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Ray Kurzweil On IT And The Future of Technology 450

Posted by timothy
from the change-junior's-batteries dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "In this interview with CIO Magazine, Ray Kurzweil says that one day, software and computers will reside inside us. He adds that by 2020, "we will be placing millions or billions of nanobots -- blood cell-size devices -- inside our bloodstream to travel into our brains and interact with our neurons." He also says that if we're not enhanced by machines, they will surpass us. But he doesn't think it will happen. According to him, machines and humans will merge. In the mean time, he's pursuing his anti-aging quest and takes about 250 supplements to his diet every day! With this regime, he says his biological age is 40 while he's 56 years old. By 2030, there will be very little difference between 30-year-old and 120-year-old people, says Kurzweil. He's certainly a bright person, but I'm not sure that I agree with someone taking daily such an amount of pills. What do you think? This summary contains some selected -- and biased -- excerpts to help you forge your opinion."
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Ray Kurzweil On IT And The Future of Technology

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  • by Pingular (670773) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @01:59PM (#10550934)
    website [kurzweilai.net]
    • this guy sounds like a nut
      • Re:the nut (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Sunday October 17, 2004 @04:36PM (#10551925) Journal
        this guy sounds like a nut
        He is. He's also wrong on a lot of his "facts". Here's one of them:
        You can make only about 100 trillion connections in there. That may seem like a big number, but the way in which we store information is inefficient, so
        so that a master of an area of knowledge can really remember only about 100,000 chunks of knowledge
        The human brain is not a binary device, and our consciousness is not limited to the "100,000" chunks he talks about.

        Just look at any autistic person who can memorize a whole phone book - there's orders more than 100,000 chunks there.

        Another thing - the brain is incredibly efficient at random-access information stuff - think about how many times you read something, and immediately, you go "bullshit". You KNOW it's wrong, within a fraction of a second, without even having the time to sort out the whole thing "logically". You then check, and find out that your "instincts" were right.

        No computer can act as fast, sorting through a lifetime of experience in a fraction of a second and coming to a correct conclusion. Hell, no computer can even have an opinion. And that's probably not going to change even with nanotech, because the consciousness seems to "inhabit" the quantum world, way smaller than your nanobots.

        • bs detector (Score:3, Interesting)

          by epine (68316)

          You certainly are right about the instantaneous BS detector. You set mine off several times with your other comments.

          You haven't even managed to keep your own arguments on the same page. At one point you cite the memorization of a phone book as evidence about the chunk-scale of human intellect, apparently forgetting that computers already exceed this extreme data point on human performance by a rough factor of a billion. Phone numbers are in no way the "chunks" of human processing that make human proces
          • Re:bs detector (Score:4, Insightful)

            by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Sunday October 17, 2004 @09:49PM (#10553412) Journal

            You certainly are right about the instantaneous BS detector. You set mine off several times with your other comments.

            So you admit that it works - thank yu.

            You haven't even managed to keep your own arguments on the same page. At one point you cite the memorization of a phone book as evidence about the chunk-scale of human intellect, apparently forgetting that computers already exceed this extreme data point on human performance by a rough factor of a billion. Phone numbers are in no way the "chunks" of human processing that make human processing interesting.

            I wasn't the one who started with the "100,000 chunk" bull-shit - Kurzweil was. We can already store many orders of magnitude of information than that. And we can process it in random order, AND in parallel.

            The failure of computer hardware to perform "random access" information assessment is not a property of digital hardware, Wogger Penrose notwithstanding. It's a property of a class of algorithms appropriate to a scale of computation which we are rapidly exceeding.

            The computer can only process stuff via one or more cpus. The human mind has no such limitation. The best equivalent would be a computer where every byte is associated with a cpu, for MASSIVE parallelism. And those cpus would have to be able to re-wire their conections over time, based on the data in them and their surrounding cpus.

            We already have classes of algorithms which perform exceptionally well at random access classification: neural networks and statistical models encoded using hashing techniques. What seems to be apparent is that the human brain encodes information at a higher level of dimensionality than our toy neural networks.

            Agreed, but this has nothing to do with Kurzweil's assertion of an extremely low limitation to the amount of info a human can store. We are nowhere near our physical limits yet. The only things preventing people from continuing to learn over their lifetime are laziness and disease.

            I regard the Penrose algorithm as entirely circular. I'm altogether unimpressed with the creativity of the human brain. Open your eyes. Every day I witness hundreds of computational tasks orchestrated by the human brain that humans do badly or barely at all.

            ... and we do amazing stuff that a computer will never be able to do. The "computational stuff" is done with the oldest part of the brain - the "reptilian" part. The interesting stuff - emotions, etc., is newer. We've had adding machines for centuries (abascus, for example). We'll never have a machine that can create "Spaceballs".

