Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil has predicted the singularity in about 30 years. In this Ubiquity interview with Ray, he states his premise:
I make the case that this exponential progression will lead us to an understanding of human intelligence. And by understanding I mean we will have detailed mathematical models and computer simulations of all of the regions of the brain by the mid 2020s. So by the end of the 2020s we'll be able to fully recreate human intelligence. You may wonder: "OK, what's the big deal with that? We already have human intelligence; in fact, we've got six billion human brains running around, so why do we need more?" One of the answers to that question is that it will be a very powerful combination to combine the subtle and supple powers of human pattern recognition with ways in which machines are already superior.While I do not doubt our ability to understand pattern recognition to a very great extent, I believe that his definition of intelligence rests primarily on pattern recognition and not concept formation. It may be possible to simulate concept formation in computers, I'm just not convinced it will be achieved in 20 years. Regardless of the timeline, the ultimate effect may be profound.
Ray goes on to say:
My second point is that nonbiological intelligence, once it achieves human levels, will double in power every year, whereas human intelligence—biological intelligence—is fixed. We have 10 to the 26th power calculations per second in the human species today, and that's not going to change, but ultimately the nonbiological side of our civilization's intelligence will become by the 2030s thousands of times more powerful than human intelligence and by the 2040s billions of times more powerful. And that will be a really profound transformation.The difficulty with this statement is how can intelligence be more powerful. Is it simply faster? Can it remember more? Undoubtedly true. Can it think better? That is a subject we cannot fathom at this point, but sound highly suspect.
My second difficulty is with the assumption that human do not enhance their own cognitive capacities through integration with computing machines. Simple electronic interfaces already exist in Cochlear implants, prosthetics, and BrainGate. In 20 years, we may be able to achieve fantastic integration of computers and brain functionality. Eventually, we may be able to download our memories or learn new skills Matrix style.
There is also the difficulty of moving this intelligence into economically feasible applications. As another futurist Max More points out:
I also see a tendency in many projections to take a purely technical approach and to ignore possible economic, political, cultural, and psychological factors that could dampen the advances and their impact.And to that I agree.