’Til the Heat Death of the Universe

Thoughts on The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

Sofia Sanchez
15 min readFeb 3, 2021

“Playing God” is actually the highest expression of human nature. The urges to improve ourselves, to master our environment and to set our children on the best path possible have been the fundamental driving forces of all human history. Without these urges to “play God”, the world as we know it wouldn’t exist today. — Ramez Naam

The Singularity is Near

It’s become of my favorite words ever. How beautiful is it to think that our universe could’ve arisen from something called a singularity, and we are now heading towards a technological singularity, in which the basic meaning of being human could drastically change forever?

Mathematicians sometimes define the singularity as the value that transcends any finite limitations, physicists describe it as the center of a black hole, and now Ray Kurzweil used it to describe the historical phenomenon that we will be living in the year 2045.


Just to get ya’ll a excited, here are some predictions that Ray mentions in his book. It’s important to say that these are not just random, imaginary inventions that he came up with. He actually has a model to predict what we could be seeing in the years to come and why, based on the current change and the exponential growth of technology.

  • We will have effective software models of human intelligence by the mid-2020s
  • Moore’s Law is not the end. Before the year 2020, other technologies will be under development, like 3D molecular computing
  • By the end of this decade, computers will disappear as individual pieces of hardware. They will merge with our eyeglasses, clothing, and more
  • After the singularity, there will be no distinction between human and machine, or between physical and virtual reality

What futurists get wrong

You probably haven’t heard of a lot of people confidently say that humans will become biologically immortal before the end of the century, or that we will be able to upload our brains to some sort of computer before the year 2050.

Most scientists, and even technologists, are quite conservative in their predictions, but are they too conservative?

So far, we have experienced a rate of progress in which the present looks pretty much like the past, which looked pretty much like the past again, and so even though we know there will be progress, we assume that the future won’t be surprising.

In other words, we are making predictions about the future using a linear model, in which change is constant. Have you ever heard the phrase “The only constant is change?”. That’s true. But what if change could also change?


According to Ray, in order to better make predictions in the XXI century, we should take into account an exponential graph, otherwise, we will be overestimating where we can get in the short-term, and underestimating for the long-term.

The singularity as a concept, also encompasses the idea that the pace at which progress is being made, is accelerating itself. Acceleration is itself accelerating, which will lead us to a drastic change that few can imagine.

At today’s pace, we will experience 100 years of progress in 25 years of calendar days

The reason why this could truly be the best time in history to be alive, is because we are just starting to see the knee of the curve. That phase in which we are transitioning from unnoticeable growth, to explosive innovation.

Another common error — maybe not so common as confusing linear versus exponential growth — is ignoring the fact that innovation arises from the intersection of different technologies.

In Ray’s words, many people are concerned about overpopulation due to longevity technologies, but they don’t know that nanotechnology could create cheaper resources for us, or that we could be living in other planets.

The history of tomorrow

From the very beginning of the book, I was completely mind-blown when the author described the history of the universe and life in a completely different way that I’d never thought about before: the 6 epochs.

In a dataistic fashion, Kurzweil describes how the universe has been waking up, saturating matter with intelligence.

Epoch one is about chemistry and physics. The phase in which information was represented with patterns of matter and energy.

Image credits to Ray Kurzweil

Epoch two involves more complex entities: life! The self-reproduction of organisms made out of a lot of carbon.

Next we have epoch three, which I see as the beginning of intelligence. Evolution produced organisms that could sense, capture, and store information in their own brains and nervous systems.

Epoch four is more recent: using our brains and thumbs to create technology. Kinda see where this is going?

Epoch Five involves a fusion between ourselves and the technology we’ve created. This is where the singularity begins. We will overcome our limitations by using the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of technology.

The sixth epoch happens in the aftermath of the singularity. It’s when intelligence will begin to saturate matter to spread out from its origin on Earth. It must be a beautiful thing to see!

Fighting entropy

Being honest, The Singularity is Near can get a little challenging to read if you aren’t completely curious about different technologies. Ray can get a little technical while explaining what the future holds.

