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Computer power will match the intelligence of human beings within the next 20 years, according to a leading scientific “futurologist”.

Technical progress will be increasing during the next half century, up to 32 times more advanced than there was in the whole of the 20th century. As a result, artificial intelligence could be as capable as human intelligence by the 2020s, said the American computer guru Ray Kurzweil.

Machines will be getting smarter than humans and soon will be solving some of the most difficult problems of the 21st century, said Dr. Kurzweil, one of the most radical thinkers in the field of technological prediction.

Dr. Kurzweil was originally a pioneer in various fields of computing and automatic speech recognition by machine. In his speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), he described a future where machines will be far more intelligent than humans in terms of how they will be communicating, teaching, and replicating among themselves.

His prediction is based on the fact that the computer chip has doubled in power every two years for the past half century, which has led to accelerating progress and miniaturization.

Dr. Kurzweil told the annual meeting of the AAAS in Boston: “in the next half century, there will be 32 times more technical progress than the last half century. Computing, communication, biological technologies, and human knowledge in general are all accelerating fast.”

Computers have so far been based on two-dimensional chips made from silicon, but three-dimensional chips with greatly improved performances are being developed. There are even plans to construct them out of biological molecules that can be miniaturized even more than metal-based computer chips.

“The hardware for machines with human-level intelligence will be based on three-dimensional, molecular computing. The software will be developed by studying and analyzing the human brain in detail. Already, 24 regions of the human brain have been modeled and simulated,” he said.

Although the brain is not as efficient as a computer at storing and retrieving information, it can associate different pieces of information, look ahead, and plan. It can also be imaginative and creative, which is at the heart of human existence. But Dr. Kurzweil is one of several computer scientists who believe that computers will soon create a “post-human” world where a second, intelligent being exists next to people.

“When non-biological intelligence matches the level of human intelligence, it will very quickly overtake it because of continuing technological progress, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge,” Dr. Kurzweil said.