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It's a backstage pass to info on jobs and life at 50+. Gen Plus, headed by Janet Wendy Spiegel, is dedicated to baby boomers and the plus generation of age 50 and older. Read up and speak out on issues affecting your future: jobs, income, life and respect.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Hang in there, baby boomers!

Gen Plus guest writer, the award-winning Corinne Copnick, brings a fascinating book to the attention of 50 plussers. Forget about 50 being the new 40. This book turns 50 into the new 20-something! Read on.

Talk about mergers! Ray Kurzweil is an internationally famous inventor who believes that three great revolutions in science –Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics – are in the process of converging. In his latest book, The Singularity is Near (a must-read for those over 50!), he explains how we humans, in the next stage of our evolution, have already begun to transcend our biological selves. During the course of the next few decades -- in which advances will accelerate exponentially at a staggering rate -- the intelligent machines we are now accustomed to use outside us will become the superintelligent machines enhancing us from the inside (we already accept brain imaging, pacemakers, artificial hips, and even artificial hearts as present reality). In other words, human intelligence and machine intelligence will merge to become the Singularity (a word scientists use to express the infinite).

At 59, Ray is so sure that the 21st century will witness at least 200 centuries worth of change, that he is engaged in a heavy personal program of nutrition, exercise, and aggressive supplementation (he takes 250 supplements of vitamins and minerals a day plus weekly nutritional injections into his blood stream, thus bypassing the gastrointestinal tract) so that he will be around to see it happen. He figures that it will be about 20 years (2049) until the new technology begins to kick in. The child is already born, Ray tells us, who can live to be 1000 years if he or she wants to.
The Genetic Revolution
Most people over 50 recall the human potential movement of the 1960s and 1970s with some fondness. Well, we haven’t seen anything yet! According to inventor Ray Kurzweil, because of our current investigation of the human genome – the Genetic Revolution -- we are already in the early stages of a 21st century happening in expanding human potential. As we begin to understand more and more about “the information processes underlying life,” we also gain the capacity to “reprogram our biology.” We’ll come close to completely eliminating disease, and we will radically extend life. We can already have the capability to clone our own skin cells to replace different organs in our bodies.

The Nanotechnology Revolution
At the same time, Ray says, we’re in the midst of a revolution in Nanotechnology. What the heck is nanotechnology? Well, for one thing, nanotechnology is molecular. It can take us beyond our biological limits on an atom by atom basis. We’ll be able not only to redesign and rebuild our bodies but also the world around us. So, as I understand it, we biological specimens will become human beings with far superior molecular capabilties. Forget your Mercedes or Lexus or even owning a house in Southern California as a status symbol. The next question to ask your prospective son-in-law or daughter-in-law will be: “Do you have molecular intelligence yet?”
The Robotic Revolution
And next time you play a computer game, please pay attention to the robots. In Ray’s Singular world, the Robotic Revolution will be the most powerful of all. These new age robots will derive their intelligence from humans but will far surpass us. And somehow, all of this – biology, nanotechnology and robotics -- will blend together at around the same time, most computers (power can be used for good or evil) will be kind to people even though we won’t be as smart, and the human race will be better than ever. You gotta have heart!

As a footnote, you don’t have to be a physicist or a mathematician to read The Singularity is Near. If it seems dense at the beginning, please be patient, because Ray Kurzweil is a terrific writer and teacher. He provides lots of examples that help you see the light (by the way, he thinks scientists will change the speed of light in the future), and inserts chatty conversations that further illuminate his thinking. The Singularity is Near is not science fiction; rather, it presents the scientifically-based predictions of a distinguished visionary who has been proven right before. I’ve already instructed my kids that, if, like Ray, I manage to live long enough, I want to be artificially enhanced.

Corinne Copnick, C.M., M.A. is the President of Timesolvers Writing & Editing Services (www.timesolvers.com).

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