For some people, this will be precisely their favorite thing about the book. Since I’m not an expert in most of these topics, I will encourage you to google those concepts that sound interesting.

The lifecycle of a technology

Okay, this is still part of making predictions about the future, but seeing things more from a technical and even a business perspective. The author shares with us what are the most important phases in the life of any innovation.

  1. The basics: the technology already exists, but only dreamers can envision its applications for the future
  2. Invention: suprisingly for me, this is a very brief stage
  3. Development: the technology is being protected by those who created it, sometimes by creating other technologies that are more important than the initial invention itself
  4. Adoption: the technology now has a life of its own and has been established in the community
  5. Reflection: people start thinking about the aspects that the technology is lacking
  6. Decline: starts the senior years since a more superior one has arrived to replace it
  7. Antiquity: the technology becomes obsolete

3D computation

We are apparently heading towards a future with a completely disruptive type of computing, that will include nanotubes and nano circuits that self-assemble, biological systems that emulate electronics, computing with DNA, spintronics (computing with the spin of electrons), computing with light, and quantum computing.

According to Ray, nanotubes are the most promising shift, because although the idea of creating self-assembling and self-organizing parts comes from biology, this doesn’t mean that biological computing will be better than nanocomputing.


A recent and amazing breakthrough is molecular photography. Scientists at the university of Oklahoma stored more than 1000 bits of information in a single liquid crystal molecule comprising 19 hydrogen atoms.

Another important trend will be changing from traditional batteries to fuel cells: devices that store energy in chemicals like hydrogen which is combined with the available oxygen

Now, I promise that this won’t get too philosophical. I have a question for you: how smart can a rock be?
This idea was truly amazing to think about for the first time: if we organize the particles in a rock in a purposeful manner, we could have a zero-energy consuming computer, with a memory of about a thousand trillion trillion bits and a processing capacity of about ten trillion times more powerful than all the human brains on earth 🤯.

But what if… electrons weren’t the end? Picotechnology would be measured in trillions of a meter, and would mean working with subatomic particles with greater speed and density


If you agree with me, an undeniable advantage that computers have over our brains is that they can share information between them quite easily.
Some other ways in which the human brain differs from a computer are that brain circuits are very slow, but they’re very parallel as well, most of the details in the brain are random, and intelligence emerges from the chaos.

In terms of breakthroughs, some methods have been developed to non-invasibly fire the neurons in the human brain. These include nanobots that could be the size of a blood cell, or smaller.


One key learning from the book is that if we want to keep up with AI, we will have to merge ourselves with it. Remember that the sixth epoch is about merging with technology?
The beginnings of this are called Brain Computer Interfaces (or BCIs).

Another important lesson to keep in mind is that we still need to learn a lot about the brain: our brains need to learn much more about themselves!
Understanding the brain will help us create better computers.

The increasing pace in the velocity at which we reverse engineer the brain lets us see that there are no limits in understanding ourselves and in understanding anything else for that matter

As of uploading our consciousness, or our minds to the cloud… one important question to answer is how quickly we can and we should scan the nervous system. Even if we used one nanobot per neuron, it wouldn’t be instantenous. Therefore, we could argue that the “real” mind is now different to the mind that was uploaded. Is it still the same person?

In this sense the most important question to answer is if the uploaded mind is really you. Even if that sequence of 1s and 0s can pass a Turing test and behave like you, one could still reasonably ask if it’s the same person or a new person.

The 3 revolutions

This is probably what you’ve been waiting for: how will the future actually look like? So far in the article, I’ve discussed about the evolution of technology, what the singularity means and how to better predict the future.

Now it’s time to know which specific fields of knowledge we should be looking at. I like the simplicity with which Ray explains this. There are 3 main technological revolutions that will take place, only in the first half of the 21st century: Genomics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics (GNR).

What is most interesting, is the relevance that each of these will have. Kurzweil says that each will represent a paradigm shift, such that one will solve the problems that the other revolution created.
With this, we can infer — if we weren’t already considering it — that technologies are tools, and they can be used for good or for bad, regardless of our initial intentions.


