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Friday, October 15, 2004

Ray Kurzweil about IT -- and our Future

Ray Kurzweil helped invent the first optical character reading technology, the first text-to-voice synthesizer, computer-based musical instruments, and the first large-vocabulary speech-recognition system. His inventions have made him famous. He has founded several companies and written hundreds of articles. He has also authored and coauthored a number of books, including The Age of Spiritual Machines. In this interview with CIO magazine ,Ray Kurzweil says that one day, software and computers will reside inside us. He adds that by 2020, "we will be placing millions or billions of nanobots -- blood cell-size devices -- inside our bloodstream to travel into our brains and interact with our neurons.We will be extending our cognitive capability directly through this intimate merger of biology with machines. " He also says that if we're not enhanced by machines, they will surpass us. But he doesn't think it will happen. According to him, machines and humans will merge. In the mean time, he's pursuing his anti-aging quest and takes about 250 supplements to his diet every day! With this regime, he says his biological age is 40 while he's 56 years old. By 2030, there will be very little difference between 30-year-old and 120-year-old people, says Kurzweil. The broad history of automation shows that we have actually increased the number of jobs. One hundred years ago, we had about 30 percent of the potential workforce employed; we now have about 60 percent. Wages, in constant dollars, have increased by a factor of six to eight over the past century. On outsorcing, he says, In terms of the world economy, that's a positive thing. It's not a zero-sum game. Just because India and China benefit doesn't mean that's to our detriment. China is committed to building 50 MITs, as they put it. That's not an exaggeration. They're creating scores of world-class technology universities. But these people are going to create intellectual property from which we'll all benefit. If somebody creates a breakthrough in bioengineering, we all benefit. On ageing , he says that ultimately, there's going to be very little difference between a guy who's 120 and a guy who's 30. And with so much of our lives spent in virtual reality, we'll able to express ourselves in many different ways. It's not a matter of the knowledge that a 120-year-old would have. We all have an opportunity to create knowledge, and we'll expand that opportunity, which, I think, is really the mission of our civilization.
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