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CNN Live Event/Special
Welcome to the Future
Aired March 25, 2006 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush is calling for calmer heads as the emotional debate rages. He's pushing a guest worker plan that allows immigrants to stay in the U.S. for a limited time.
Just a few hours from now, the Tennessee's preacher's wife accused of killing her husband is expected to be back in the couple's hometown. Police say Mary Winkler has confessed to shooting her husband Matthew in the church parsonage Wednesday before fleeing to Alabama with the couple's three daughters. Authorities in Selmore, Tennessee say they know the motive for the killing but they haven't disclosed it yet.
Country music singer Buck Owens died today at his home in California, Owens helped shape the country music sound with songs like "Act Naturally" he also starred in the long running TV show "Hee-Haw." Owen's was 76.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta, more news at the bottom of the hour. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm really hopeful about the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel I have a lot more control over my future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think technology will affect life, as we know it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you read George Orwell's "1984?"
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't mind the robot that made coffee in the morning and bring it to my bed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The future is tantalizing with possibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we had radical life extension without radical life expansion, I think we'd get bored. That's why we need to put the computers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also in the future when we go through airport security, will we have to take the computer out of our head and put it through the scanner?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: One word to describe the future?
RAYMOND KURZWEIL, INVENTOR: Limitless.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Ambiguous. DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, CULTURAL CRITIC/AUTHOR: Later.
MYRKA DELLANOS, JOURNALIST, UNIVISION TV NETWORK: Scary.
MARGARET CHO, COMEDIAN/ACTIVIST: Very big. That's two words.
GREENFIELD: Not right now, thanks.
KURZWEIL: Good and both, real and virtual reality.
DELLANOS: Just the normal and natural way, not with the aid of computer chip.
O'BRIEN: More terrorism or less?
CHO: I think a different kind of terrorism.
KURZWEIL: Rationally more.
RUSHKOFF: Less terrorism but perhaps more terror.
O'BRIEN: "American Idol."
KURZWEIL: In 50 years, this is how we're picking our president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inevitable.
CHO: I'm all for it.
DELLANOS: Don't agree with it.
KURZWEIL: The idea of human cloning is still a bridge too far for me.
GREENFIELD: Our biggest problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fantasy.
O'BRIEN: Gay marriage.
KURZWEIL: As good as heterosexual marriage.
DELLANOS: Don't think it will happen across the board, in the U.S.
CHO: Hopefully, part of the future.
GREENFIELD: No big whoop. RUSHKOFF: I'm still digesting the no big whoop. Yeah, damn straight!
O'BRIEN: How long will we live?
KURZWEIL: We'll get to the point where we can really stop the aging process. I mean we are actually --
DELLANOS: So we'll never die?
KURZWEIL: We will never age. We'll have an option --
CHO: We'll die but look really good when we die.
RUSHKOFF: There's been a life extension movement since the 1960s and it does -- it does seem plausible that, as we gain control over the aging process, as we learn what it is, what are the codes in DNA that tell your body now it's time to start getting old, if we can reverse that without giving ourselves cancer and everything else, we can live several hundred years until we get run over.
KURZWEIL: There are about 12 different aging processes we can identify. Behind each one there's a whole research strategy to slow down, stop and ultimately reverse those processes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reverse?
CHO: Will we live so long that we're bored?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
CHO: And then we'll need the orgasmotron.
KURZWEIL: Yes, we will. If we had radical life extension without radical life expansion, I think we'll get bored. But we're going -- that's why we need computers in our brains to expand our horizons.
DELLANOS: Oh, my goodness.
KURZWEIL: So that we will not get bored.
RUSHKOFF: After a few hundred years like this, then maybe it will take an implant. Right?
DELLANOS: I'm going to be dead by then. I'm going to be gone by then.
O'BRIEN: Out of sheer boredom.
GREENFIELD: I don't have time to watch everything I've got on DVR. So I think I need a much longer life just -- I'm three years behind on "24." You know, I need -- I need a decade just for that.
RUSHKOFF: I don't know about forever, but a couple hundred years would certainly be more interesting. KURZWEIL: The thing is we'll get to the point where each year we add more than a year of remaining life expectancy. So at least our expectant life will move away from us as we get older.
O'BRIEN: That's happening now?
KURZWEIL: No. In 10, 15 years I believe we will reach that point of where remaining life expectancy will be more each year.
O'BRIEN: For people 30 and younger. Did you feel somewhat misfortunate that you're alive at this time and not at a time when that would occur?