            For example, the driver who makes three dangerous S-style lane changes from behind to pass you and gain 50 yards of progress before ass kissing the next obstruction and then coming to a grinding halt at the next red light, which you could see was red half a block back. Meanwhile, having coasted down to 10mph and arrives by good planning at the intersection just as the light changes green, the "laggard" car comes out the other side 20 yards ahead at half the gas consumption, and zero wear-and-tear on his break linings.

            ... assuming you're giving an example of human stupidity, there are computer programs all the time that screw up too. Some due to hardware flaws (the floating point bug, etc), many due to software flaws (insert the rant of your choice against the OS of yuor choice here).

            It in no way invalidates myu contention that Kurzweil is wrong about his "100,000 chunks of data" limit, and needing nanotech to enhance people's performance. In the case you cited, raising gasoline prices to $10/gallon would provide incentive enough to get the driver to develop a more optimal behaviour.

            Then there are the large number of cases concerning how rarely most people even recognize the incompetence of human intel

        • Re:the nut (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wealthychef (584778)
          You said: No computer can act as fast, sorting through a lifetime of experience in a fraction of a second and coming to a correct conclusion. I say: I don't think that's what human brains do. I think we "cheat" by developing feelings based on a few important data. Which data are important? You just develop a guessing instinct by trial and error. This is why life experience is invaluable and why ivory-tower academics are often so wildly wrong about obvious facts the rest of us understand implicitly. So
          • Re:the nut (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tomhudson (43916)
            Well, another way to put it is that we have the best peep-hole optimizations around. After all, if you want to cntinue to use the "brain-as_computer" model, our brains never run the same program twice. They can't, as they are not deterministic machines in the classical sense. Every thought arises from a slightly different environment from every other thought that came before.

            It would be like every thought being generated from a program that is re-compiled with every run, with slightly different code and da

  • Great!

    Every sci-fi dystopian movie I've ever seen is coming true.
  • 2030? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:04PM (#10550962)
    Maybe 2100 so we'll know if this anti-aging shit actually works. In 2030 the 120 year old would have been near 100 years old today.
    • Re:2030? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fallen Andy (795676)
      You really think they want *anti* aging? Oh boy, just imagine nanites aging you because you don't support the prevailing political view. Live fast and die young baby....

      Yuck.

      I want some anti anti nano machines I can buy from the local kiosk...

      This gets really weird if you think about it.
      Anything we thought was speculative goes out the window really fast. (and I've been watching the
      sci fi perspective for almost 30 years).
    • you don't get it do you ? He doesn't claim that at 120, you'll look like 30...

      His point : take enough pills, and by 2030 you'll look like someone who is 120 :-)
  • More info (Score:3, Informative)

    by balster neb (645686) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:04PM (#10550964)
  • Resistance is futile (Score:4, Interesting)

    by yomommaDOTorg (821912) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:05PM (#10550970) Homepage
    You will be assimilated. Seriously, though... It it really such a bad thing? A couple of nanobots could cure a lot of diseases. Then again, we risk the possibility that there will be haves and have nots. Perhaps the poor will get nanobot version 1.0, and the rich get nanobot version XP. I certainly don't want to be the guy running nanobots that crash or get h4x0red. Then again, even without bots, we have similar problems. Clean water, clean air... No matter what happens the little guy gets screwed, so we might as well sign up for this too. It sounds cool anyway.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps the poor will get nanobot version 1.0, and the rich get nanobot version XP.

      If we currently don't even cough up enough welfare to help the poor afford basic things like food and heat, what on God's fucking greeen Earth makes you think that we will EVER be giving them ANY version of nanobots?

      • by jsebrech (525647)
        If we currently don't even cough up enough welfare to help the poor afford basic things like food and heat, what on God's fucking greeen Earth makes you think that we will EVER be giving them ANY version of nanobots?

        Because nanotech and fusion power combined will make production of anything dirtcheap. You'll license designs covered by IP rights for your nanofactory, which will build the thing out of basic atoms. There will be free designs, government-made and/or open source. The poor will have access to n
        • Because nanotech and fusion power combined will make production of anything dirtcheap. You'll license designs covered by IP rights for your nanofactory, which will build the thing out of basic atoms. There will be free designs, government-made and/or open source. The poor will have access to nearly free production of low-quality goods, and the rich will be able to afford the luxuries of IP-protected designs.

          Who always takes direct advantage of new technology first? The military. They will find a way t

        • "... the global population will just grow to absorb the increase in resources, without actually increasing quality of life. The only way to increase quality of life for all of humanity is by instituting strict birth control policies so we do what nature used to do for us: limit population size so it matches available resources."

          Fortunately, the Malthusian perspectives have been somewhat changed by our experiences in the last 50 years. In EVERY formerly poor country where the supply of food, education, su

    • More like "Resistance is futile, you will die".

      It's obvious that what he really wants is life extension. And he may get some. Understanding the biology of aging has certainly improved over the last fifteen years as we completed the Genome project. But even if we extended life out to such ridiculous time spans as the thousands of years, each of us must face the inevitable truth that one day we will die. It appears as though while intellectually he may be willing to admit it as axiomatic, emotionally he can
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:27PM (#10551129)

        It's obvious that what he really wants is life extension. And he may get some.

