Fabulist Ray Kurzweil Tackles Transportation Problem with Nanobots



The new issue of GOOD magazine is a timely one, dedicated entirely to transportation. It includes an interactive, before and after graphic showing exactly how urban planners would go about making a forbidding city street walkable, and a primer on the best cities for bikes in the U.S. But the most contrarian piece is an interview with futurist Ray Kurzweil, who argues in his inimitably kooky way that the future of transportation is that we won’t need transportation at all:

G: So we’ll have realistic virtual reality and the
ability to print three-dimensional products at home. Will travel be
altogether obsolete in the future? What’s the time line for this

RK: During the teen years of this century we will use high-resolution image beamers in our glasses to beam images directly to our retinas to create full-immersion visual virtual-reality environments, and use comparable devices for the audio component. Since most business interactions are visual and auditory, this will meet most business needs for meetings.

By the late 2020s, nanobots in our brain (that will get there noninvasively, through the capillaries) will create full-immersion virtual-reality environments from within the nervous system. So if you want to go into virtual reality the nanobots shut down the signals coming from your real senses and replace them with the signals that your brain would be receiving if you were actually in the virtual environment. So this will provide full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses. You will have a body in these virtual-reality environments that you can control just like your real body, but it does not need to be the same body that you have in real reality. We’ll be able to interact with people in any way in these virtual-reality environments. That will replace most travel, but we’ll also have new travel technologies for our real bodies using nanotechnology.

Well then! You can never fault Kurzweil for lacking ideas. Read the rest of the interview here

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.