Kurzweil: Biotech Will Drive Software Security

Software security will be even more important as humans become more of a hybrid of non-biological and biological technology and intelligence, said Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author and futurist, in a keynote speech Wednesday at the RSA 2007 conference in San Francisco.

This convergence is already happening with neural implants designed for Parkison's Disease sufferers that are capable of downloaded software updates. "As devices shrink and get more powerful, software security is going to be more important," he said.

Computational power in the 21st century will have more than enough power to simulate all functions of the human brain, and reverse engineering these processes into software will be a key challenge for the developers of the future. Already, 20 of the hundreds of known regions of the brain have been simulated in this fashion, Kurweil said.

"Reverse engineering in the brain is the ultimate source of the templates of intelligence," he said.

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Although the complexity of the human brain may seem insurmountable, Kurweil said the basic design is relatively simple. For example, although it's incredibly complex intrinsically, the cerebellum has just a few genes that control it, which puts it within the realm of reverse engineering.

"The point is not that the brain is simple, but that it is something that can be modeled in terms of complexity," Kurzweil said.

In the IT industry, when one paradigm reaches its limit, it creates research pressure for the next, said Kurzweil, citing the example of Moore's Law. Intel now expects processing power growth to continue until 2022, at which time key features on chips will be about 4 nanometers in size, he said.

However, processing power will then continue to grow through a new paradigm -- 3D molecular computing -- which is currently in its infancy, according to Kurzweil.

"Information technologies right now double their power every year; actually, that is now down to 11 months," Kurzweil said.

The fact that IT is part of the biotechnology revolution means that biotech is subject to the law of accelerating returns, which will drive the field to become thousands of times more powerful than it is today, Kurzweil said.

Miniaturization is one of the current driving forces in biotechnology. MIT scientists have reversed engineered the human red blood cell to create respirocytes, or robotic red blood cells, which can be injected into the body to increase the performance of cells and allow more oxygen to reach tissues, Kurzweil said.