        We already have the means to extend our lives and it doesn't involve nanobots. Here's a recap:

        • Don't smoke
        • Drink in moderation, if at all
        • Eat more fruits and vegetables
        • Eat highly processed and refined foods only in moderation
        • Increase your intake of "good" fats
        • Keep your body weight at a reasonable level
        • Exercise vigorously 2-3 times a week

        We don't have to wait for any nanobots to start living longer lives. But the above suggestions don't grab as many headlines as nanotechnology, I guess.

        • by at_18 (224304) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:41PM (#10551226) Journal
          The above suggestions will only allow you to live maybe a few years more than the average human lifespan.

          Kurzweil is looking to life extension of centuries and thousands of years, quite a difference. That's way he gets headlines.
          • Kurzweil is looking to life extension of centuries and thousands of years

            Immortality is overrated. Imagine a two hundred year old Stalin still in power. I think that was one of the main points of the tail end of the "Dune" series - and George Turner had a few things to say about it, paticularly in the book he was writing when he died (summary: two hundred year old idle rich, no experience in any form of labour, suddenly needs to get a job).

            Fitness is relative. Some of the fitter people I know are over s

        • by PHPhD2B (675590) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:51PM (#10551291)

          Asok: "Can you think of anything Wally would do vigorously?"

          Alice: "I'd rather not"

      • Why is the idea of living for thousands of years ridiculous? I've got a long list of things I would like to do, but can't because life is too short. I would love to take the time to learn many professions and develop a reputation in any that I end up being good at. How about take a stab at politics? Learn enough to compose a symphony? Watch every movie ever made and not worry that I am wasting my time with the bad ones? I can't do them all under current circumstances. Ridiculing an extremely long lifespan i
    • by asreal (177335) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:52PM (#10551297)
      We'll be waiting a lot longer than 20 years for nanobots that we have to worry about crashing or being hacked, at least on a widespread basis. When you think of nanobots in the short term, you'd be better off thinking of protiens than little submarine robots. They will be dumb machines that will handle one or two tasks - closing certain receptors, opening others, or just bonding to them and waiting for outside activation by light or radiation. They certainly won't be able to be reprogrammed or crash because of software bugs. The first ones won't be there to cure diseases, either. They'll be diagnostic tools, help with drug delivery, or perhaps treat symptoms of said diseases by halting or taking over various activities encouraged or disabled by the disease.

      Personally, I think Kurzweil's 20 year estimates are overly optimistic, although the general principles of what he talks about do hold up...
      • Personally, I think Kurzweil's 20 year estimates are overly optimistic, although the general principles of what he talks about do hold up...

        Of course you're forgetting that to his superiorly maintenanced body and mind 200 years may seem like only 20.. Just like the all-too-familiar trademarked Microsoft Seconds, where "38 seconds remaining" in the windows explorer actually means "see you next week, buddy".
    • Then again, we risk the possibility that there will be haves and have nots.

      I don't think this is a possibility, but the reality. The poor of the planet don't even have access to clean drinking water -- if we can't even guarantee that, what are the chances bleeding edge tech like this will *ever* be available to everyone? Until something as basic as this changes, I don't see any way that the corporations that develop this technology will use nanotech in an egalitarian manner. Class will not only be marke

    • by jejones (115979)
      You have it backwards. The rich are early adopters. They'll get nanobot 1.0 (the throwaway delivered to customers, per Brooks's famous line), and everybody else gets nanobot 1.x or 2.x.
  • Uh huh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by memodude (693879) <fastmemo@NOspam.comcast.net> on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:05PM (#10550971)
    ...just like we were going to have intelligent robots by 2001.
  • by incog8723 (579923) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:05PM (#10550972)
    What's wrong with existing as a human? Why do we have to constantly "improve" upon our existence? My take on any modifications to humanity are such that it's basically pointless. We might be smarter, but will we be happier? That's what life is about.
    • by Pampusik (458223) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:16PM (#10551051) Homepage
      Then, you need to ask youself, "what is the point of existing at all?" History seems to show we're really great at having babies and killing each other. Folks, this is evolution. Survival of the fittest.

      What Kurzweil is saying is that, as a species, it's time for us to create our children. The next step in our evolution is to for us to transcend humanity... which is likely to make some people very unhappy because we would, in effect, be emulating god. :)
    • will we be happier? That's what life is about.
      The meaning of life is abusing your hormones for pleasure, until you eventually end up dying?
    • We might be smarter, but will we be happier? That's what life is about.

      Well, if ignorance is bliss, then no, we will not be any happier. ;-)

      More seriously, I will be very much happier knowing that I am growing and improving and increasing my capabilities. I will be very happy to sprout a pair of wings and leap off tall buildings for pleasure. Having backups in case one of me goes splat (with a transmitter telling my "home base" my current state/configuration, and all the sensory input I take in, s

    • Hmm. Take that to it's logical endpoint and we wouldn't have anaesthesia and antibiotics. I guess you'd really like to understand why surgeons in the UK are called "Mr.". Speed surgery. With hacksaws. (No painkillers). Yuck. But seriously, we hold these
      guys in great regard. (and we love their passion for
      not being the quacks that couldn't fix things).

