Ray Kurzweil

American computer scientist, author, entrepreneur, futurist and inventor (born 1948)

Ray Kurzweil (born February 12, 1948) is an American author, computer scientist, inventor, futurist, and a director of engineering at Google. He is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements.

Raymond Kurzweil in 2005



The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (1999)

  • Before the next century is over, human beings will no longer be the most intelligent of capable type of entity on the planet.
  • The primary political and philosophical issue of the next century will be the definition of who we are.
  • Once a computer achieves human intelligence it will necessarily roar past it.
  • It is in the nature of exponential growth that events develop extremely slowly for extremely long periods of time, but as one glides through the knee of the curve, events erupt at an increasingly furious pace. And that is what we will experience as we enter the twenty-first century.
  • The speed and density of computation have been doubling every three years (at the beginning of the twentieth century) to one year (at the end of the twentieth century), regardless of the type of hardware used. ...Despite many decades of progress since the first calculating equipment was used in the 1890 census, it was not until the mid-1960s that this phenomenon was even noticed (although Alan Turing had an inkling of it in 1950).
  • The Law of Time and Chaos: In a process, the time interval between salient events (that is, events that change the nature of the process, or significantly affect the future of the process) expands of contracts along with the amount of chaos.
  • The Law of Accelerating Returns: As order exponentially increases, time exponentially speeds up (that is, the time interval between salient events grows shorter as time passes). The Law... applies specifically to evolutionary processes.
  • Order... is information that fits a purpose.
  • Sometimes, a deeper order—a better fit to a purpose—is achieved through simplification rather than further increases in complexity.
  • A primary reason that evolution—of life-forms or technology—speeds up is that it builds on its own increasing order.

"The Singularity," The New Humanists: Science at the Edge (2003)

John Brockman, Editor
  • I quickly realized that you had to have a good idea of the future if you were going to succeed as an inventor.
  • This interest in trends took on a life of its own, and I began to project some of them using what I call the Law of Accelerating Returns.
  • The twentieth century was like twenty years' worth of change at today's rate of change.
  • What's not fully realized is that Moore's Law was not the first paradigm to bring exponential growth to computers. We had electromechanical calculators, relay-based computers, vacuum tubes, and transistors. Every time one paradigm ran out of steam, another took over.
  • We live in a three-dimensional world, and our brains are organized in three dimensions, so we might as well compute in three dimensions. ...Right now, chips, even though they're very dense, are flat.
  • My own field, pattern recognition... is the fundamental capability of the human brain. We can't think fast enough to logically analyze situations quickly, so we rely on our powers of pattern recognition.
  • The basic feasibility of communicating in both directions between electronic devices and biological neurons has already been demonstrated.
  • Consciousness becomes a matter of philosophical debate; it's not scientifically reliable.
  • The ethical debates are like stones in a stream. The water runs around them. You haven't seen any biological technologies held up for one week by any of these debates.
  • If you use conventional data compression on the [human brain's] genome, you get about 23 million bytes (a small fraction of the size of Microsoft Word), which is a level of complexity we can handle.
  • We use one stage of technology to create the next stage, which is why technology accelerates, why it grows in power.

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (2005)

  • My spiritual education... took place at a Unitarian Church. The theme was "many paths to the truth." …even the inconsistencies were illuminating. It became apparent to me that the basic truths were profound enough to transcend apparent contradictions.
  • To this day I remain convinced of this basic philosophy: no matter what quandries we face... there is an idea that can enable us to prevail.
  • This... was the religion that I was raised with: veneration for human creativity and the power of ideas.
  • The power of ideas to transform the world is itself accelerating.
  • Ultimately, the entire universe will become saturated with our intelligence. This is the destiny of the universe.
  • As intelligence saturates the matter and energy available to it, it turns dumb matter into smart matter.
  • There have been attempts to respond to the so-called Fermi Paradox (which, granted, is a paradox only if one accepts the optimistic parameters that most observers apply to the Drake equation). One common response is that a civilization may obliterate itself once it reaches radio capability. This explanation might be acceptable if we were talking about only a few such civilizations, but with the common SETI assumptions implying billions of them, it is not credible to believe that everyone of them destroyed itself.
  • The Singularity will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. We will gain power over our fates. Our mortality will be in our own hands. We will be able to live as long as we want (a subtly different statement from saying we will live forever). We will fully understand human thinking and will vastly extend and expand its reach. By the end of this century, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence.
  • So What's Left? Let's consider where we are, circa early 2030s. We've eliminated the heart, lungs, red and white blood cells, platelets, pancreas, thyroid and all the hormone-producing organs, kidneys, bladder, liver, lower esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and bowel. What we have left at this point is the skeleton, skin, sex organs, sensory organs, mouth and upper esophagus, and brain.
    • p. 307
  • So whether information represents one man's sentimental archive, the accumulating knowledge base of the human-machine civilization, or the mind files stored in our brains, what can we conclude about the ultimate longevity of software? The answer is simply this: Information lasts only so long as someone cares about it. The conclusion that I've come [...] is that there is no set of hardware and software standards existing today, nor any likely to come along, that will provide any reasonable level of confidence that the stored information will still be accessible [...] decades from now.
    • p. 329
  • Until such time that computers at least match human intelligence in every dimension, it will always remain possible for skeptics to say the glass is half empty. Every new achievement of AI can be dismissed by pointing out other goals that have not yet been accomplished. Indeed, this is the frustration of the AI practitioner: once an AI goal is achieved, it is no longer considered as falling within the realm of AI and become instead just a useful general technique. AI is thus often regarded as the set of problems that have not yet been solved.
    • p. 441

Transcendent Man (2009)

  • Ultimately this virtual reality will go inside the brain and then really will be fully merging with all of the senses. Virtual reality ultimately will have all of the features of real reality plus a lot more that you can chose from millions of virtual environments. You can be someone else, you don’t have to pick the same boring body every time you can be different people and different situations and over time our biological bodies will become obsolete. We’ll have many bodies and we’ll look back at the idea of having one body and being dependent on just one biological body and having no back-up for a mind file as a very primitive time
  • I will be able to talk to this re-creation. Ultimately, it will be so realistic it will be like talking to my father.
  • You can certainly argue that, philosophically, that is not your father. That is a replica, but I can actually make a strong case that it would be more like my father than my father would be, were he to live.
  • I think all human beings are and should be fearful [of death, but realizing that death is a real tragedy.
  • this will become the size of blood cells and we will be able to put intelligence inside of our bodies and brains to keep ourselves healthier.
  • The Terminator' is not an impossibility. I think that symbolizes the downside of artificial intelligence ... but technology has a big downside in general. There is a bigger downside to not pursuing it.
  • Creating an avatar of this sort is one way of embodying that information in a way that human beings can interact with. It is inherently human to transcend limitations.
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