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Looking into the future ...
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not the political future, but the future of mankind. Dr. Ray Kurzweil, who has been remarkably prescient about scientific developments of the past, thinks the future looks pretty good in some areas.

Like diet:
Have patience. Within 10 years, Dr. Kurzweil explained, there will be a drug that lets you eat whatever you want without gaining weight.
That is, all you want if you can afford it.

Greenhouse gas emissions?
Have faith. Solar power may look terribly uneconomical at the moment, but with the exponential progress being made in nanoengineering, Dr. Kurzweil calculates that it’ll be cost-competitive with fossil fuels in just five years, and that within 20 years all our energy will come from clean sources.
By then, of course, Congress will have capped and traded us into the poor house, so it won't matter quite so much (see affording the food with which to eat all you want).

Dying? Phaa....
Well, if you can hang on another 15 years, your life expectancy will keep rising every year faster than you’re aging. And then, before the century is even half over, you can be around for the Singularity, that revolutionary transition when humans and/or machines start evolving into immortal beings with ever-improving software.
And, of course, while you'll have put off the "death" part, taxes will still be there for you.

Kurzwiel feels fairly confident in his predictions:
“Certain aspects of technology follow amazingly predictable trajectories,” he said, and showed a graph of computing power starting with the first electromechanical machines more than a century ago. At first the machines’ power doubled every three years; then in midcentury the doubling came every two years (the rate that inspired Moore’s Law); now it takes only about a year.
So fear not, my fellow mortals, science is working to make us immortal, immune to fat and environmentally friendly too boot. And the immortal Congress will try to find a way to take it's piece of whatever that all means in terms of more revenue to waste on pork and entitlements. Somethings will never change ... or get better.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

"It’s about our children, about their children, and about the planet we’ve inherited."
If that isn’t a sign that it can’t stand on it’s merits, there is none.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
This is really sad ..
traditional subjects were invented by the middle classes and are "mere stepping stones to wealth".
Make ’em stupid and poor .. they will be easier to control.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
You know what?

Each one of those sounds like the coolest damn thing EVER...

Though I’m not sure I like the "not dying" thing. We’d have to cap it somewhere, or we’ll REALLY have too many people...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Mr. Kurzweil can stop working for the singularity. It is already here, and its name is Obama. Obama is immortal. He will cure all diseases. He will create unlimited clean energy by sheer force of will. He will enable people to lose all their excess weight by merely looking at them. Other leaders of the world will tremble at his glory and words. His deeds will become legend.

Ugh, I’m making myself sick.

Actually, I have read stuff by Kurzweil, nanotechnology and the singularity, and it is very interesting. I am sure, however, any possible positive consequences of all this new technology will be prevented or delayed by government as long as possible.
Written By: Rohan
URL: http://
I am currently reading The Singularity is Near. I would suggest it to anyone. It’s a great read.
Though I’m not sure I like the "not dying" thing. We’d have to cap it somewhere, or we’ll REALLY have too many people...
I dont’ know if that is a direct quote from the article. But, in the book he states that we will die *when* we choose to and makes the distinction between that and not dying. Although I guess if you can choose, you could choose never, but who would really want that?
Written By: Is
URL: http://
but who would really want that?
If you could live forever, slower-than-light, interstellar travel is practical. Who cares if it takes 200 years to get to Alpha Centauri if you could live to 1,000 or more?

The only problem with this rosy scenario is that we seem to be trying our hardest to end this cycle of civilization.
Written By: Veeshir
URL: http://
Dying? Phaa....

We say that nothing is certain but death and taxes. In the future they will say that nothing is certain but taxes.
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
I dont’ know if that is a direct quote from the article. But, in the book he states that we will die *when* we choose to and makes the distinction between that and not dying. Although I guess if you can choose, you could choose never, but who would really want that?

Certain members of congress who have been in office since before I was born.