KURZWEIL: I think I was born just in time but actually think my baby boomer peers have to be very aggressive in using today's knowledge to slow down the aging process.
O'BRIEN: But if you could live forever, would you?
KURZWEIL: Yes. That's what I'm working on.
CHO: Parents don't make the best choices because look at all the kids running around today with really bad hippie names like Sunshine and Lava and Aragorn. I mean that's really embarrassing.
DELLANOS: My doctor actually told me that this thing with the older egg is not really true. It's a fallacy. He said that's not true. It depends on -- there are women that are 40 and look like they're 25, and it depend on your physical condition.
CHO: But if you believe of it, it's true.
O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at what's in the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MILLER: My name is Andrea Miller. I'm 34 and the founder and president of Tango Media. I have a great career but, nevertheless, I really feel that ticking clock. Right now, I probably average about 16-hour days. Like any entrepreneur will tell you, you live it and breathe it. Years go by and that's essentially all you do. When I thought about being a mom it was one of these things that you just feel like, of course I'm going to be. But I'm one of these people who frankly like a lot of women haven't planned. Suddenly you're 34 trying to have a child and the doctor are saying, hey, guess what, I think our life-style time line has gotten out of sync with our fertility time line. My wish for the future would be for science to advance to the point where women had many more options and more control of their fertility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Andrea represents an entire generation of working women who want to further their careers and yet some day still have kids. How close are we to the day when they can have it all?
This man believes he has the answer. Dr. Alan Copperman is a fertility specialist at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center. Every day he sees patients just like Andrea whose careers may be rising but whose prospects for pregnancy are falling fast.
DR ALAN COPPERMAN, FERTILITY SPECIALIST, NEW YORK'S MOUNT SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: Most of that is really related to a decline in egg quality with aging. When you're 21, 90 percent of the eggs are chromosonally normal. When you're 41, 90 percent of the eggs are chromosonally abnormal.
O'BRIEN: For a woman who wants to postpone pregnancy, in vitro fertilization is an option. And thousands of babies have been conceived from frozen embryos. But what if you don't have a partner and want to wait until you do to conceive? Dr. Copperman says this is the future, freezing a woman's actual eggs.
COPPERMAN: We can thaw them out, fertilizing them by taking a single sperm and putting them right through this egg that has been frozen and thawed and then implanting them.
O'BRIEN: But does it work? Worldwide, fewer than 200 babies have been born from frozen eggs, though several recent clinical trials suggest the success rate is growing. And it's not cheap. The procedure today costs $10,000 and up. But in the future --
COPPERMAN: The hope is that the cost is going to come down to make this more affordable and that the success rate is going to get better and better. Ten years from now it's my hope that I can sit there with a patient like Andrea or anybody else and say that it's safe and effective.
O'BRIEN: Do you have a problem with that?
DELLANOS: I do. I have a problem with that. Because that takes away, also, the ability for you to actually think about what you're going to do with your life put your priorities in order and decide one way or another. I have a friend who at 35 is just now going through breast cancer treatment. And she had her eggs frozen because maybe she was not going to be fertile later. So that, I think, is wonderful for her. And that, I think, is a good avenue for her.
There's different situations. I mean, I don't think you can -- there are no absolutes in this. But I think just because you want to be able to have a child when you're 60 or 50 or whatever because you want to work through -- I mean, I don't think -- it's not for me to judge that. But I wouldn't do it for myself.
But there are people that have children in their 40s -- my doctor just told me he delivered a baby without having any sort of treatment for a woman who was 48. So it can happen.
RUSHKOFF: It can happen --
CHO: It's a miracle situation, I think. RUSHKOFF: No, it's not a miracle situation. My wife and I, we met late. We met at 42. We went to the doctors to find out about all our, you know fertility stuff and we were going to do -- we went into one of the programs of accelerated fertility. And the night before I was supposed to go and do my part, I got food poisoning. And I was going to go in anyway. My wife said, look, this is just insane; this is crazy what we're going through in order to pass on our genes. At that point we decided we would adopt.
Right? This is because my wife had been told now basically her eggs are too old and it's not going to work. And of course a couple of months into the adoption process, she gets pregnant. We call the doctor. He's kind of --
RUSHKOFF: Perplexed but nonplussed and nonchalant. We talk to our O.B. about it. And all over -- there's tons and tons of women getting pregnant in their 40s when they're relaxed and chilled about it, not looking at the headlines saying, over 32, you're not fertile anymore.
O'BRIEN: So if there's an egg bank and a sperm bank, how far are we away from a human hatchery kind of situation, essentially?