      Things are *going* to get really interesting. Go read some 60's science fiction and that's where we
      are headed. Pretty weird really. But, since you are aware of
    • Haha... I think everyone misinterpreted what I was trying to say. I led off my comment with "I have no problem with this"...

      To be more specific, I think that everyone should just be grateful that they have a life. "Improving on it" often has devastating results. I'm happy living on a farm, or in a hole. That's just me, and I'm not criticizing anyone for wanting more from their pathetic existence, but it's just playing with fire. No matter what you do, you're still going to die, and the point is to enj
    • Do or die..

      I always found the "Singularity" concept facinating, see: http://www.singinst.org/ for some info. But basically it states that we will soon reach a point in advancement, be it through AI or genetic engineering or whatever, that good old natural "humans" will become not just inferior but obsolete.

      The problem with that for you 'human' loving beings? Well simply that some things don't change so easily, given half a reason (say land / air / water / energy shortages) what reason would these new supe
    • by jejones (115979) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @04:49PM (#10551995) Journal
      What's wrong with existing as a human? Why do we have to constantly "improve" upon our existence? My take on any modifications to humanity are such that it's basically pointless. We might be smarter, but will we be happier? That's what life is about.

      Ask my mother, who had to care for my father during his descent into Alzheimer's, and whose dream of going places and doing things during retirement turned into a nightmare of losing her lifelong companion followed by bleak widowhood. If you survive her response, I'll be sorely tempted to finish the job for her.

      Long ago, I read a book written by a doctor, who bloviated on about what he considered the "bright side" of what was then called senile dementia. He spouted BS about a "Puzzled Angel" whose attentions took the aged into a supposedly better world of reliving their youth and childhood. I'm glad I never met the [expletive] who wrote that. To give up is to be less than human. I'm with Dylan Thomas in this issue, thank you very much.
    • What's wrong with existing as a human? Why do we have to constantly "improve" upon our existence? My take on any modifications to humanity are such that it's basically pointless.

      Yeah, my eyeglasses and vaccination-induced immunity to smallpox and stuff sure are pointless. And I've got a feeling that I'm probably happier than some of my prior, less-intelligent ancestors, whose main concern was whether they'd die of disease or being eaten by the ancestors of one of our current species of housepets.

      What,

  • by Xeo 024 (755161)
    All he's trying to say is 10 years from now we're all going to robots.
    • All he's trying to say is 10 years from now we're all going to robots.

      Oh my, I meant to say BE, "we're all going to BE robots", NOT "DO robots" you sickos..

  • by Mikeybo (801849) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:06PM (#10550985) Homepage
    It's funny because yesterday I was thinking of how long it will be possible to take pictures with our own eyes instead of using a camera.
    • by js3 (319268) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:08PM (#10550999)
      I think it is even funnier to think that you would print out of your butt
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:26PM (#10551117)
      You already can. They are stored in a random access file system (known as the BFS), using a pulpy grey mass as the recording medium. I hear you can even store moving pics and sound as well. You can play them back internally, and you can output the sound portion at will.

      The printing mechanism is still a bit rudimentary, using a mechanism similar to a large format plotter (moving a pen in X/Y coordinates). Some models do this better than others. Some are even extraordinary at this. A few work well in 3D space. Unfortunately, if you are saddled with a lower performing output module, you cannot yet buy an upgrade for it, nor install a new one. You are stuck with it as delivered.

    • Shutter. (Score:3, Funny)

      by jfisherwa (323744)
      Did anyone else blink their eyes at something and make a fake shutter noise inside of their head moments after reading this comment?

      Come on, I can't be the /only one/.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:07PM (#10550987)
    Ok, it's pretty much accepted that Roland is paying off Slashdot to get hits to his weblog or has some kind of deal with them.

    Can you at least add him the the author list so we could at least filter him out?

    This guy is using slashdot as his own advert. How come nobody running this site is noticing or addressing it?

    • by adamjaskie (310474) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:36PM (#10551183) Homepage
      Ok, it's pretty much accepted that Roland is paying off Slashdot to get hits to his weblog or has some kind of deal with them.

      While both Kurzweil and Roland make electronic keyboards and synthesizers of various shapes and sizes, I do not think the two companies would be happy about your confusion between them, nor would Roland be happy that you are insinuating that they are trying to make Kurzweil look like a nutjob.

  • by KrackHouse (628313) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:07PM (#10550993) Homepage
    I stopped taking supplements after reading this [technewsworld.com] article a few weeks ago. Here's an excerpt:
    Careless use of vitamins, taken by millions in the belief that they promote good health, could be causing thousands of premature deaths.
    A study investigating whether antioxidant vitamin supplements can prevent cancer found that rather than saving lives they seemed to increase overall risk of death.
    Although the effect was small, it amounted to 9,000 premature deaths among every million supplement users.

    Food for thought.
    • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:23PM (#10551096)
      I don't bother with most supplements. I take a few vitamins (like vitamin C), but I stopped taking ALL medication about 3-4 years ago, and stopped all caffiene a year after that.

      I've found that I no longer get sick and am in much better health overall than I was before. My guess is because I let my body do what it should, and not get used to artificial aids that are often not as good as what the body can do anyway. I'm 42, and am often told I look 30. When I have my backpack on my shoulder, as I do frequently, I am still mistaken for a student at one of the local universities. I've had gray hairs -- they show up during stress, then fade a few months after the stressful events. My barber has noticed this, too.

      I'm not saying I've found a fountain of youth, but I have noticed dropping out of the 9 to 5 world, running my own business on my own terms, and not letting meds fix everything in my body seems to have made a HUGE difference in how I feel, how much energy I have, and (according to others) in how I don't look anywhere near my age.
      • by uptownguy (215934) <UptownGuyEmail@gmail.com> on Sunday October 17, 2004 @03:24PM (#10551535)
        I have to agree -- this idea that blindly popping a "healthy" pill is automatically good for you can be quite flawed. Vitamins included...

        A few years ago, a large scale study was done on smokers taking vitamin suppliments and, contrary to what the researchers expected to find, certain components in the multivitamin actually proved to be quite harmful.

        A Finnish study of 29,000 male smokers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that participants were 18% more likely to develop lung cancer if they were given beta-carotene.
        (See linked article here) [bbc.co.uk]

        Now, in case you want to post an insightful reply for a quick infusion of karma, you could start with the obvious fact that smoking isn't the smartest thing to do in the first place...
      • The best way to stay younger than you are is to take in less calories! this has been shown to be true in all mammals, including humans.

        As long as you get all necessary nutrients, decreasing caloric intake is the fountain of youth. You might not be able to run a marathon but you'll understand that yourself when you hit that wall.

        I saw this fact in a documentary with Alan Alda as the presenter. All aging is because of free radicals permanently destroying cell parts, free radicals are produced during metabol
    • by dstone (191334) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @03:31PM (#10551578) Homepage
      I stopped taking supplements after reading this article a few weeks ago.

      I agree too many people think vitamins and herbal supplements are the magical solution to simple problems so thanks for sharing the link. But I think it's important to consider the serious limitations of that study and what one can justifiably conclude from it.

      1. The study did not include 'healthy' people. All participants had cancer of the gullet, stomach and intestine, bowel, pancreas or liver. Conclusions about any supplement's effect on a person without those cancers is not supported by this study. It would have been interesting to include a group of healthy patients in the study to see if the supplements were accelerating the existing cancer or causing some other form of death. The cause(s) of death is not stated in the article but probably is in the study itself. (Link to the study, anyone?)

      2. The supplements studied were limited to beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, and selenium, alone or in combination. The premature death increases were connected to taking both beta-carotene and either A or E. Conclusions about supplements other than beta-carotene and A or E aren't supported by this study.

      I'm not saying you can't extrapolate in your own mind about what other supplements might do to healthy people. Maybe that's a safe thing to do. But it isn't something the study is suggesting.
  • by Simon G Best (819178) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:12PM (#10551023)
    By 2030, there will be very little difference between 30-year-old and 120-year-old people, says Kurzweil. He's certainly a bright person...

    So, either 94-year-olds today have a surprisingly youthful future to look forward to, or today's 4-year-olds are going to age awfully fast!

    • I personally hope that our older (and often surprisingly wiser) friends get to live to 120.
      I'm a mere 45 year old.

      Anyone who thinks that Martin Gardner went senile at age 60 is obviously brain dead. He's 90 now, and we hope he beats George Burns...

      Don't trash older folk. I once used to help my father at the oldest continously running hospital in Europe (The Great Hospital Bishopsgate Norwich) and I can tell you that the worst thing you can do to an older person is dump them in a place for old people...

      Wh
  • by dnixon112 (663069) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:16PM (#10551054)
    He seems to have a good vision of the future. I read his book "The Age of Spiritual Machines" and it's clear he's not a 'nut' he's a smart and succesfull programmer and businessman. I think he has a lot more vision about the direction things are going in then most people. Many of his previous predictions have come true.

    My only beef with him is that his timeline is pretty radical. His whole premise is based on his 'Law of Accelerating Returns' which basically states that the pace of technological growth is increasing exponentially and we're at the point where the pace of growth is about to shoot straight up. The reason I think his timeline for all these predictions is too optimistic is because of considerations outside of his realm of thinking. Things like politics, buearocracy and social concerns can really slow down the adoption of new technology. What good is the latest nerve regeneration treatment when stem cells are illegal in the US. What good is the latest disease fighting nano-bots when their FDA approval is pending. What good is the latest wearable computer when all your friends will make fun of you when you wear it. These are the types of issues he never really deals with.
    • by wasted (94866)
      What good is the latest nerve regeneration treatment when stem cells are illegal in the US?

