Like many, I think that Ray Kurzweil is overly optimistic on the timeline for progress in technology. I don't think he's wrong in terms of his high level view on where our technology is going, just a few decades on the early side - which is unfortunate for those of us who will age to death before the advent of rejuvenation biotechnology. It is certainly the case that the first draft of technologies to repair the underlying biological damage that causes aging could arrive fairly soon, within two decades - but it's not just a matter of building them, even though there are detailed research and development plans for doing so.
The issues are persuasion and fundraising; when it comes to aging, the mainstream of the research community is set on goals that either have nothing to do with human longevity, or will do very little to extend life even after being realized at great cost. So the comparatively tiny and underfunded shard of the scientific community whose members are interested in realizing effective means of rejuvenating the old will likely spend the next twenty years on laying the groundwork, prototyping the biotechnologies, proving their case ever more completely, growing funding, and persuading ever more researchers to do the same. If there were hundreds of millions of dollars devoted to this cause today, we could leap ahead twenty years in this timeline - but there are not. The money and large supportive community still has to be bootstrapped, building on the present early phase in the growth of modern rejuvenation research, underway successfully but slowly for the past decade or so, giving rise to organizations like the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation.
Here is Kurzweil's take on timelines, which are derived from his analysis of trends in technological capabilities:
To listen to Mr. Kurzweil or read his several books is to be flummoxed by a series of forecasts that hardly seem realizable in the next 40 years. But this is merely a flaw in my brain, he assures me. Humans are wired to expect "linear" change from their world. They have a hard time grasping the "accelerating, exponential" change that is the nature of information technology. "A kid in Africa with a smartphone is walking around with a trillion dollars of computation circa 1970," he says. Project that rate forward, and everything will change dramatically in the next few decades.
"I'm right on the cusp," he adds. "I think some of us will make it through" - he means baby boomers, who can hope to experience practical immortality if they hang on for another 15 years. By then, Mr. Kurzweil expects medical technology to be adding a year of life expectancy every year. We will start to outrun our own deaths. And then the wonders really begin.
Mr. Kurzweil's ideas on death and immortality, not his impressive record as an entrepreneur, are what bring TV newsmagazines and print reporters to his door these days. I suggest to him he's discovered the power of the prophetic voice and is borne forward by the rewarding feelings that come from giving people hope in the face of their profoundest fears. My insight does not impress him. He says he just gets satisfaction from seeing his ideas, like his inventions, wield a positive force in the world. People blame technology for humanity's problems, he says. They are much too pessimistic about its power to solve poverty, disease and pollution in our lifetimes.