The Matrix, a virtual reality that is completely indistinguishable from reality, is either an extremely exciting or terrifying possibility, depending on who you ask. However, there is no need to worry quite yet - we won't be able to recreate the Matrix with a mix of goggles, headphones, and other external devices. These will be great for a variety of VR and AR experiences, but the only way to create a perfect virtual reality is to hijack the sensory inputs to the brain and feed it the virtual reality data. This requires a) in-depth knowledge of how the brain works b) the ability to interface directly with the brain and c) the computing power to handle the complexity of reality. While this seems ripped from the pages of science fiction, recent advances in neuroscience, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence show that the Matrix is not so far off.
The first step in creating the Matrix is having a thorough understanding of the hardware we are working with - neuroscience. As the following graph shows, we are becoming exponentially more adept at reconstructing brain scan images, and at the same time, we are doubling the resolution of noninvasive brain-scanning devices every 12 months.
Our understanding of the brain is already good enough to let a double-amputee move both of his prosthetic arms with his mind, and in terms of its logarithmic timeline, our understanding of the brain has only just begun.
After we have a complete map of the brain, the next step is hijacking the sensory inputs, which requires having tools small and sophisticated enough to do the job - nanobots. Nanotechnology is also growing an at exponential rate, and will be advanced enough by the mid to late 2020's to interface our brains with the Matrix.
Already, nanotechnology is being tested in various medical applications such as delivering anti-cancer and tumor medications.
Once we understand our hardware and can interface with it, we still need the computing power to run the operation - AI. The following graph shows that not only will AI be possible within the next 5 to 10 years, it will also be extremely cheap. However, running the Matrix will require more than the equivalent of one human brain, so we will have to wait a little longer until we have enough computing power - 25 years is a safe bet.
2040: The Year of The Matrix
Virtual reality isn't the Matrix yet, but it certainly will get to that level much sooner than many are ready for. Recent trends in neuroscience, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence all point to a (near) future where the lines between biology, technology, reality, and virtual reality blend together.
The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil