Ray Kurzweil Interviewed by Charlie Rose (Video)

It does seem to be multimedia week this week, doesn't it? For those who'd like to listen to futurist Ray Kurzweil discussing his views on radical life extension and the future of technology - as presented in his books Fantastic Voyage and The Singularity is Near - here's an Akamai link to the Windows Media Format video of his appearance with Charlie Rose. Grab it while it's still there!


Does one of the 250 pills Ray takes make him blink?

Posted by: Kip Werking at August 5th, 2005 7:43 AM

I'm suprised they didn't discuss "Singularity" or "Age of Spiritual Machines", which have much much intriguing arguments. Maybe the producers thought the theses of these books were too shocking or pie-in-the-sky.

Nevertheless, Kurzweil did a good job. He very rationally and informatively discussed a topic, in which doing so, could've easily made him come off as a crackpot.

I can't wait to read his new book. He seems to be the only person not afraid to name the final outcome of all the technology we're developing--human omniscience and immortality.

Posted by: Protagonist at August 5th, 2005 2:20 PM

Kurzweil is off his loaf. Who takes him seriously these days anyway except "singularity" cult members?

It's amazing that Kurzweil thinks these technologies will suddenly appear when he turns seventy. Yowzah!

Posted by: adbatstone at August 5th, 2005 4:36 PM

Whatever you might have to say about Kurzweil's prognostications and activities (I'm not all that happy to see him entering the supplement market, for example), he's done a great deal of work to back up the claims he's making about the future of technology and its consequences. His view is not outside the mainstream of those who look seriously and soberly at the future.

I believe his timescales are on the optimistic side for healthy life extension technologies (based on my view of the time taken for business cycles to elapse), but he has way more data and research work backing his argument than I have backing mine.

Posted by: Reason at August 5th, 2005 7:15 PM

I don't want my remarks on Kurzweil to be taken as too critical: I love the guy. He introduced me to life extension, the Singularity, and transhumanism (although I've never heard him use the word transhumanism)! Any criticism I have (of for example vitamin milkshakes) is made in an affectionate manner. Vitamin milkshakes are harmless and Kurzweil can spend his money however he likes. He has done infinitely more for the transhumanist and life extensionist cause than I ever will.

That said, if one is going to defend Kurzweil, I think Reason does it in a curious way. If I could summarize this defense: Kurzweil backs up his claims. Really? Kurzweil's evidence consists of over-extrapolating from Moore's Law (Aubrey de Grey might call him an extrapoholic!). I haven't read the vitamin milkshake pushing Fantastic Voyage but I suspect Michael Rae could debunk most of it (I'd like to see that!), although its food pyramid seems sensible. Notice, however, how different the food pyramid in Fantastic Voyage is from the grain-heavy one in the 10% Solution. Once we get into Kurzweil's more specific predictions (nano-bots in the bloodstream, neural nano-bots for Virtual Reality, optimistic time-scales), I see no evidence for these claims whatsoever. You write that he's too optimistic about time lines. But I think he's (also?) too optimistic about outcome: Kurzweil acknowledges but seems to dismiss the possibility of a global catastrophe striking before the Singularity, an unsafe Singularity, or him dying before he reaches the Singularity.

That said, Kurzweil is definitely right about a lot. His less specific, and more general, claims are obviously true: (barring global catastrophe) we will reverse engineer the human brain and cause a Singularity, before or after we reach escape velocity. This may happen in 2020 or, less realistically, 2120, but the prediction is important to make regardless of when it happens, because the event is of the utmost importance, a century or two is just a moment in geological time, and many people deny that we can ever reach the Singularity or escape velocity.

Finally, the future is hard to predict. But as a life extensionist, I feel most comfortable with Kurzweil (and Aubrey de Grey) when they are making their ethical case for enhancement (in Kurzweil's case) or life extension. The ethical case involves no predictions which might prove us wrong. Aging will be unfortunate, and life extension will be ethical, today, tomorrow, and forever. Perhaps making this ethical argument is one of Kurzweil's best contributions.

Posted by: Kip Werking at August 5th, 2005 10:06 PM

Iif things keep going at the pace they're going in about a decade or two the outcome may begin to appear inevitable. The elements necessary to unleash that which could be called the singularity, while quite complex are being constructed for diverse and disparate purposes, the knowledge necessary is being accumlulated for diverse and disparate reasons, once these things are... it will be only a matter of time before, they are brought together, and unleash their full potential.

Posted by: apocalypse at August 8th, 2005 6:47 PM

Everyone posting here, I would generally assume, follows the latest news in the science of life extension. If ray is off, he's not off by much. It seems as if there is a new breakthrough almost every day that would in one way or another assist in extending our lifespans. Wether it's yet another development in stem cell research or a faster way to map our own genome,minus the slower than mollasses in january clinical trials we would probably have realistic treatments available in far less time.

Posted by: steve at August 14th, 2005 2:36 PM
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