Submitted by phriot t3_ykcjwo in singularity

I'm currently reading The Singularity is Near (2005) by Ray Kurzweil. While he doesn't make a big deal out of it (so far in my reading), Kurzweil makes the claim that chips will be ubiquitous, giving everything from our clothes to the walls around us computational ability. I'm reading on Kindle, so I'm having some trouble finding the exact passage, but I believe his time frame for that was sometime between 2010 and 2020. Michio Kaku makes a similar claim in Visions (1998) and/or Physics of The Future (2011). I distinctly remember Kaku writing that computation would fade into the background, and we wouldn't even notice that the world around us was "smart" anymore.

I definitely have a lot more "things" with chips than I did in the early 2000s. And those things that I did have with chips back then are able to do far more computation today. In 2005, I had a desktop computer, a wireless router, a Timex Ironman watch, a feature phone, etc., but I still had a CRT television and computer monitor. I still read paper books at the time. Today, my house has smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, laptops, still have a desktop, our doorbell has a camera and wifi, and so on. I read e-books at least as often as paper books, now. So yes, a lot more chips and computational capacity.

But all of these chips are still confined to things recognizable as "devices." Ok, maybe 2005 me would have thought it was weird that my 2022 doorbell had all that capability, but it's still a "thing" that has the chips in it. The computation hasn't diffused so much that I can't comprehend the chips are housed in a device. The same goes for TVs, watches, and my Kindle.

Edit: About the only place I can think of where "chips everywhere" is happening that is kind of obscured is with cars. Cars have a ton more chips, sensors, and computational capacity, yet you still think of them as "cars." I don't think of blind spot detection, automatic braking, etc., as being more computation when they are triggered, just new features that cars have. My house doesn't have many (any?) new computational features that I passively consume. I'm very aware when I tell my smart speaker to turn off the light.

Were the futurists of the late 1990s and early 2000s wrong about the path computation will take, or were they just early? We're now getting kind of past Kurzweil's timeline for this prediction. (If I can turn up my copy of either of Kaku's books tonight, I'll update with his timeframe.)



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ITsupportSuperHero t1_iutebes wrote

Cant speak to the other things, but as for clothes I believe Kurzweil acknowledged he got that wrong for 2 reasons. One, everything that would have been added to clothes was just added to our phones instead. Two, fashion: he is unable to predict what will be socially acceptable. Most people don't want electronics in clothes and while we can make cool shirts or hats that change looks with an app, nobody wants to wear that. All the rest of the biometric stuff is usually in a smartwatch or bracelet.

Reminds me of how a lot of people don't want AR/VR until it is the size of a regular pair of sunglasses. Everybody will just make fun of you for wearing a toaster on your face : ( not that I mind, vr is cool 😎 lol


RunF4Cover t1_iutq22e wrote

I agree, the toaster is cool but still a bit unwieldy. I have trouble wearing my toaster for more than a couple of hours at most. I can’t wait until it’s sunglasses size.


phriot OP t1_iuthgrz wrote

Cool, yeah with decades of material in between, it's a little hard to keep up with with updates on every little prediction. Thanks for knowing about this!


Professional-Yak-477 t1_iuuaizh wrote

I don't know whether this counts, but clothing with chips do exist and are slowly being implemented (beyond conscious fashion choices). I've begun noticing couple weeks ago that food delivery on electric scooters have electronic ads at the back of the driver's vests and their food delivery bags/cargo. I was a bit taken aback when I saw it, it was at night and it was just like the cyberpunk jacket. It felt a bit dehumanising to me as well, seeing the driver walk around with an ad displayed on their back.


NefariousNaz t1_iuuf8qr wrote

There are novelty clothes that can be changed from app. Problem is battery life.


PoliteThaiBeep t1_iuwaetd wrote

Biggest VR hurdles are motion sickness and low pixel density IMO.

Motion sickness means the vast majority wouldn't be able to play a fast paced game where you move your virtual body.

That hamstrings most game genres outright.

Pixel density with Quest 2 and it's competition is like 20 PPD (Pixel per degree). With 4k monitors it's typically 120 PPD. For 1080p monitors it's 60PPD.