GREENFIELD: I have to say this is one that doesn't create in me any of those kind of science fiction fears because I think in this case what you're doing is actually enhancing options.
KURZWEIL: You're bringing more equality. Women now are really disadvantaged by having to disrupt their careers at a vital point of development to go off and have babies and the fathers don't play an equal role. And this gives them more options to have children at a more opportune moment, maybe when they're more mature.
CHO: We live longer, so we can have children later. It's not like we'll have these shorter lives where we have to cram it all in.
O'BRIEN: What happens if you can engineer this from the outset? And we're talking about the time comes to have a child and you can genetically engineer that child? Really, we're pretty far down this road in many respects.
RUSHKOFF: Are you talking about --
O'BRIEN: If you could engineer your child to be --
RUSHKOFF: What you're talking about is the tremendous increase in agency, right? In human ability, so now we can say, OK, we can have some impact on what our child will be like. Like today we do amino to see if they have this or that and some parents will decide if they have that, we're going to terminate the pregnancy.
We're talking about a future where parents can then choose eye color or musicianship or whatever it might be. The one good thing about that agency is, I think it's going to for prospective parents to look at why are we actually doing this? In other words, are we doing this out of some extension for our ego to get some kid that we're going to be proud of because we want to go to piano recitals or are we doing this because we want to care for another human being?
CHO: Also, I don't think parents make the best choices because look at all the kids running around with really bad hippie names like Sunshine and Lava and Aragorn. I mean that's really embarrassing. So you know, what if you make these choices for your kids and they're not the best one because they're guided by cultural norms and trends?
O'BRIEN: You could actually shoot yourself in the foot or shoot your kid in the foot.
GREENFIELD: Look at what happens in this city where 2-year-olds are getting ready for preschool. And this is where -- you're laying it out very well, but I'm afraid here I'm not an optimist because the answer to your question is a whole bunch of parents, as it turns out the most affluent and privileged, regard their children as ego extensions of which is why they'll jump off themselves the Brooklyn Bridge if their kid doesn't get in the right pre-preschool because it will ruin that kid's life.
O'BRIEN: So it's part of our consumer culture, is that what this is? To acquire a child?
GREENFIELD: I think all the talk about the future has to be rooted in one never-changing fact, which is human nature, is a very complicated and not always inspiring fact. And there will be plenty of people who, if you have this technological ability, will wire their kid to be the perfect kid. They will wire their kid to get into Harvard before -- two weeks into conception.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we'll see if that kid is happy.
O'BRIEN: So instead of the orgasmotron, we get the sniffer.
O'BRIEN: It bothers me to no end how stupid the system is the way it is right now, how we're flying barefoot and all the things that are done that make no sense. How my 7-year-old daughter, for whatever reason, has found herself getting put in a separate line and frisked down while, you know --
RUSHKOFF: I think we've kind of reached a moment of maximum openness on September 10th. And I don't know if we'll ever get back to that.
KURZWEIL: If you're talking about airline security, we do have technologies that could make that very seamless. They just happen to be very expensive but will ultimately be inexpensive. But by the time they are, it will be new dangers. So it's always a --
DELLANO: So we never reach taking off the shoe, taking off your belt, taking off --
CHO: People have stinky feet.
RUSHKOFF: The first time there's a mail bomb in the mall, we'll realize airplanes aren't the only thing we to keep safe.
GREENFIELD: But you know, you get on with a bottle wine --
RUSHKOFF: And make it into a weapon.
GREENFIELD: You can't carry a tweezers. I guess you can. Five bad guys with five bottles of wine on an airplane smashing them and they now have a pretty lethal device. I'm not sure that can be detected.
O'BRIEN: I think you may have just given them ideas. Let's watch the next piece.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY: There's a tradeoff between being safe and being efficient. What's missing right now is a consistent security system in all airports. The ideal state for me would be an all in one system whether it puffs you, x-rays you, puts you on a conveyor belt but you're moving the whole time because I have nothing to hide. I travel every week. I just want to be as efficient as possible. As for the future of security I'm not sure what direction we're headed. I would like to know, which direction are we heading for my safety?
O'BRIEN: Gary's wish is shared by many, to feel secure when flying but not to waste time on inefficient screening systems. So how close are we to getting the best of both worlds? The future of airport security is this man's mission, chief technology officer for the Transportation Security Administration, Randy Knoll.
RANDY KNOLL, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: Since 9/11, there's a lot more research and development. The explosive trace portals are the newest deployment we've had.
