neocortex that will live in the digital cloud and will be able to grow, uninhabited by the size of our skulls.

Kurzweil concludes: “We’ll be able to create more profound expressions than we’re even able to understand today. We’ll be funnier, smarter, sexier, and better at expressing loving sentiments. I believe it will create a better  world. We’ve eliminated all human jobs several times over since the 1900s so we’ll be fine. With new forms of knowledge created by this evolutionary path, will come new jobs.

“We have a moral imperative to keep going and reap the promise of our technological evolution. I believe we’re only about 10-15 years away from a tipping point in our longevity. But what if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? Well, we’re working on that too with autonomous cars. And if you can hang on in there, we may all get to see the remarkable century ahead.”

‘Merge – The closing gap between technology and us’ is available from Amazon, priced £15.99 with all proceeds going to UNICEF. Foreword by Ray Kurzweil.

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