      Contrary to what the opponents of the current administration would have you believe, stem cell research is legal in the US. The federal government will not fund research on new embryonic stem cell lines, however.

      Here is President Bush's speech explaining it. [whitehouse.gov]

      So, if new embryonic stem cell lines are likely to cure diseases, private industry will probably jump in so they can patent the resulting cures.
    • by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @03:04PM (#10551417)
      Usually the speed of progress is measured by the amount of papers that are published in journals. A few guys at the Physical review letters at one point extrapolated the trend from the last 30 years and obtained the prediction that with current progress in science, in 2030 the speed with which shelf-space would be filled with the journal pages would exceed the speed of light. However, they could safely concluded that this wasn't a violation of general relativity as no actual information is transmitted in these pages.
    • by Tony-A (29931)
      His whole premise is based on his 'Law of Accelerating Returns' which basically states that the pace of technological growth is increasing exponentially and we're at the point where the pace of growth is about to shoot straight up.

      Imagine walking up to the face of a cliff. Doesn't say anything about how high the cliff is.

      The problem is that while progress does occur, it's pretty much five steps forward which are visible and four steps backward which nobody notices.
      Further, progress is multidimensional wi
  • In a related story, Ray Kurzweil has been hit by a bus. The coroner's report revealed that Kurzweil forgot to take his bus-repelling dietary supplement today.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:21PM (#10551081) Homepage Journal
    I had an opportunity to meet Ray at a Distinguished Guest lecture he delivered at my company last week.

    I also managed to ask him about his views (in his capacity as an established innovator/inventor) on aggressive Patenting and Copyright laws by corporations (for example SCO vs IBM, and the Record Industry lawsuits).

    It was gratifying to know that he was well aware of these problems, and even commended the "Open Source movement" and stressed on it's importance to encourage free flow of information and it's significance in the fight against the evergrowing stifling of innovation.

    It was an interesting lecture, where he covered quite a few of the topics in this article. Apparently, he treats his body as a "biological experiment" to try out different drugs (he's a diabetic) on himself.

    An interesting guy to say the least.

  • Pills-Overdose (Score:2, Informative)

    by eagle52997 (691489)
    Taking that many supplements is dangerous. Perhaps some readers know that Vitamin C is water soluble, so taking more does nothing unless your body needs it right then, because its going to come out again in less than 24 hours. But, for other minerals, and essential elements, there are narrow ranges which are healthy. Take fluoride for instance, just the right amount strengthens your teeth, and allows them to recover from cavities. But too much and ugly brown spots for on the teeth. Others are more seri
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:24PM (#10551103) Homepage
    Much of what he's predicting now he was predicting, in 1980, for 2000.

    If we get life extension that really works, it will probably work only for genetically modified humans. The genome, and the species, will have to be changed. The new models probably won't interbreed with the old ones. It will take a few generations to get these new species thoroughly debugged. But it will be really great for people a few centuries downstream.

    If you thought race and religion were problems, wait until we have multiple species of humans.

  • I'm not sure that I agree with someone taking daily such an amount of pills. What do you think?

    I think he has the world's most expensive urine.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I've been drinking Kurzweil Urine(tm) for years, and I feel GREAT !
  • I think that as so many people who predict future, including the science fiction writers, he suffers from the "I wish I live to see that" syndrome in his guestimates of dates when these things will happen. I don't think these supplements will be enough for him to live to see it.
  • I think that's awfully optimistic. While technology has advanced more rapidly than most people had believed, we still get colds, flu and of course, the "visionary" sky cars simply won't work unless they just fly themselves. I don't trust cell-phone-drivers, cell-phone-pilots will only make the situation worse.
  • Once nano-bots are inside our brains and can interact with out neurons, that will be the end of civilization. Once true virtual reality exists, not one man in the world will ever get married again, and the economies of the world will unravel (after a boost of course in some industries). Unlike The Matrix, only this will truly free man from his bondage.
  • by tempest69 (572798) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:31PM (#10551148) Journal
    We are just begining to scratch the surface of what's out there in Molecular Biology. We are just beginning to understand the signifigance of glycoproteins in cellular systems. We are still trying to figure out some of the basics of single celled organism's internal signaling. There are a huge amount of genes that we dont have the slightest clue about their function, we know what they build now, but we need to figure out what it's for.

    Imagine in 1776 you had a portable gas generator, and a truckload of computer parts from the last 20 years. Could you assemble a computer? sure. But what If you had 18th century knowlege. Your not really going to understand what the generator is for. Your probably going to try and make the peices into some sort of clock arrangement, marveling that you got the PCI card properly inserted into an ISA port.

    I'm not ragging on Biological Scientists, but right now were at the stage where we have found the pile of computer parts, and we know how a few of them fit, but It might be a while before we notice that seam on the back of the palm pilot for batteries. Because it doesn't look important.

