Ray Kurzweil is a leading researcher and inventor in artificial intelligence. Kurzweil writes that intelligence is the most important phenomenon in the universe “capable of transcending natural limitations”. Intelligence has enabled us to overcome “the restrictions of our biological heritage”.

The mammal brain evolved from atoms. Atoms formed complex molecules, which eventually evolved into DNA. At an increasing rate, organisms formed nervous systems. “The neurons making up nervous systems aggregated into brains capable of increasingly intelligent behaviours”. Brains are now the cutting edge of storage and manipulation of information. However, machines are quickly catching up

The mammal brain has a unique aptitude for hierarchical thinking. Hierarchical thinking means the ability to understand “a structure composed of diverse elements arranged in a pattern, representing that arrangement with a symbol, and then using that symbol as an element in an even more elaborate configuration.”

Hierarchical thinking takes place in the neo-cortex. The neo-cortex is the part of the brain responsible for perception, memory, and critical thinking. It allows for sophisticated pattern recognition and configuration. We call these patterns ideas. Only homo sapiens have a knowledge base that grows exponentially. Homo sapiens developed a large forehead to allow for an even larger neo-cortex.

The human brain along with our opposable thumbs allowed us to invent and build tools. Consequently, neurology gave rise to technology.

Our first invention was the spoken language. Subsequently, written language was developed. “Libraries of written language extended the ability of our brains to retain and extend our knowledge base…”. Every novel, song, painting, scientific discovery, and every other product of human thought came from the neo-cortex.

It is estimated that the human neo-cortex has the capacity to deal with 300 million patterns. The ability to process 300 million patterns allowed humans to create verbal and written language and tools. Humans combined these tools, which resulted in the law of accelerating returns.

The law of accelerating returns means that an evolutionary process accelerates while “its products grow exponentially in complexity and capability”. The law of accelerating returns applies to biological and technological evolution. Only humans have achieved the ability to build ever more powerful tools, like computers.

“Ultimately our brains combined with technology …will permit us to create a synthetic neo-cortex that will contain well beyond 300 million pattern processors”. We are now in a position to speed up the evolutionary learning process by migrating from biological intelligence to non-biological intelligence. Once a digital neo-cortex learns a skill, it can transfer that know-how in minutes or seconds.

Eventually, we will create an artificial neo-cortex that has full range and flexibility of its human counterpart. It will be faster and continue to increase in speed.

Kurzweil predicts that by 2029, machines will be intelligent enough to exhibit intellect equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Following the law of accelerating returns, intelligent machines will quickly go from our intellectual equal to surpassing humans, since technological evolution is moving a million times faster than human biological evolution.

The introduction of intelligent machines will have huge consequences on the way we vest rights to intellectual property. As it stands now, our entire intellectual property system is predicated on the human author.

How will the law deal with machines that autonomously create artistic, literary, or scientific work?