O'BRIEN: As passengers walk through these so-called puffer machines, quick bursts of air dislodge and collect tiny particles from the person and test them for explosive materials, all within eight to ten seconds. Also in the works, a machine that captures images like these. It's an x-ray device with the power of superman. The machine may make security types happy, but many passengers may feel violated.
KNOLL: We need things that will allow us to replace equipment rather than add equipment. We'll actually be doing better things but doing them less intrusively and faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So instead of the orgasmotron, we get the sniffer. It's a testament to where we are right now. I guess in some sense, it's kind of an American notion here that whatever the problem is; we can come up with a silver bullet technological solution.
RUSHKOFF: The problem is when we use technology to solve the tip of the problem without looking at the source of the problem.
O'BRIEN: Is there anything that would tell you in the future that we're going to start looking at things in that broad way? Are we going to keep patching and patching?
RUSHKOFF: I think necessity. I think you hit bottom, one way or another. And we will have to start looking at the broader problem. We, as a nation, are realizing we're connected to the rest of the world. What happens in the African jungle eventually does come here you know, whether it's SARS on Ebola or lord knows what, that we are going to have to start looking at the whole system rather than just what we think is our part of it.
CHO: Also in the future when we go through airport security, will we have to take the computer out of our head and put it through the scanner?
O'BRIEN: Hey, here's one way solve the airport security problem. We can all stay home and send robots on our business trips and we won't have to worry about such things. Let's talk about the future of war. First of all, does anybody believe in the future there won't be wars or will that always be a part of human nature?
DELLANOS: I think always a part.
O'BRIEN: We will always fight wars one way or another?
DELLANOS: Unfortunately. I know I hope we wouldn't have to. But I think we'll have to.
KURZWEIL: I think we'll keep using the word.
O'BRIEN: Imagine a world when we send the robots to do the bidding. Let's watch this.
RUSHKOFF: Against the other guy's robots?
O'BRIEN: Yes. Rock 'em, sock 'em.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE: We had to train over 90o Iraqis in combat. We'd like to do this work with fewer American lives at risk. Pretty much you have to drive everywhere in Iraq. We did probably several hundred convoys in these thin-skinned pickup trucks. In the time I was there, we had half dozen killed and 43 wounded. Unmanned convoys would reduce casualties entirely, but we have a long way to go particularly when it comes to convoys and IED defense.
O'BRIEN: IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, have been blamed for more than 700 U.S. military deaths in Iraq. But what if we could put robots in harm's way instead? Scott Myers is an executive with General Dynamics, a company that specializes in unmanned warfare.
SCOTT MYERS, GENERAL DYNAMICS: I believe that the way we operate right now for the military, it will be completely different 15 years from now due to robotic technology.
O'BRIEN: Right now the unmanned vehicle is not entirely autonomous. It uses sensors as well as commands from a manned lead vehicle to avoid obstacles and navigate rugged terrain. But if all goes well, Myers says this could one day lead to completely unmanned convoys. But don't look for robotic soldiers any time soon.
MYERS: We consider these robots as really co-combatants, not that we replace soldiers but be more effective and do their job safely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Well, in a sense, don't we already have robotic soldiers, predator drones?
KURZWEIL: I'm actually on the science advisory board. And there is a plan to take the soldiers out of the tanks and out of the planes and, in many cases; they will still be driven by human soldiers who just don't happen to be in those vehicles.
O'BRIEN: They're sitting in a trailer farm in Cleveland fighting a war in Iraq?
KURZWEIL: In virtual reality. Feels like they're in the plane.
DELLANOS: It's a game, then, just a video game.
KURZWEIL: Some will have autonomous. When we send a cruise missile, it's actually making its own autonomous decision, thousands of them, to get into the right window thousands of miles away.
GREENFIELD: Do we have robots that can keep the water supply going, reconstitute the oil program, and pacify an insurgent village? You know --
KURZWEIL: That's what the human soldiers will be doing.
GREENFEILD: That's my point. So with the idea that you're going to be able to do this --
O'BRIEN: Bloodless wars.
RUSHKOFF: How about bloodless for home? Bloodless for American soldiers but bloody for somebody else? I mean that's still war. I think what we end up doing, to your point, is we can't help but vastly oversimplify in both our visions of the future and in our applications. I think the way we apply technology ends up usually leaving out a vast part of the equation.
KURZWEIL: Or is more targeted -- these intelligence weapons are not bloodless, exactly. But it's -- they are, you know, able to carry out their missions more carefully.
