Inventor Ray Kurzweil already has changed our world by figuring out how to enable computers to read printed words, recognize human speech and synthesize music that's indistinguishable from that created by musicians playing real violins and cellos. But that's nothing compared to the future he envisions, in which machines will be able to think and feel as humans do ... except better.
In a 2005 essay, "The Singularity is Near," Kurzweil predicted that by 2045, "non-biological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence." From that point on, which futurists call "The Singularity," machines will eclipse the human brain. Not only will machines' escalating computational power and speed eventually enable them to handle information with an ease that humans can only dream of, but scientific advances in understanding how the human brain functions will also enable us to create mathematical models that can simulate human consciousness.
But don't worry about intelligent computers plotting to murder us puny humans, the way cyber-villains HAL 9000 and Skynet did in science fiction movies. A more likely scenario, Kurzweil predicts, is that tiny intelligent "nanobots" will be subtly be integrated into our bodies, enhancing our own abilities. Thus, the human of the future will no longer have to depend solely upon a hunk of wrinkly meat inside his or her skull. Instead, we'll all be part biological creature and part machine [source: Kurzweil].