A leading scientific "futurologist" has declared that technology is advancing at such a pace that computers will match human brains by 2030.
American computer guru Ray Kurzweil declared to journalists and fellow scientists that there will be 32 times more technical progress during the next half century than there was in the entire twentieth century, and one of the outcomes is that artificial intelligence could be on a par with human intellect by the 2020s.
His address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) portrayed a future where machine intelligence will far surpass that of the human brain as they learn how to communicate, teach and even replicate among themselves (terrifying - has anyone seen Terminator 3?).
In fact, he claims that machines will soon be able to solve some of the most intractable problems of the twenty-first century.
Central to Kurzweil's thesis is the notion that silicon-based technology follows the "law of accelerating returns".
He explained that the computer chip has doubled in power every 2 years for the past half century, which has led to an ever-accelerating progression – and miniaturisation – in all chip-based technologies.
Dr Kurzweil told the meeting: "The paradigm shift rate is now doubling every decade, so the next half century will see 32 times more technical progress than the last half century".
"Computation, communication, biological technologies – for example, DNA sequencing – brain scanning, knowledge of the human brain, and human knowledge in general are all accelerating at an ever-faster pace, generally doubling price-performance, capacity and bandwidth every year."
He pointed to developments in making three-dimensional chips as well as chips made from biological molecules rather than metals.
"Three-dimensional, molecular computing will provide the hardware for human-level 'strong artificial intelligence' by the 2020s. The more important software insights will be gained in part from the reverse engineering of the human brain, a process well under way. Already, two dozen regions of the human brain have been modelled and simulated", he said.
Computers may currently beat human brain power for storage and retrieval of information, but, says Kurzweil, for looking ahead and planning, as well as imaginative creativity, humans still come out on top.
But that will change, he claims.
"Once non-biological intelligence matches the range and subtlety of human intelligence, it will necessarily soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge", he said.
And humans, he argued, may well harvest the power of machines to boost their own intelligence levels by implanted devices straight into their own bodies.
"We're already a human machine civilisation; we use our technology to expand our physical and mental horizons and this will be a further extension of that", he continued.
"We'll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains through the capillaries and interact directly with our biological neurons", he told BBC News.
The nanobots, he said, would "make us smarter, remember things better and automatically go into full emergent virtual reality environments through the nervous system".
Better order myself one of these nanobots now.