If you translate PPD to vision acuity you wouldn't pass a driving test with vision acuity below 40 PPD lol

I am a VR enthusiast and have been buying VR stuff since 2014. But I end up always coming back to monitor games. If I could play AC Odyssey in VR headset - would I? No I wouldn't because of motion sickness and low PPD.


[deleted] t1_iusjfgu wrote

Chips are in your Oven, Toaster, Blender, Lamps, Shower head, Power tools, Speakers, ironing iron, vacuum cleaner ... sometimes even in your Curtains.

I would say, we are pretty close to Kurzweil's prediction.


phriot OP t1_iuskg6y wrote

I don't disagree, but we're definitely not yet at the point where it's all just passively there without humans noticing. Note that other than curtains, you mentioned all recognizable devices. And for several other of these things, they don't really do much more than they did without ICs - it's just cheaper these days to throw a chip in than discrete components. Yet others are "could" have chips; my shower head definitely doesn't.


Mokebe890 t1_iusl9zc wrote

It was well said, you have chips everywhere just not in things it will be useless. Almost every device can be Smart and if its Smart then it have chip in it. Chips in clothing on the other said brings almost no value.


Effective-Dig8734 t1_iusmkfb wrote

I think for average people who aren’t super tech savvy, most don’t know there is chips in these things


Torrall t1_iusnbow wrote

uhhhhhhhhhh I think you just arent paying enough attention to your surroundings. My desk has a chip in it lol.


phriot OP t1_iusnute wrote

What does it do? Qi charger?

FWIW, neither my desk at work, nor my desk at home have chips in them. I don't believe that this is super common, yet. But I'll chalk that up as a vote for "futurists were early by a few years."


Torrall t1_iusoldz wrote

yep, contactless charger is one of them. its got a bunch of moving parts and locks and gizmos my dumb company paid for


Cerberusz t1_iuupuxw wrote

Every light in your house (if it’s LED) will have a chip.


grimjim t1_iuskc5r wrote

This prediction became partly true in a mundane, boring way. The Internet of Things has been a commercial reality for years.


phriot OP t1_iusnhqr wrote

Maybe, as another commenter mentioned, I'm actually too tech savvy for it to fade away. If IoT really were mundane, I wouldn't be aware of devices "being smart," they'd just "be." Or maybe it's an age thing. I'm only in my 30s, but I'm old enough to remember very few things being remotely smart. Maybe, for people who grew up with smart things, they just "are."


Angualor t1_iuteshn wrote

You're definitely underselling it. There are clothes that have chips. Fridges, ranges, lights, trashcans, washer, dryer, sink faucets, thermostat, AC unit. TV, door lock, all dogs, most cats, any zoo animal, space heaters, automatic fireplaces, electronically controlled couches/ any furniture. Most toys. Etc.


phriot OP t1_iutiufx wrote

I think it's getting there, but we're maybe a decade past when some of the predictions of reality basically being infused with computational power. You note some things that I miss, such as door locks. Though the "really smart" versions of those things that are available aren't all that common, yet. For example, I don't know anyone with a wifi door lock, and experienced my first sofa with a USB port outside of a furniture showroom last month. For other things, maybe they technically have a chip, but is an RFID chip in your pet adding any computational power to the environment?


ZaxLofful t1_iutta8o wrote

It’s totally there, it’s just not fully realized yet; as in commercially.

There are clothes that have chips in there, there are toasters too, but they aren’t cheap yet.

We just made new chips that use plastic instead of metal, and it will make it so ANYTHING/EVERYTHING can now have a chip.

The real problem is that there are so many nay sayers or people that are afraid of tech, so the need isn’t as high.


insectula t1_iusidf3 wrote

I would say one of the biggest issues was Covid. It disrupted the chip market significantly, with roadblocks at every juncture. Just look at the GPU disaster. Things still are disrupted at points, and it will take some time to recover from all that. Plus Ray seems to be a bit optimistic on his predictions.

I'm a bit skeptical about chips in clothing etc. I mean there has to have a good purpose, and apart from specialty items, I see no logical reason for chips to be in clothing and some of these other predictions.


phriot OP t1_iusju6b wrote

>I'm a bit skeptical about chips in clothing etc. I mean there has to have a good purpose, and apart from specialty items, I see no logical reason for chips to be in clothing and some of these other predictions.