O'BRIEN: In the future, will it be as easy as pushing a button and sending off the robotic flying machines or convoys or robotic soldiers themselves?
GREENFIELD: The point to make is that if you have a country that has -- doesn't have a draft and is able to wage war with far fewer military casualties on its side and I take your point that these modern weapons are certainly more precise than the kinds of things we dropped in Vietnam. But, still, you know, there's not a lot of appetite in our press to find out, OK, how many civilian casualties have there been in Iraq?
DELLANOS: I would just like overall to see all those advances that we're discussing, to use -- to be used for good in the end, for something that's positive, for the people that are dying of certain diseases or for the people that just are hungry, that need something, maybe we could go out there, be it a robot, whatever it is, or use that resource to help the people that are in need before trying to advance kids, their intelligence or anything else.
There is just a huge, huge need all around the world. And like you said, world hunger has not been eradicated. 2006, who would have thought that? We need to go there. That's just basic. You can get a creativity chip, then, so you can be a musician.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm really hopeful about the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ever read George Orwell's "1984," for god's sake?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The future is tantalizing with possibilities.
RAYMOND KURZWEIL, INVENTOR: That's why we need computers in our brains.
MARGARET CHO, COMEDIAN/ACTIVIST: And also in the future, when we go through airport security will we have to take the computer out of our head and put it through the scanner?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Help us understand, in the future, how step-by-step we are going to be able to replace many of the functions that we do biologically with things that are mechanical, bionic is the term.
KURZWEI: Well, I mean, right now we have probably a dozen different neural implants you can put inside your brain. Today it requires surgery, but technology is miniaturizing, it's getting more and more powerful. Within 20 years we'll be able to send these neural implants in through the bloodstream without surgery.
MYRKA DELLANOS, JOURNALIST: Like an injection?
O'BRIEN: So with that, with that, let us play our piece, because you have led us exactly to that point now. We'll hit the remote and...
ROSEMARIE: I was one of the people that whenever anybody did something nice for me, I would send them a thank-you card, just silly things, just writing what's going on in our lives. And I can't do that anymore. My family thought I was nuts, but I used to love going out and shovel snow. It was just invigorating and I do miss that. When I first was diagnosed, I thought I would start keeping a journal. I like to blog because I'm able to write my feelings down. And I'd like for people to see that life can be still lived with a disease such as mine. Most times I have to use my left hand to move my right hand on the mouse. One of my concerns for the future is that I'm not going to be able to write in my blog, because I won't have the function at all for my hands.
O'BRIEN: Rosemarie was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, about two years ago. Rapidly she is losing the ability to move or even speak. But there's nothing wrong with her mind. What if she had the ability to write her blog, control her computer, simply by thinking about it?
This man believes the future is now. Dr. Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital is one of the nation's top neurologists. His focus, a mind boggling clinical study called "Brain Gate."
DR. LEIGH HOCHBERG, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: The goal of the Brain Gate neural interface system is to determine whether someone with paralysis is able to use their own thought or their own intention to move to, to at first, control a computer cursor on a screen.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): It all begins with this tiny chip. Attached to the part of the brain that controls movement, it detects electrical activity and sends those signals to an external device, a processor, which then interprets those brain waves and feeds them into a computer, literally turning thought into action.
MATHEW NAGLE, PATIENT: Hi there.
O'BRIEN: Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Nagle was the first patient to participate in the Brain Gate clinical trial. Paralyzed from the neck down, watch what he accomplished purely through the power of his mind.
NAGLE: Next I want to turn on my television.
HOCHBERG: Use that computer cursor to change the channel on his television set.
NAGLE: Yes, channel down. Now going to channel up.
HOCHBERG: To open and close simulated e-mail.
NAGLE: It says, you are doing a great job.
HOCHBERG: He was also successful in opening and closing a prosthetic hand just by thinking about it.
NAGLE: Open. Close. Not bad, man. Not bad at all.
HOCHBERG: I'm very hopeful that these technologies will be able to help people with paralysis in the future control their environment more directly. And I hope one day they'll be able to move again. ROSEMARIE: A great majority of people live three to five years after diagnosis. Some people live 10 years, there are some that live 20 years, which I plan on being one of those people.
O'BRIEN: I got to tell you, of all the pieces we did, that's one of the most exciting ones I've ever seen, to see him, you know, in a chair there and to be able to think and do that.
CHO: And change the channel.
O'BRIEN: I mean that's really like...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not to touch his child or pet his dog.
CHO: To change the channel. I'm going to answer some simulated e- mail now.
