Renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil was the keynote speaker at SXSW Interactive this year, interviewed by TIME’s Lev Grossman. (The pair last worked together on a 2011 TIME cover story.) TIME Senior Editor Steven James Snyder wrote a great recap of the event. Here’s an excerpt (read the whole thing):
As computer chips get smaller, and more powerful, [Kurzweil] sees the trend intensifying to the point that humans will start aggressively employing, and implanting, nanotechnology, as devices the size of a blood cell emerge as one billion times more powerful than our iPhone. Just as these devices aid doctors in diagnosing and treating patients, Kurzweil also envisions a day when doctors will be able to more radically manipulate our genes and DNA. As he sees it, with the mapping of the human genome – which, he says, is yet more proof of his exponential growth paradigm, as it took seven years to map out first one percent of the genome but only a few years to map the remaining 99 percent – scientists will start approaching biology from the paradigm of information technology. He says that some of the outdated biological laws that govern human bodies, like conserving calories in the event than next year’s hunting season falters, could be switched off, alleviating issues of obesity. Or manipulate other aspects of the genome and you can start tackling issues of hereditary disease and even aging.