The Six Epochs of Technology Evolution
Evolution works through indirection: It creates a capability and then uses that capability to evolve to the next stage.
Jason Silva maps out Ray Kurzweil’s Six Epochs of Evolution showing the exponential progression in the way the universe stores and processes information.
Epoch 1. Physics and Chemistry
At the beginning of the universe, all information existed at the subatomic level.
Epoch 2. Biology and DNA
With the beginning of life on Earth, genetic information was stored in DNA molecules, and yet organisms take thousands of years to evolve.
Epoch 3. Brains
Evolution produced increasingly complex organisms. The birth of the brain allowed organisms to change their behavior and learn from past experiences.
Epoch 4. Technology
Humans evolved into organisms with the ability to create technology. We are right now in the final stages of this epoch.
Epoch 5. The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence
Biology and technology will begin to merge in order to create higher forms of life and intelligence.
Epoch 6. The Universe Wakes Up
This epoch will see the birth of super-intelligence, and with it, humans/machines expanding into the Universe.
Predictions made by Ray Kurzweil by 2019
Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.).
People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures instead of with keyboards. Furthermore, most of this interaction occurs through computerized assistants with different personalities that the user can select or customize. Dealing with computers thus becomes more and more like dealing with a human being.
Most people own more than one PC, though the concept of what a “computer” is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes.
Kurzweil feels intelligence is the strongest force in the universe, because intelligence can cause sweeping physical changes like defending a planet from an asteroid. Kurzweil predicts that as the “computational density” of the universe increases, intelligence will rival even “big celestial forces”. There is disagreement about whether the universe will end in a big crunch or a long slow expansion, Kurzweil says the answer is still up in the air because intelligence will ultimately make the decision. Kurzweil says a universe infused with intelligence may be able to decide its own fate, perhaps avoiding the “big crunch”.
“Kurzweil says evolutionary progress looks smooth, but that really it is divided into paradigms, specific methods of solving problems. Each paradigm starts with slow growth, builds to rapid growth, and then levels off. As one paradigm levels off, pressure builds to find or develop a new paradigm. So what looks like a single smooth curve is really series of smaller S curves. For example Kurzweil notes that when vacuum tubes stopped getting faster and cheaper, transistors became popular and continued the overall exponential growth.
Kurzweil calls this exponential growth the law of accelerating returns, and he believes it applies to many human-created technologies such as computer memory, transistors, microprocessors, DNA sequencing, magnetic storage, the number of internet hosts, internet data traffic, decrease in device size, and nanotech citations and patents. Kurzweil cites two historical examples of exponential growth: the Human Genome Project and the growth of the internet. Kurzweil claims the whole world economy is in fact growing exponentially, although short term booms and busts tend to hide this trend.”
“Evolution applies positive feedback in that the more capable methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary progress are used to create the next stage. Each epoch of evolution has progressed more rapidly by building on the products of the previous stage.
Evolution works through indirection: evolution created humans, humans created technology, humans are now working with increasingly advanced technology to create new generations of technology. As a result, the rate of progress of an evolutionary process increases exponentially over time.
Over time, the “order” of the information embedded in the evolutionary process (i.e., the measure of how well the information fits a purpose, which in evolution is survival) increases.”
“Evolution works through indirection. First we build the tools, then they build us.”