O'BRIEN: Yeah, let me ask you this, though. You know, we've been talking about Dana Reeve and obviously Christopher Reeve, and here's a person whose mind was there and his body was useless to him. In the future, will that notion of being trapped in a body, will that become a thing of the past?
KURZWEIL: Yes, I think so. I mean, we could already today pick up the signals in Christopher Reeve's, sort of, neck as we have devices that allow completely paralyzed people to communicate. There are devices you can put in people's brains to actually replace brain tissue destroyed by a disease, like Parkinson's disease. And this hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence works perfectly fine. There are cyborgs walking around who have computers in their brains...
O'BRIEN: So, wait a minute. Cyborgs are here?
KURZWEIL: They're here.
CHO: Do you have to have a disease to get it?
KURZWEIL: Yeah, you need some...
CHO: Oh, see.
O'BRIEN: Would we ever get to a point, Ray, where we would prefer to have the bionic parts? In other words, could we make ourselves, you know, beyond human in some way?
KURZWEIL: Key issue is whether or not you can do this invasively or non-invasively. If you need brain surgery, you're not going to want to do it unless you have some serious disease. But once we can send sort of intelligence robots, nanobots through the bloodstream, into the brain and then you can be in a virtual environment encompassing all the senses. O'BRIEN: So, wait a minute, do we not have to be in the real world, then? Is it like "The Matrix," you plug into a chair and they're there?
KURZWEIL: It'll be very much like "The Matrix." And like any other technology, at first it won't be totally realistic, eventually it will be just as realistic as real reality and designing a new virtual reality environment will be a new art form.
DELLANOS: Oh, my goodness! A new form. This is -- do you -- when do you think this is going to happen?
KURZWEIL: Well, by the late 2020s.
DELLANOS: I think this is horrible. Does anybody else here think this is terrible? It's scary and I think it's horrible and I hope it doesn't happen.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, CULTURAL CRITIC/AUTHOR: What you're talking about are enhancements that sort of change the entire playing field and can make it really, really difficult for people who don't want to take the enhancement to compete.
CHO: I don't think you could ever implant anything that's going to make you rock. Are they ever going to have that to make you cool?
RUSHKOFF: I don't think so.
CHO: You're so geeky...
RUSHKOFF: So the artists will stay natural to be authentic and the stockbrokers will all be steroid-enhanced nano-people.
KURZWEIL: I mean, my father was a striking musician. He couldn't hear his own compositions because he couldn't afford to hire an orchestra and today, kids, you know, are empowered. They have a jazz composition, they can hear a whole jazz band on their synthesizers. So, this technology is very empowering.
O'BRIEN: But, the difference -- the difference is that it's still something that comes from their own creative well, whereas you're talking about something that fills the well in some way, in some ways that it's artificial.
KURZWEIL: Today, most projects, whether it's a...
DELLANOS: Yeah, you can get a creativity chip, then, so you can be a musician.
CHO: But, how much can we really synthesize creativity and artistic ability? I mean, can that really be something that's created by a computer. I don't think so.
DELLANOS: You can do things that are within limits that enhance, you know -- all of the power to it for health reasons, for many things like that and go to a certain degree. The internet is wonderful. We don't have to go to encyclopedia, like Miles was saying, we can just Google someone. That's awesome. But when you go beyond that and what you're talking about, whether it be the brain surgery or injected or -- I don't want to have to eat a pill that's my -- you know, the nutrients for the day. I really want to go out and have the steak and have the glass of wine and enjoy that part and that's being taken out completely.
O'BRIEN: All I want to know, is there going to be an Orgasmotron?
KURZWEIL: Well, we'll be able to have sensual encounters in full immersion virtual reality involving all of the senses.
O'BRIEN: I think the answer is yes.
CHO: That doesn't sound as good as an Orgasmotron. A sensual encounter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they've surveyed citizens, what's your biggest fear about this? No. 1, by a country mile is privacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It seems like that it's impossible to stop those malevolent people from stealing your I.D., from making your life miserable if they choose to do so.
DELLANOS: There's always that tradeoff, like you were saying before. For ever good thing there's going to be something you're giving up.
O'BRIEN: Let's watch the next piece.
BARBARA: It was worse than if somebody had just taken money from my purse because it made me feel that they were taking me. For me, the cost of being a victim of identity theft was more than monetary. I'd always been pretty trusting and felt that everything was under control and suddenly I started to suspect all people with whom I normally do business, I mean, those people have all kinds of information about you. You know? I mean, the technological fixes that I've heard of don't completely reassure me that my privacy wouldn't be invaded far more than I would be willing to have it invaded.
