Ray Kurzweil: Solar Will Power the World in 16 Years

What’s the Big Idea?

Solar power, driven by exponentially-increasing nanotechnology, will satisfy the entire world’s need for energy in less than twenty years. 

Why Is It Groundbreaking?

Currently, solar power supplies less than 1% of the world’s energy needs, which has led many to disregard its future significance. Where they’re wrong is that they fail to understand the exponential nature of technology, says eminent inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. Just like computer processing speed—which doubles every 18 months in accordance with Moore’s law—the nanotechnology that drives innovations in solar power progresses exponentially, he says.

During his latest Big Think interview, Kurweil explained:

“Solar panels are coming down dramatically in cost per watt. And as a result of that, the total amount of solar energy is growing, not linearly, but exponentially. It’s doubling every 2 years and has been for 20 years. And again, it’s a very smooth curve. There’s all these arguments, subsidies and political battles and companies going bankrupt, they’re raising billions of dollars, but behind all that chaos is this very smooth progression.”

So how far away is solar from meeting 100% of the world’s energy needs? Eight doublings, says Kurzweil, which will take just 16 years. And supply is not an issue either, he adds: “After we double eight more times and we’re meeting all of the world’s energy needs through solar, we’ll be using 1 part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the earth. And we could put efficient solar farms on a few percent of the unused deserts of the world and meet all of our energy needs.”

Reducing this bold of a prediction to simple mathematics sounds absurd, but it has served Kurzweil in the past. Using this formula, he accurately predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, chessmaster Garry Kasparov’s defeat to a robot, and the proliferation of the Internet—as well as over 100 other predictions. (He also says that humans will merge with machines in 2045!)

Why Should You Care?

Find out here: bigthink.com

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