I think the promise was that things like "smart clothes" would provide health and other valuable data. I don't specifically remember the claims for why the walls would be smart, but I think the idea was that you could just pull computational resources from around you as needed. Today, you'd pull any extra computation from a cloud data center.


insectula t1_iusl0yf wrote

I see. I still would question why you would want to spend the money for every outfit and size being retrofitted instead of a universal bracelet, but there are probably some exceptions somewhere.


insectula t1_iuslk4p wrote

What they really should do in hospitals is when they give you the ID band on your wrist, it should be smart, and output vitals on the patient. All the medical records.


phriot OP t1_iuslpso wrote

Yes. That's why I'm asking the question. Did they get it wrong, or are we just early? In the books I mention, specifically Kaku, they talk about computation melting away, so that you don't notice or think about it too much. Your shirt getting data from your sweat is less obtrusive than a smart watch doing the same thing, but maybe having these capabilities concentrated in an actual device is better.


insectula t1_iusmq9w wrote

I usually think "that would be cool" when I hear about ideas for the future, but never on the chips everywhere thing. I always thought "why" on that and solving a problem that isn't there. Our phones can take on a hell of a lot of tasks.

In fact this whole Metaverse thing...


sir_duckingtale t1_iutu5zz wrote

The Singularity will never arrive

We are the Singularity.


Thorusss t1_iusxlia wrote

I mean if you want it and look for it, you can buy a radicicolous amount of objects with an additional microchip in it. Heated insole: chip. Camera in glasses: Chip. T-shirt that measures heartbeat: Chip. Ring that measures temperature and movement: chip. Implant for paying: Chip. Light up Shoes: Chip. Jacket with speakers: chip.

I mean many packagings have an microchip in the small security sticker, than many people never notice.


phriot OP t1_iusytqh wrote

From what I read, I took the intent to be not just that everything would have an RFID chip, but that computation would be "everywhere" as opposed to centralized in devices. I assume that Kurzweil and others thought this was a trend due to experiencing the decentralization of computing in their lifetimes from mainframes, to time sharing, to PCs, to the internet. Today, the ability to compute anywhere remains due to the rise of wireless internet access, but the actual computation is actually happening in recognizable devices, if not a very centralized data center somewhere.

The Internet of Things does, of course, exist, but I don't think it's yet at the point envisioned by these futurists 20 years ago. My question is did they miss the mark (i.e. we'll keep computation centralized), or are we early (e.g. applications haven't yet caught up to our ability to infuse reality with chips)?

Edit (catching up with your edit): You do note a number of devices that "could" be smart today. In practice, they aren't, yet. I don't know anyone, personally, with a glucose monitoring t-shirt, kinetic energy harvesting sneakers, or palm-embedded NFC chip. The tech exists, but hasn't spread on the timeframe written about in the books I reference.


sumane12 t1_iutqkbc wrote

Ok I see where you're coming from now, and I think it's a bit of both, computation is more centralised than they expected (let's be honest, computation will always be cheaper in a massive data center) and also they were early as a result of that. We are constantly seeing new streams of data in areas we didn't realize we wanted data from, therefore I believe this trend of increased computation will continue, but the majority of our computation will always be done in massive data centers.

I do feel you are splitting hairs a little here, sure kurzweil and kakus prediction of 2022 isn't exactly how they thought it would be, but the level of computation and smart devices we have compared to 30 years ago is mind boggling.


TotalMegaCool t1_iutd40s wrote

I think this video is indicative of that prediction. I remember my computer being too slow to play doom and being soo frustrated with it. Now random electronic devices have enough compute power to play it.


challengethegods t1_iutpofl wrote


Dark-Arts t1_iutumfu wrote

Those timeline predictions, like almost all of Kurzweil’s and Kaku’s time predictions, were wrong. They both have a very poor track record regarding timeline predictions on almost anything, so poor that we should probably pay them no mind any longer.

However, both Kurzweil and Kaku (and others) have still made many plausible predictions about what might occur with probability - it’s just (all evidence suggests) that they have no more idea when those things will occur than you do.


SFTExP t1_iuucxt3 wrote

We are the human chips, metaphorically speaking. We’re constantly plugging ourselves in one way or form.


yerawizardmandy t1_iuste6u wrote

I just read a post about troubleshooting a smoke detector and it included info about their router. I think we are there