Saturday, July 07, 2007

The scary thing about Ray Kurzweil

Notwithstanding FORTUNE magazine's portrayal of him as a futurist ("The smartest (or the nuttiest) futurist on Earth", May 14 issue), Ray Kurzweil has demonstrated an eerie sense of delusion.

An obvious indication of his delusional nature is that the man intends not to die. And he's planning to achieve that by taking 230 supplement pills, having intravenous supplement treatments once a week, exercising and drinking green tea. This, he claims, will "reprogram" his body chemistry and stop aging: "By most measures, my biological age is about 40, and I have some hormone and nutrient level of a person in his 30s."

Yeah, right! He forgot to mention that his emotional and psychological age is probably somewhere nearer 10, or even lower. Just read this account of his meeting with Peter Diamandis, one of his true believers and creator of the X Prize in the FORTUNE article:

Diamandis pulls out a plastic bag of supplement pills and explains he's up to about 30 a day. Kurzweil reaches into his jacket for some of his own supplements. "His pills are bigger than my pills!" says Diamandis.

Then, more seriously, he asks Kurzweil if he ever gets nosebleeds from the supplement regimen. Kurzweil doesn't. "I think it might be the memory pills," says Diamandis.


No wonder this guy advocates using nanobots to maintain the human brain. He's brain dead.

Kurzweil's misguided view stems from the fact that he believes computers will surpass humans in intelligence by 2027, and by 2045, "strictly biological" humans won't be able to keep up. He says that everything will be subject to his law of accelerating returns because "everything is ultimately becoming information technology". Well, only if you believe in his crap that human beings are spiritual machines. The ultimate future he envisions makes one cringe at the overtones of a future society that has been portrayed in science fiction as dystopian: one in which humans are fused with or dominated by machines and technology so thoroughly that human meaning and the "human spirit" are lost completely.

The way Kurzweil talks about the creation of artificial intelligence sounds as if some day we'll invent HAL and start talking to it. Ever since Alan Turing described the Turing Test, people have described AI in terms of ability to generate and understand language, ability to make human-like decisions, ability to show and understand emotions. In other words, the ability to relate to humans. There is no reason to believe that AI capable of thinking or communicating like us will exist on a human scale.

As one critic argued: "Computers, as we currently build them, just aren't very good at doing biological-brain-like things. That's not to say that they never will be, but thinking that raw processing speed is the only thing between us and fleets of C-3POs seems to ignore a lot of what the history of AI has already taught us."

Hence, I think too much credit is given to the so-called "Kurzweil Curve" (see graphic). It assumes that all the while technology is advancing, human experience and knowledge will remain stagnant. At some point, the rate at which new technology is developed will become limited by the rate at which the infrastructure for the prior technology is deployed. Cellular communication is one example.

It is also easy for Kurzweil to play connect-the-dots based upon an arbitrary selection of milestones and paradigm shifts to predict future trends. Read the related stories below that expose the flaws in Kurzweil's theory of exponential growth.

Related stories:
The Singularity Myth
Singularly Silly Singularity
Ray Kurzweil's Future
Ray Kurzweil is a Very Smart Man who would Fail My Freshman Physics Class


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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dummys such as yourself are not fit to comment on the singularity theory. Users and makers sre two different sets of people and you are a mere user.

Stephen Yeo said...

To anon above:

If you can spell properly, perhaps I would believe you.

Anonymous said...

dude-you trolled your own blog :)

Stephen Yeo said...

If that were true, the above would be me too.

Anonymous said...

So he spelled are "sre". If you're referring to the "Dummys" needing to be spelled "Dummies"... then you have horrendous issues. It's a post, on a blog entry. Seriously, I'm not handing in my Ph.D. Dissertation to you; I've no need to spell-check this.


On to my response to your blog then:
You're the brain dead one, buddy. I'm sorry, and I don't agree with everything Ray talks about. I think that his data extrapolation method of predicting advances has been fairly effective, up until now. We simply have too many factors. Thirty years ago, when his business enterprises were at their peak, that system worked; it was a simpler time and tech was advancing predictably. Nowadays life is more complex, and factors influence things we can barely see.

His claims and dates might be a little bit short, and his methods a tad extreme, but he's done things nowhere short of quite remarkable. His regimen of supplements and his lifestyle is a tad extreme, but I'll tell you something. If you live healthily and keep yourself out of danger, you will live to see the day when that man celebrates hitting 120 years of age. He's a fanatic and a futurist, not a crackpot. His methods are by no means experimental, in fact; he fears new procedures being "tested" on him because of the risks and dangers they pose.

That quote of yours has absolutely no backing to call him an idiot by. He's a little over-the-edge on the "living forever" stuff, and he seems a little "off" because he's different. However, that changes in no respect the fact that he is probably many times more intelligent than you, he has at his disposal a far greater economic empire than you, and you have no right to do anything but be jealous of him.

Don't insult people because you don't agree with them. That's called being rude. Now take your opinions, research-back them, and live good and healthy, and then you can tell people about them. Better yet, talk to Raymond Kurzweil yourself about it. Don't insult your superiors, you snot-nosed little punk.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anonymous....just finished reading the first Ray Kurzweil book and you really should do more research. We are progressing faster than humans from a hundred years ago could ever imagine. His predictions (all things considered) are extremely formidable. If you have insecurities of your own life.....Let them go! Chances are you are younger than Ray and will have a great shot at seeing all of these fascinating things. Providing we do not have significant set backs (which he talks about) those under the age of 40 have an excellent and bright future ahead of us where machines are in every corner of our lives and eventually PART of our lives. Keep reading, man...You'll get there.

Anonymous said...

After reading this blog entry "Mindblogging stuff" I felt the impulse to write and comment. But since I first went through the comments posted, I will limit to endorse fully the comment of the anonymous who says "you are the brain dead". Totally with him on this. It just seemed so unaprorpiate the tone of the article when refering to someone like Ray Kurzweil.

Anonymous said...

Masterful trolling, sir.

Orion said...

Ray Kurzweil is a classic "Scientism" follower. He's not interested in science unless there is religious mumbo-jumbo attached to it. It'll be quite amusing when they have his funeral and bury him with all his supplements and computers. Your toys will not save you.

Anonymous said...

@ Orion

According to him, my 2015 PC should be able boot Windows instantaneously from powerup, and my car not having the same four wheels and fuel efficiency as a decade ago. Because accelerating technological progress right?

Singularity my ass.

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