O'BRIEN: Barbara is not alone. In fact, American consumers lost nearly $57 billion last year to identity theft. When it comes to protecting our personal security, what hope can technology offer?
REED GOTH, DAVENPORT UNIVERSITY, MICHIGAN: This device is a smart card reader.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Meet Reed Goth, dean of technology at Davenport University in Michigan.
GOTH: Biometric security is one way to stop identity theft. Physical characteristics that identify who you are is a lot harder to steal than is a credit card number.
O'BRIEN: Technologies already in place include iris scans, palm geometry readers, facial recognition, and fingerprinting tools.
GOTH: The next line of defense is trying to identify those unique physical characteristics of an individual that are very hard to replicate. Veins in your hands, looking at the inner ear.
O'BRIEN: But are we all ready to divulge that much personal information?
GOTH: If we think that we live in a private world, we don't. What we need to do now is just make sure that the information we do have is secure.
O'BRIEN: My theory is there is no privacy really left anymore. It's all kind of a facade. It's pretty much gone. We've lost that battle.
DELLANOS: It's big brother.
O'BRIEN: You might fight on releasing your social security number here and there, but basic by we're all open books here in this room, aren't we?
RUSHKOFF: Only if you really believe that that kind of data is you.
O'BRIEN: Well, that's an important question. I mean, do you feel a as if the ability for -- whether it's the government or corporations or just other people -- to snoop on us has stepped over the line and will it step over a line in the future?
CHO: I think the mythology of it has stepped over the line. Like I think that we all think that we're being spied on and we all think that everything we do is being monitored. But the government agencies are still so slow, it's hard for me to believe that that's being accomplished. Like the lines are so long at the DMV still. They're as long as they were 20 years ago. That hasn't changed at all. And I can't imagine a government that operates that facility is going to have any kind of -- take on anything, you know, really.
RUSHKOFF: I think that's a good point.
O'BRIEN: So we can just bank on their ineptitude. It's the FEMA factor.
RUSHKOFF: Yeah, but...
O'BRIEN: Thank god for FEMA, right?
RUSHKOFF: Corporations are entirely more competent, though, at data mining and...
O'BRIEN: Yes, they are.
RUSHKOFF: They've got the data on every household and they can not only...
DELLANOS: What you buy, what you sell, everything.
RUSHKOFF: Right, and they can model you compared to other people and figure out things about you that you barely know about yourself.
O'BRIEN: They just want to sell you stuff. They don't want to blackmail you.
JEFF GREENFIELD, HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: If what they're doing is mining data so they can sell you stuff and they don't really care about your politics or they don't really care about your sexual behavior unless they can sell you some toy, is that something to worry about?
RUSHKOFF: The only area that I worry about it is if they're going to -- by finding things about you, use intimidation and fear through their marketing messages to exacerbate your own anxieties. So, in other words, you go online, you search through a couple of diet sites because you're thinking I might want to get healthy...
DELLANOS: Start bombarding you with fat things...
RUSHKOFF: And then all of a sudden the messaging coming to you is really about, you know, you are kind of fat.
GREENFIELD: Just reading this book now about Ben Franklin in Paris. It turns out that the French post office was incredibly skilled in opening every sealed diplomatic letter sent to Ben Franklin from the United States and closing it in a way that he never knew and nobody ever knew these things were being read. I think it really depends on the political malevolence of the people running stuff. My feeling is, this depends on us as citizens to make sure that all this stuff is not -- is not used badly. And I think we can do it.
RUSHKOFF: Yeah, but we always use a citizen government argument as that's what's going to protect us. But when the government is being basically disabled and dwarfed by a corporate America that's actually getting laws changed to give itself more its freedom, I really don't know where that protection coming from.
KURZWEI: Well, we do have this new factor of asymmetric warfare. I mean, just as we've democratized the means of creation, we've also democratized the means of destruction, and, you know, one person with a little device can make millions of people sick or blow up a city, and so that's a concern that didn't exist before. And that's a difficult balance to try to make sure those things don't happen and protect against those downsides of technology versus maintaining our freedoms.
RUSHKOFF: Right. And that's the best argument to keep research going no matter what, because someone else is doing the research and someone will use it against you.
GREENFIELD: I think it's still true throughout the development of all this new technology, when they've surveyed citizens on what's your biggest fear about this stuff, No. 1, by a country, is privacy. And, I mean, I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing. But I do know there is an army of lawyers out there ready to file a class action suit at the first corporation that they can demonstrate in a tortuous way has misused data mining. I mean, there's billions to be made there. So, I think if you can't rely on the good sense of these corporate folks, you can rely on the greed of the legal profession to police them.