    It might be a while before we really figure out how cellular life works. 10 years seems optomistic for just that. Ageing is a way larger issue. I dont think that immortality is around the bend.

    Either way, I hope Ray keeps up the good fight.

    Storm

  • In the mean time, he's pursuing his anti-aging quest and takes about 250 supplements to his diet every day!

    He could take it a little more easy :)

    So you would say it's the main purpose in training Taiji?

    P.K: The classics say the main purpose in training Taiji is to achieve longevity, which in the Daoist teaching means immortality or the ability to survive after death in your diamond body. The Buddhists talk of enlightenment which means to create a body of light for the same purpose. After death you
  • by tuxette (731067) * <tuxette.gmail@com> on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:34PM (#10551172) Homepage Journal
    A French woman named Jeanne Calment [google.com] lived to the ripe old age of 122. Her secret to longevity - chocolate, port wine, olive oil, quitting smoking at the age of 120, bicycling, etc. Basically, living life to the fullest and enjoying life rather than fearing old age. Unlike this anal-retentive pill-pushing twat. What good is living forever when you're stuck on a diet of pills and powder along with an otherwise boring lifestyle?
  • Ray Kurzweil has said that he plans not to die by taking advantage of this impending nanotech, but what if it takes longer to appear than he thinks? He has said that he has no real problem with the idea of cryonics. Will Ray Kurzweil sign a cryonics contract if he needs to?

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:38PM (#10551205)
    I'm curious to know what each 250 supplement is, and in what dosage, as well as what his "certain diet" consists of. I've never found his research to be more than slightly off, so more data on this would be helpful. As for those who consider this guy to be some sort of nutcase, yes, I can see how one interview can give that impression. However, I would stress the need do more research and investigation before drawing a conclusion from a single datapoint, which is never good science.
  • Kurzweil has done some impressive stuff in his day. But sadly, he's turned into a parody of one of those 90's futurists - more embarrassing in 2004, though. The list goes on and on: life extension, nanobots in our bloodstream, strong AI, the singularity, we're going to be spending lots of time in Virtual Reality (sure thing, dude).

    The foundation for 90% of the things he says are a bunch of hand-waving. Sure, we're about 20 years from discovering how to build nanobots that can do something useful in our blo
    • Incidentally, while he may think that he's 'really 40', his biological age of 56 is very, very obvious: who else but a baby boomer could be such a pioneer in this kind of pretentious selfishness?

      I can at least hope that he has to stuff a reasonable portion of those pills up his ass.
    • I totally agree.

      Kurzweil is just another rich, aging Baby Boomer who is trying to convince himself that he can regain his youth.

      In other words, he's having a delayed, extended, mid-life crisis.

      If somebody could get this guy laid, I bet the only supplement he'd be taking would be Viagra.
  • No, really! I mean he certainly had some interesting things to say back in the day, but now it just seems like it's all unsubstantiated fabrication. He's like Negroponte from the MIT media labs. You know, the authorative voice on technology that hasn't produced a single thing that matters. They are both like zombies their personas living on after their tenuous claims have died and been buried.
  • Right now, there's a restricted architecture to the way our brains work. The brain uses electrochemical signaling for information processing, and that's a million times slower than electronic circuits. You can make only about 100 trillion connections in there. That may seem like a big number, but the way in which we store information is inefficient, so that a master of an area of knowledge can really remember only about 100,000 chunks of knowledge. If you use Google, you can already see the power of what ma
  • I think this [kurzweilmusicsystems.com] is his biggest accomplishment. As far as all that futuristic stuff, I don't know...
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @02:53PM (#10551312) Journal
    and I don't mean that as Flamebait or Trolling - I think Kurzweil's recent career has been one of a flaming Troll. I've read his books and they're little more than materialist New Age guru crap. Before you go modding me down, hear this out.

    1. great statements require great proof.
    2. predictions should follow patterns of substructure

    He offers no proof - he simply says : look what's happened so far, by (x) date (which will likely be after I'm dead) the world will be SO different and it will be like (THIS).

    His claims of AI are floundering on simple facts like Intel scrapping 4gHz chips [slashdot.org] and any number of other signs that Moore's Law, on which Kurzweil's argument rests, is being scrapped as we speak.

    another example: stick a blank floppy in your fancy pants XP machine and start the computer up. Computers are SO far from being "intelligent" in even the most rudimentary way, it's absurd. The basic flaw in Kurzweil's notions are that he believes that intelligence is a disembodied effect, when (if the likes of Ramachandran are correct) intelligence is an embodied effect and specifically dependent on wetware. So, the pattern doesn't hold, and he has no real proof. He's selling snake oil to technodweebs.

    Then there's the entire issue of social class, and Kurzweil has no interest in serving the greater masses of humanity. He is interested in pushing a technological vanguard that will be open only to the rich, who, once properly enabled/enhanced with have no need or desire to accomodate a working class. Why bring on board the middle classes, when you can replace them all with machines? And if you think this doesn't mean you, you're an idiot.

