Most estimates seem to point to artificial general intelligence [AGI] around 2030 (vaguely). ASI wouldn't be too far behind.. perhaps only a few years. Then again, some say AGI could happen within the decade.
That, whether I like it or not, is a scary idea. I'm definitely a techno-optimist, but the notion of sentient machines a billion times smarter than us, at least as we are now, is not so desirable. I don't think we are ready.
Many don't think we will be ready whenever the time comes, should it be in the next few decades. It almost boils down to a race between our stewardship and our technology. So far on this planet, I think the 2 have kept a fairly even pace. It is certainly easy to imagine, however, scenarios in which the technology runs away before our conscientiousness.
Kurzweil predicts 2029 for AGI. Would you feel safe at that date? The first thing we should consider before immediately saying "too soon" is how much the rest of the world minus AI will have changed by then. The answer is, more than you can imagine. I know it's only 15 years away now, but if the exponential trends of Moore's law and domains accelerating like it keep pace, we will see about the same amount of change as was seen in the entire 20th century in that 15 years. Staggering, of course.
At the current rate, it is predicted that absolute poverty will have vanished from our globe by 2030, as we are helped by biotech, nanotech, non-sentient AI, etc. Our interconnectedness, I think, increases the rate of our development in stewardship as much as it does technology. Countries like China and India, and much of Africa, are now internet connected--ideas can no longer be stopped, virtually anywhere. And what will the internet look like in 10 years? 15? Devices themselves will have all become linked, forming the rapidly growing "internet of things" that will, among many other uses, cut down massively on waste and inefficiency.
I'm also beginning to think that by 2029, it will be common to enhance both mood and intelligence, both by taking improved anti-depressants (for want of a better term) and by the growing demand for gene therapy and even designer babies. Designer babies are already here, legal, and ready to begin the process of turning evolution from blind to seeing and rationally guided. As for the drugs, just wait for what's around the corner. Modafinil is only the beginning. Lastly, today's smartphones will have morphed into something far more ubiquitous, seemlessly woven into our lives and interacting with us at the speed of thought itself.
So I don't think things are hopeless, as many do. It looks like this may all be leading to a merger. People often seem to believe that ASI and biological humans will exist separate with one another, but I'm not so sure that's how things will go. It's almost as if the singularity is already here. Even what will happen in 5-10 years has become anyone's guess. There is such an interplay between the various fields of technology that it becomes impossible to know how one will affect the other and vice versa. For all I know, and half expect, humans will more and more abandon the physical world in favor of the virtual. That kind of diminishes the need for a lot of things, including a lot of robots (but not necessarily AI).
Check this out. Looks like Second Life is going next generation with voxels, which I suppose are 3d pixels, kind of. Anyway, there is less and less reason to leave the house as time passes. The utility, diversity, and realism of the online world are growing exponentially.
I could go on, I suppose. Overall I think this is without a doubt the most important conversation going on in the world, because it not only is going to dominate future events, but our existence depends on it. It's GOING to happen, there is no stopping, no going back. The question is, can we accept that and deal with it appropriately, before it's too late?