This said, the first revolution (which is already taking place) is the Genomics revolution. Curing diseases, fighting aging, and unveiling the secrets of life are only some examples of what leaders in the field are working on with tools such as synthetic biology, gene editing, and genetic sequencing.

Just as important, there are some challenges of this revolution that we’ve already become quite aware of. The best example of this is the pandemic that is taking place as I’m writing this article.
Others however, have somewhat been overlooked by the general public (while not by experts in the field) like inequalities caused by genetic enhancement.

Having 3D simulations of atomic and molecular interactions will accelerate our ability to understand how DNA impacts our bodies, and give us the power to design more precise drugs with little side-effects.

Perhaps the most revolutionary accomplishment for biotechnology will be defeating death. As Ray describes it, “the aggressive use of all the knowledge we have, to dramatically slow down aging”.
Being coherent with what he said, Ray’s chronological age while writing the book was of 56 years, his biological age was 40 years old. He takes 250 supplement pills per day and receives 6 intra-venous therapies each week!

According to Aubrey de Grey (a leader in the field of longevity), we already have all the necessary knowledge to develop engineered negligible senescence, it mainly just needs to be pieced together.

Image credits to Ray Kurzweil

Heading towards the second revolution, one hybrid scenario would be the fusion of biotech with nanotech: turning cells into computers that can detect cancer and pathogens better, or even regrow human body parts!


Which technology did you learn about first? For me, it was biotech, and maybe… just maybe, it was also like that for many people. In fact, G and N can be considered as overlapping revolutions, but nanotech lags behind biotech by about one decade.

The N revolution will allow us to re-design and re-build molecule per molecule. Most of the elements that we know in biology can be seen at the microscopic level. Nanotech brings this one step further, as its name suggests.
Our bodies and brains, as well as the world with which we interact are going to be brought far beyond the limitations of biology. Matter will somehow, acquire life with self-replicating nanobots, that will also bring their own concerns.

We can pay special attention to the following innovations: electronics and mechanical technologies going nano, carbon nanotubes, nanorobotics, nanomedicine, quantum dots, molecule printing, nanomaterials.

Talking about nanomaterials, the cost of the raw materials to build nanotechnology will decrease exponentially. Therefore, it will only be the information contained in them, the software, that will be very valuable.

An exciting application is that of nanoparticles that deliver therapeutics to specific target sites in the body. Nanopills would be small enough to enter the cell membrane and target specific structures within the cell.

Ray estimates that by the 2020s, molecular assembly will provide tools to effectively combat poverty, clean up our environment, overcome disease, extend human longevity, and many other worthwhile pursuits.

Quantum dots can be programmed with specific codes combining multiple colors, similar to a color barcode to track substances throughout the body


Just as biotech brings the risk of pandemics, nanotechlogy brings the threat of non-biological, self-replicating entities.
If we think about it, life doesn’t use centralized data storage; it gives the code to every cell. Local data storage, in contrast, would probably be our best bet to make sure that nanotech doesn’t get out of control.

Other fields that will be greatly impacted by nanotechnology will be the creation of solar energy and designed molecules. In a nutshell:

Whatever biotechnology can’t accomplish, we will be able to do with nanotechnology

To sum up, one huge, pressing question that I had while learning about nanotech was: why is it better than biotech?
“Okay. I get that everything is at the nano scale and that this is a plus. But seriously, why would a nanobot be better than a living medicine?”

Like many other questions, Ray answered it in a concise and great way:
1. Nanobots will be thousands of times more stable and precise than blood cells or bacteria
2. Unlike your biological immune system, if you don’t like what the nanobots are doing, you can just tell them
3. In nanotech, we can have much stronger materials than biological ones

Artificial Intelligence

I kind of disagree with R being the third revolution. Ray says that intelligence needs some sort of embodiment, which would be the case of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. I don’t think that this always needs to be the case. Still…

R represents the most profound transformation, since intelligence is the most powerful asset in the universe

It’s important to keep in mind that the R revolution is about the creation of non-biological intelligence that exceeds that of unenhanced humans, hence the importance of the 2 previous revolutions.

