I recently listened to an interview that Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near author) did with the guys at Speculist.com. Their 10 part archived audio series The World Transformed is highly recommended. The interview walked through many of Kurzweil’s views and predictions. This article discusses the implications to Retirement Planning that are implied by the approaching Singularity according to Kurzweil’s forecasts.
Warning: This sounds a little crazy, as did many of the technologies we all use today – 30 years ago (computers, cell phones, internet…).
Human Hardwiring Makes It Hard to Project The Future
The problem is that our intuition is linear. In other words, we forcast the future based on the trends of the past, which appear to us as linear changes. We are often incredulous of these projected changes, but after they happen, the nature of human psychology leads us to rationalize them as having been inevitable and no big deal.
In addition, even scientists who are now working in the scientific fields do not appreciate the radical changes that will emerge as the various specialty fields converge.
The 3 main Singularity themes the Kurzweil talked about were Biotech (Genetics), Nanotech, and Artificial Intelligence (or Robotics) sometimes abbreviated as GNR.
-Advances in biotechnology only recently started to progress exponentially – aided by computer modelling of bio simulators.
-Within 15 – 20 years, we will be able to reprogram our biological software (i.e. dna) to move away from disease and aging.
IMPLICATIONS TO RETIREMENT PLANNING: If you can remain reasonably healthy for 20 years, this technology will be able to halt and reverse the effects of aging. Don’t base your Retirement Plan on a typical age 90 model (as most professionals currently do). Plan on extreme longevity and thus the need for an indefinite retirement income. Orient more time and energy towards health and well-being. This will likely require more financial resources as new medical innovations have initial high costs. Consider buying Critical Illness insurance which pays out a lump sum of money upon the diagnosis of a broad range of illnesses so you have the capital to address these health problems. There will be interesting opportunities for investment in companies involved with the technologies of the Singularity.
– Here we will be able to reprogram matter and energy at the molecular level to create new materials and devices. Like a 3-D desktop printer.
– Nano factories will be able to create anything from inexpensive matter (think StarTrek replicator). This is about 20 years away – and then would be distributed during the 2030’s.
– Solar power which is doubling every 2 years, will be able to provide all of mankind’s energy needs.
IMPLICATIONS TO RETIREMENT PLANNING?: Nanotechnology will provide the long-term solution for energy, pollution and poverty. As the innovations start to be anticipated and introduced, there will be radical creative destruction of many industries (i.e. oil & gas industry) and therefore dramatic effects to the stock markets. The anticipation of the future dramatic economic, and sociological impacts will start to show up within the next 10 years. Then, sometime in the 2030’s, the world of bartering for material goods would be replaced by a world without need. If you can manufacture any material goods and energy, the world goes from a scarcity model to a post-scarcity world of abundance. Money will be irrelevant. If you can survive the disruptive transition, the idea of Retirement becomes just your indefinite life without material need.
Artificial Intelligence AI
– We humans will merge with machines. We are already a human/machine civilization but the advances in tech and AI will put this into our transformed bodies.
– This Kurzweil considers the most important area…essentially capturing human intelligence and especially the heart of human intelligence; pattern recognition.
– Within 20 years, we will have detailed models of the brains capacities. Once the brain has been reversed engineered, then the methods of engineering will multiply the capacity and speed a billion-fold. Such AI will surpass human intelligence within 20 years. The Singularity occurs 2045 – where this becomes inconceivable.
IMPLICATION TO RETIREMENT PLANNING?: The ability to augment human intelligence will replace a life based on survival and scarcity, to one of higher human values. Again, initial enhancements will cost money and will not immediately be globally available. Again, the changes as they happen will create investment opportunities and risks.
This discussion is based on the time-lines as predicted by Kurzweil. Many others think that there will be obstacles along the way that will make these outcomes unlikely. However, regardless on the actual time-lines, the creative destruction of the innovations in GSR will be dramatic. Extended life expectancies and the economic risks and opportunities from converging technologies will shape a new way of Planning for Retirement. At RetirementSingularity.com, I will help you navigate these changes!