Seriously... Term limits would have to be an absolute requirement...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
wow mcq the guy talks about living forever instead of thinking of all the things one could accomplice the first thing that comes to your mind is the taxes you have to pay? HMM a little obsessive aren’t we?
Written By: slntax
URL: http://
HMM a little obsessive aren’t we?
Heh ... yup. Everytime I look at my tax bill and then watch what they waste the money on.
Written By: McQ
Yeah, but where are the flying cars I was promised? I’ve been looking forward to them since I was a little kid. If he can’t deliver on the d@mn flying cars, then what good is he?
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to accelerating technological progress and its implications for mankind. If you want a big taste of that, but don’t feel like reading several hundred pages, you can read "The Law of Accelerating Returns" at his website.

And for anyone who’s interested, The Singularity is Near is a fun, thought-provoking book. Some of his peers (e.g., Bill Joy), though they accept accelerating tech progress, think he focuses too much on the positive possibilities. Regardless, if you digest and believe in the Law of Accelerating Returns (and Kurzweil marshals quite a bit of evidence in support of it), it turns your long-term outlook on the world around dramatically.
Written By: Bryan Pick
Interesting. I remember telling one of the smokers in my fighter squadron that he should quit. The major responded, "Flying F4s you would need to be a real optimist to think you are going to live long enough to die of lung cancer." Ultimately, his third wife got him to quit and 38 years later he’s the mayor of a small town in Texas.

There are those on the other side of this issue, including Stephen Petranek who discusses the Ten Ways the World Could End. The blade of science cuts both ways.
Written By: arch
URL: http://
Of course, S-curves look exponential, until the inflection point is reached.

And then they look linear for a while.

It is likely that all of these good exponential trends are actually S-curves that will run into physical limitations. The tricky bit will be where/when the inflection point is.
Written By: newshutz
URL: http://
But I thought nuclear fusion was going to solve all our energy poblems, what with the exponential progress in confinement times. Must be my suboptimal software, again.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Kurzweil is a trip to read and I highly recommend The Singularity is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines.

Kurzweil views things on a much grander scale than the past few centuries of human progress. His curves of evolving complexity start with the Big Bang. And he’s not just talking about trifles like universal solar power or pills to nullify weight gain or even immortality. He is talking about human beings merging with technology and becoming God-like intelligences that will continue to evolve but will be beyond our human capacity to imagine. By the time one finishes reading his books, his projections seem inevitable.

I doubt that things will come together as fast as Kurzweil predicts. We are already falling behind some of his milestones such as the language translating telephones due next year. But barring an asteroid impact destroying human civilization, it’s hard for me to see the error in Kurzweil’s overall argument. It may take a few centuries or even a few millenia longer, but I am convinced that there is an astounding future ahead of us.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
I read Fantastic Voyage, The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, and they changed my life. I even found some of his lectures on Itunes and I find myself impatiently awaiting his next book.

Recently read another incredible book that I can’t recommend highly enough, especially to all of you who also love Ray Kurzweil’s work. The book is ""My Stroke of Insight"" by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. I had heard Dr Taylor’s talk on the TED dot com site and I have to say, it changed my world. It’s spreading virally all over the internet and the book is now a NYTimes Bestseller, so I’m not the only one, but it is the most amazing talk, and the most impactful book I’ve read in years. (Dr T also was named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and Oprah had her on her Soul Series last month and I hear they’re making a movie about her story so you may already have heard of her)
If you haven’t heard Dr Taylor’s TEDTalk, that’s an absolute must. The book is more and deeper and better, but start with the video (it’s 18 minutes). Basically, her story is that she was a 37 yr old Harvard brain scientist who had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, and thanks to her amazingly loving and kind mother, she eventually fully recovered (and that part of the book detailing how she did it is inspirational).

There’s a lot of learning and magic in the book, but the reason I so highly recommend My Stroke of Insight to this discussion, is because we have powerfully intelligent left brains that are rational, logical, sequential and grounded in detail and time, and then we have our kinesthetic right brains, where we experience intuition and peace and euphoria. Now that Kurzweil has got us taking all those vitamins and living our best ""Fantastic Voyage"" , the absolute necessity is that we read My Stroke of Insight and learn from Dr Taylor how to achieve balance between our right and left brains. Enjoy!
Written By: Derrick
URL: http://

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