I honestly didn’t find as much about this technology that hasn’t already been mentioned by other experts, even though I want to make clear that in this book you will be able to find information at a much deeper level.
Some innovations mentioned are:

Genetic Algorithms. The way I understand it, is that they combine information almost in a random fashion, such that only the best information prevails and the next generation is better. The key to these algorithms is that humans don’t design them. We just let them iterate in an environment of competition and improvement.

Something that I found interesting is that the author talks about projects and companies that he’s working on himself. An example of this is Kurzweil technologies. A project that that was under development while Ray was writing the book was a non-invasive analysis of ECG (electro cardiogram) recordings through sensors in clothing and AI to get early warnings of possible heart diseases.


Among other examples, the one that really caught my attention as a biotech super-enthusiast, was an “AI scientist” created by human scientists at the University of Whales.
It’s a system that automatically creates hypothesis based on observations, then does experiments with robotics, interprets them and learns from those results with AI, and finally it repeats the process.
Even more mind-blowing is the fact that using that system was 3 times less expensive than doing experiemtns with human scientists.

We can protect ourselves against these nanotech infections, with fully developed R, but what will protect us from pathological intelligence that exceeds our own?

Soy un Singularitariano

There’s a chapter in the book called “Ich bin ein Singularitarian” (in German) or “I am a Singularitarian”, in which one can learn about the most important believes that come with this era of profound transformation.
I’d like to wrap up this article by mentioning my interpretation of the “creeds” that a person living during the Singularity “should” have:

1. My body is temporary. Its particles turn over almost completely every month. Only the pattern of my body and brain have continuity

2. Only technology can help us defeat the world’s biggest problems

3. Knowledge is precious in all its forms. Any loss of this knowledge is tragic

4. Death is also tragic, since it is depressing to think of a person as only pattern that is lost when they die

5. Even small delays in implemeneting emerging technologies can condemn millions of people to continued suffering and death

6. We won’t need religions that are centered around death during the Singularity. The explosion of art, science, and other forms of knoweldge will make life more than bearable: they will make life truly meaningful

7. Not all information is knowledge, but all knowledge is information

8. The purpose of the universe reflects the same purpose as our lives: to move toward greater intelligence and knowledge

Once we saturate the matter and energy in the universe with intelligence, it will “wake up”, be conscious and sublimely intelligent. That’s about as close to God as I can imagine

Go read it!

Seriously, this article isn’t even close to the depth and breadth of knowledge that The Singularity is Near contains.

Towards the end of the book, Ray talks more about the most important questions around consciousness, extraterrestrial life, why the constants of our universe are so finely tuned, existential risks, and more.

As a reflection, I agree with him when he says that the kinds of existential questions that Plato once had, will very soon be faced as practical questions to create new laws, and live in a post-human society.

What’s more, all of these topics are always seen from a scientific, mathematical and logical point of view. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have truly been enlightened (with knowledge) by reading this book.

This said, I also think that it should be a one of those readings that are compulsory at school. You know, Shakespeare is great, but soon now it’s not only humans that write beautifully, and we need to be prepared.

It’s incredible to think that Ray already had profound knowledge about these topics more than 15 years from now, while I’m just starting to learn about them. Of course, taking into account that I was born 16 years ago ;)

Thank you for writing about The Singularity is Near, Ray! I really mean it. This book has opened my mind, and sparked my curiosity even more.
See ya’ in year 2045!

Quick notes: if you liked this article, share it so Ray can see this message!🧠
Also, did you know I was so inspired by this book that I created a podcast called 🎙️2045? Go check it out here (;

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Hey! I’m S🧠FIA, an ambitious teenager building innovative projects in 🧬Synthetic Biology and Artificial Intelligence.
Just for growth, I also innovate at TKS🦄, create content, play the piano, read a lot, and 🌎 connect with new people every week (hit me up!).