The Ray Kurzweil Thread
#1
This thread is to discuss the ideas and predictions of Ray Kurzweil.

Kurzweil has been a major influence in my life, and I find myself seeing technology and culture in a much different way now than I did before reading his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.

If you are unaware of his contributions, you can check out his wikipedia page here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictions...d_Kurzweil

Also, here is an excellent video of him at TED.

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#2
I had no idea about the dude until I saw the video. Brilliant talk, underlines everything I love about TED. Would look out for his books if I happen to find them in a Mumbai bookstore, I know far-fetched thought but still. :P
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#3
(02-May-2010, 12:49 PM)iconoclastmolotov Wrote: I had no idea about the dude until I saw the video. Brilliant talk, underlines everything I love about TED. Would look out for his books if I happen to find them in a Mumbai bookstore, I know far-fetched thought but still. :P

Look for 'The Singularity is Near'. Its a few years old now, but its still awesome..
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
Alright folks, turns out I was wrong about accepting Kurzweil's ideas about the Singularity on face value. Please read this excellent critique of his ideas:

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2...onary.html

Piglliucci has ripped him apart. I still think that Kurzweil is a technological visionary with some interesting ways of looking at technology, but a lot of things he has said, including some of his major premises and conclusions, are clearly wrong.

Here's an excerpt form Pigliucci's post:

Quote:And there is more, much more: “a serious assessment of the history of technology reveals that technological change is exponential. Exponential growth is a feature of any evolutionary process.” First, it is highly questionable that one can even measure “technological change” on a coherent uniform scale. Yes, we can plot the rate of, say, increase in microprocessor speed, but that is but one aspect of “technological change.” As for the idea that any evolutionary process features exponential growth, I don’t know where Kurzweil got it, but it is simply wrong, for one thing because biological evolution does not have any such feature — as any student of Biology 101 ought to know.
Kurzweil’s ignorance of evolution is manifested again a bit later, when he claims — without argument, as usual — that “Evolution is a process of creating patterns of increasing order. ... It’s the evolution of patterns that constitutes the ultimate story of the world. ... Each stage or epoch uses the information-processing methods of the previous epoch to create the next.” I swear, I was fully expecting a scholarly reference to Deepak Chopra at the end of that sentence. Again, “evolution” is a highly heterogeneous term that picks completely different concepts, such as cosmic “evolution” (actually just change over time), biological evolution (which does have to do with the creation of order, but not in Kurzweil’s blatantly teleological sense), and technological “evolution” (which is certainly yet another type of beast altogether, since it requires intelligent design). And what on earth does it mean that each epoch uses the “methods” of the previous one to “create” the next one? Techno-mystical babble this is.
In his description of the progression between the six epochs, Kurzweil dances a bit too close to the infamous anthropic principle, when he says “The rules of our universe and the balance of the physical constants ... are so exquisitely, delicately and exactly appropriate ... that one wonders how such an extraordinary unlikely situation came about.” Can you say Intelligent Design, Ray? This of course had to follow a paragraph including the following sentence: “we do know that atomic structures store and represent discrete information.” Well, only if one adopts such a general definition of “information” that the word entirely loses meaning. Unless of course one has to force the incredibly chaotic and contingent history of the universe in six nicely lined up epochs that start with “Physics and Chemistry: information in atomic structures.”
The jump from epoch 2 (biology and DNA) to 3 (brains) is an almost comical reincarnation of the old scala naturae, the great chain of being that ascended from minute particles and minerals (Kurzweil’s physics and chemistry age) to plants (epoch 2), animals (epoch 3), humans (epoch 4) and... Well, that’s where things diverge, of course. Instead of angels and god we have, respectively, human-computer hybrids and the Singularity. The parallels are so obvious that I can’t understand why it took me forty years to see them (it didn’t really, it all came to me in a rapid flash of awakening).
Where does Kurzweil get his hard data for the various diagrams purportedly showing this cosmic progression through his new scala naturae? Fortunately for later scholars, he tells us: the Encyclopedia Britannica, the American Museum of Natural History (presumably one of those posters about the history of the universe they sell in their gift shop), and Carl Sagan’s cosmic calendar (which Sagan used as a metaphor to convey a sense of the passing of cosmic time in his popular book, The Dragons of Eden). I bow to the depth of Kurzweil’s scholarship.
And finally, we get to stage 6, when the universe “wakes up.” How is this going to happen? Easy: “[the universe] will achieve this by reorganizing matter and energy to provide an optimal level of computation to spread out from its origin on Earth.” Besides the obvious objection that there is no scientific substance at all to phrases like the universe reorganizing matter and energy (I mean, the universe is matter and energy), what on earth could one possibly mean by “optimal level of computation”? Optimal for whom? To what end? Oh, and for this to happen, Kurzweil at least realizes, “information” would have to somehow overcome the limit imposed by the General Theory of Relativity on how fast anything can travel, i.e. the speed of light. Kurzweil here allows himself a bit of restraint: “Circumventing this limit has to be regarded as highly speculative.” No, dude, it aint’ just speculative, it would amount to a major violation of a law of nature. You know, the sort of thing David Hume labeled “miracles.” (channel Sagan’s version of Hume’s dictum: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.)
Would you like (another) taste of just how “speculative” Kurzweil can get? I’m glad you asked: “When scientists become a million times more intelligent and operate a million times faster, an hour would result in a century of progress (in today’s terms) ... Ultimately, the entire universe will become saturated with our intelligence. This is the destiny of the universe.” Oh? The universe has a destiny? And, pray, who laid that out?
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#5
(19-Apr-2011, 10:20 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: Alright folks, turns out I was wrong about accepting Kurzweil's ideas about the Singularity on face value. Please read this excellent critique of his ideas:

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2...onary.html

Piglliucci has ripped him apart. I still think that Kurzweil is a technological visionary with some interesting ways of looking at technology, but a lot of things he has said, including some of his major premises and conclusions, are clearly wrong.

Singularity has been described as rapture for nerds, a new religion in the making. But I still think there is a good probability that an intelligence explosion kind of singularity will happen:

Quote:Core claim: Intelligence has always been the source of technology. If technology can significantly improve on human intelligence – create minds smarter than the smartest existing humans – then this closes the loop and creates a positive feedback cycle. What would humans with brain-computer interfaces do with their augmented intelligence? One good bet is that they’d design the next generation of brain-computer interfaces. Intelligence enhancement is a classic tipping point; the smarter you get, the more intelligence you can apply to making yourself even smarter

I hope Kurzweil's flaws will not detract people from taking the idea of singularity seriously. Even if it turns out to be a dead end, the journey to it could produce some interesting results.
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#6
PZ ripped him apart long time back when he was rambling on how computers will be able to imitate brain function in near future :

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/...dersta.php

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