RUSHKOFF: But the 15-year-old in Bulgaria is harder to sue, isn't he?
GREENFIELD: And that's the other part. You know, some of this defense comes from us. I mean, there is a certain level of minimal intelligence that you've got to, you know...
RUSHKOFF: Right. I think the argument not to build a subway is what if people tell you to jump in front of it and you do, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: In the future we'll be able to just mentally, you know, download this from each other without having to communicate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Under the umbrella of the amount of information that's available, accessible at any given moment, so, you know, the internet and all that, anything else that has happened that you find wonderful that you didn't predict, that you find great about the future?
CHO: Well, I think it's -- in addition to having this whole, like, world of being online, which is amazing, these like phenomenon's, like, online communities, like myspace, which is so incredible, you know.
GREENFIELD: Where for me the jury is out is whether or not that benefit -- these new communities, virtual communities -- whether the gain you get from that makes up for the loss of your withdrawal from a common space. I mean, the metaphor for me is walking to work. On any given day I'm going to be bumped into by people who are -- have the iPod in their ear and they're blackberrying while walking and they're not aware of the real space around them because there's so into the virtual space.
O'BRIEN: You have led us exactly to that point now. I'll hit the remote.
PHILIP: I get to work for home, but then I wind up having to leave for days at a time.
I work in a virtual company. Sure, it's cool that I'm always talking to my co-workers on the computer and being able to just shoot instant messages out. But at the same time there's something lacking about that. To be able to effectively communicate you need to see people's reactions. So, it would be wonderful if I could just spin my chair around and suddenly be seeing everybody that I'm trying to communicate with. So, if I could do that without traveling, then that would be fantastic.
O'BRIEN: So what if Philip could beam himself to a meeting instead of having to travel to it? Is this the future? Or has Philip seen one too many movies?
(voice-over): Hollywood has taken the hologram out of this world, like this scene from "Star Wars: Episode III."
But how close is this to reality?
MICHAEL KLUG, ZEBRA IMAGING: The vision of "Star Wars" is something that can be achieved. But the means by which to achieve it will not be what's represented in the movie.
O'BRIEN: MIT grad and co-founder of Zebra Imaging, Michael Klug, has mastered the art of creating these larger than life holographic images. Boiled down, they are three-dimensional pictures projected with a pair of lasers. But Klug says interacting with these 3D figures still presents a challenge.
KLUG: The hologram is not something that can occupy space without having some piece of film somewhere between your eye and the holographic image.
O'BRIEN: However, Klug believes we could still see a version of holographic virtual meetings come to life within the next decade.
KLUG: Once we get those basic technologies out and demonstrated, the sky is the limit.
O'BRIEN: The question is, do you feel in any way, just having reflected through this conversation, that your prediction has changed in any way, shape or form, about the future?
CHO: No, it doesn't -- it doesn't change the way that I view the future, even knowing -- I know more about all of this technology now than I ever wanted to know, I suppose. But it doesn't really change what I fundamentally think about the future.
KURZWEI: I'm actually quite mindful of the downside of these technologies. There's intertwined promise and peril. I mean, these are great powers and -- that can be used for destruction as well, and I'm quite concerned about that.
O'BRIEN: Your predictions?
GREENFIELD: I must say this conversation has left me much more intrigued about the possibility of changing and expanding and enhancing how human beings live. And so to that extent, you know, I've learned a lot. But I'm not an optimist that these new technologies, apart from the kinds of things that save lives and make us healthier are going to make us better.
RUSHKOFF: You know, we look at these tapes of, oh, look at this technology being used to help someone with Lou Gehrig's Disease and look at this being helped -- you know, can help someone walk. But we don't really have the technology quite, so we don't know what the biases of that technology are.
DELLANOS: Hopefully all of this technology will just make you think, you know what -- like it's made me think throughout my life, oh, my goodness, look at all of this. Yes, it's great. God has given us the intelligence to do all this stuff, but for what reason? The reason it's there is to help other people.
O'BRIEN: Are you optimistic it will happen?
DELLANOS: I'm optimistic. You have to keep hope alive.
O'BRIEN: You guys are great. Thank you very much for...
CHO: Let's meet in 10 years.
O'BRIEN: You know, that's it. We'll meet in 10 years and...
CHO: And see what happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the future we'll be able to mentally download this from each other.
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