    But beyond all that his fantasy is just that: a fantasy.Technology is a means, not an end in itself, and the likes of Kurzweil seek to put the managers of technology in a position of power above and beyond democratic principles, and for that he and his ilk must be opposed and revealed for what they are: techno-fascists.

    Now, for full disclosure: I do think we need a robust space program, I do think we need faster and better computers, I do think we can and should use technology to solve the world's ills where technology is a legitimate solution. I *even agree* that we can make humans more disease resistant and longer lived, and I also believe that that is a good thing. However:

    I do not see technology as Kurzweil does: in some kind of Messianic Eschatology. It's not like that, and I feel that he and his ilk are perpetrating a fraud on the public, but mostly on the people they advocate the most: technologists. I think the Really Hard Nut To Crack is not going to be technological, but sociological and political.

    Jaron Lanier wrote an interesting opposition paper [edge.org] that also opposes Kurzweil, but in more polite language than myself. I guess Lanier doesn't consider Kurzweil to be the charlatan I see him as.

    RS

    • by Spoing (152917) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @03:42PM (#10551656) Homepage
      1. His claims of AI are floundering on simple facts like Intel scrapping 4gHz chips and any number of other signs that Moore's Law, on which Kurzweil's argument rests, is being scrapped as we speak.

      Moore's law [wikipedia.org] does not deal with clock speed. It deals with complexity. Intel did say they were working on making the processors more efficient (per cycle). That is typically achieved by adding more hardware; increased complexity.

    • I just want to address a couple of points you make. As far as Intel scrapping the 4ghz, I don't think it's wise to see that, as is, as evidence of Moore's Law no longer being attainable. We could clearly make processors running at higher speeds that that, but it wouldn't be cost effective for the current consumer market. That is pretty much the problem underlying all of this.

      What Kurzweil is claiming will happen in 20 years, I think is easily possible. It would take work, and a shitload of cash, but it's
  • by Duncan3 (10537) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @03:25PM (#10551538) Homepage
    Lets face it, life is really only a "good time" until you graduate college and gave to get a day job that sucks the life out of you just like everyone else. After that you're just a working stiff mindlessly going about your day exhausted, stressed, and boring.

    We should be focused on extending the fun years before the hell begins. I sure don't want more years as a 60 yr old, I want more as a 20 yr old.
  • from my blog (Score:5, Interesting)

    by feelyoda (622366) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @04:15PM (#10551808) Homepage
    Machine Dreams [blogspot.com]:: Ray Kurzweil spoke at RI25. Well, when I say "at", I mean that he was projected onto a transparent screen, in what was perhaps the highest quality tele-presence I've seen.

    But still, he lacked situational awareness, and it was awkward at times. I wanted to ask questions, but there wasn't an option.

    The interview linked above is a lot like his talk. He talked about the numerous exponential growths in recent technology, and not just Moore's Law.

    He figures that he should try to be healthy until 2020, then a biomedical revolution will keep him healthy for another 20 years, and then a nano-technology revolution will kick in to keep him alive forever.

    By "alive", he means that his intelligence propagates in the cold, soul-less heart of a machine. But considering that I agree with him that there is no ghost in the shell, this soulless form doesn't seem that bad. At least you're still sentient!

    I agree with the principle, that there is nothing to stop this, that all technology is pushing us in this direction, and that it would prove to be a very positive experience. I do not necessarily agree about the time frame. I can't really trust the curves that he fits with so much confidence. Then again, I'm 32 years younger than him, so if he is off by 32 years, I guess I shouldn't complain :)

    Last night at a party, drunk enough to make the discussion interesting, some folks objected to the extrapolation of the increasing rate of expansion of scientific knowledge. What guarantee is there, after all, to find all the secrets in that time? I would say first that the rate of growth in the number of researchers alone could do it. Also, increases in productivity, have always been accompanied with "this pace can't continue" claims, which have always been wrong.

    Also brought up was the notion that life is defined by death. That is a very defeatist thought, which I will fight, err, to my grave. In addition, some thought they would get bored if they lived forever. I would say that I could never complain about there being "more books than i could ever read", which is a great thing. Also, I've always wanted to get really good at GO.

    Finally, the notion of replication of machine intelligence was introduced. Someone claimed that I shouldn't discount the important sociological and physical implications of being born from a human whom. I agreed, only to realize that the first few moments of any existence will have a huge implication on the formation of the individual intelligence. So if I copy myself, I'll have to think of a few appropriate words to introduce the other me into this world. So far, all I can come up with is "hi".
  • by danila (69889) on Sunday October 17, 2004 @04:44PM (#10551966) Homepage
    I suggest those who don't understand this simple fact check out the bottle for any food supplement. There are usually 20-50 components in each pill. This means that Kurzweil is likely taking no more than 10 pills daily, which translates into about 2-3 per meal. Which isn't really that big of a deal.

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