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Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, and gives public talks to share his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.
His Unitarian church had the philosophy of many paths to the truth – the religious education consisted of studying a single religion for six months before moving on to the next.
He decided that the best application of this technology would be to create a reading machine, which would allow blind people to understand written text by having a computer read it to them aloud.
After a 1982 meeting with Stevie Wonder, in which the latter lamented the divide in capabilities and qualities between electronic synthesizers and traditional musical instruments, Kurzweil was inspired to create a new generation of music synthesizers capable of accurately duplicating the sounds of real instruments.
The recording and mixing abilities of the machine, coupled with its abilities to imitate different instruments, made it possible for a single user to compose and play an entire orchestral piece.
Kurzweil started Kurzweil Educational Systems (KESI) in 1996 to develop new pattern-recognition-based computer technologies to help people with disabilities such as blindness, dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school.
Products include the Kurzweil 1000 text-to-speech converter software program, which enables a computer to read electronic and scanned text aloud to blind or visually impaired users, and the Kurzweil 3000 program, which is a multifaceted electronic learning system that helps with reading, writing, and study skills.
During this period he also started KurzweilAI.net, a website devoted towards showcasing news of scientific developments, publicizing the ideas of high-tech thinkers and critics alike, and promoting futurist-related discussion among the general population through the Mind-X forum.
In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him.
For the past several decades, Kurzweil's most effective and common approach to doing creative work has been conducted during his lucid dreamlike state which immediately precedes his awakening state.
The book's main idea is that high levels of fat intake are the cause of many health disorders common in the U.S., and thus that cutting fat consumption down to 10% of the total calories consumed would be optimal for most people.
In 1999, Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines, which further elucidates his theories regarding the future of technology, which themselves stem from his analysis of long-term trends in biological and technological evolution.
Part fiction, part non-fiction, the film blends interviews with 20 big thinkers (such as Marvin Minsky) with a narrative story that illustrates some of his key ideas, including a computer avatar (Ramona) who saves the world from self-replicating microscopic robots.
Premiered in 2009 at the Tribeca Film Festival, Transcendent Man documents Kurzweil's quest to reveal mankind's ultimate destiny and explores many of the ideas found in his New York Times bestselling book The Singularity Is Near, including his concepts of exponential growth, radical life expansion, and how we will transcend our biology.
The feature-length documentary film The Singularity by independent filmmaker Doug Wolens (released at the end of 2012), showcasing Kurzweil, has been acclaimed as 'a large-scale achievement in its documentation of futurist and counter-futurist ideas” and “the best documentary on the Singularity to date.'
In his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil proposed 'The Law of Accelerating Returns', according to which the rate of change in a wide variety of evolutionary systems (including the growth of technologies) tends to increase exponentially.
He gave further focus to this issue in a 2001 essay entitled 'The Law of Accelerating Returns', which proposed an extension of Moore's law to a wide variety of technologies, and used this to argue in favor of John von Neumann's concept of a technological singularity.
Kurzweil suggests that this exponential technological growth is counter-intuitive to the way our brains perceive the world—since our brains were biologically inherited from humans living in a world that was linear and local—and, as a consequence, he claims it has encouraged great skepticism in his future projections.
He suggested that the same technologies that are empowering us to reprogram biology away from cancer and heart disease could be used by a bioterrorist to reprogram a biological virus to be more deadly, communicable, and stealthy.
but argues that in practice, progress cannot be stopped because that would require a totalitarian system, and any attempt to do so would drive dangerous technologies underground and deprive responsible scientists of the tools needed for defense.
He stated, 'To avoid dangers such as unrestrained nanobot replication, we need relinquishment at the right level and to place our highest priority on the continuing advance of defensive technologies, staying ahead of destructive technologies.
An overall strategy should include a streamlined regulatory process, a global program of monitoring for unknown or evolving biological pathogens, temporary moratoriums, raising public awareness, international cooperation, software reconnaissance, and fostering values of liberty, tolerance, and respect for knowledge and diversity.'
Kurzweil admits that he cared little for his health until age 35, when he was found to suffer from a glucose intolerance, an early form of type II diabetes (a major risk factor for heart disease).
Kurzweil then found a doctor (Terry Grossman, M.D.) who shares his somewhat unconventional beliefs to develop an extreme regimen involving hundreds of pills, chemical intravenous treatments, red wine, and various other methods to attempt to live longer.
Kurzweil was ingesting '250 supplements, eight to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea' every day and drinking several glasses of red wine a week in an effort to 'reprogram' his biochemistry.
In his book The Singularity Is Near, he claimed that he brought his cholesterol level down from the high 200s to 130, raised his HDL (high-density lipoprotein) from below 30 to 55, and lowered his homocysteine from an unhealthy 11 to a much safer 6.2.
In a 2013 interview, he said that in 15 years, medical technology could add more than a year to one's remaining life expectancy for each year that passes, and we could then 'outrun our own deaths'.
He draws on the commonly accepted belief that the primary anatomical difference between humans and other primates that allowed for superior intellectual abilities was the evolution of a larger neocortex.
He says that at the low levels, the neocortex may seem cold and mechanical because it can only make simple decisions, but at the higher levels of the hierarchy, the neocortex is likely to be dealing with concepts like being funny, being sexy, expressing a loving sentiment, creating a poem or understanding a poem, etc.
He stated, 'If the quantitative improvement from primates to humans with the big forehead was the enabling factor to allow for language, technology, art, and science, what kind of qualitative leap can we make with another quantitative increase?
The University's self-described mission is to 'assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity's grand challenges'.
Building on Ithiel de Sola Pool's 'Technologies of Freedom' (1983), Kurzweil claims to have forecast the dissolution of the Soviet Union due to new technologies such as cellular phones and fax machines disempowering authoritarian governments by removing state control over the flow of information.
In the book, Kurzweil also extrapolated preexisting trends in the improvement of computer chess software performance to predict that computers would beat the best human players 'by the year 2000'.
He also stated that the Internet would explode not only in the number of users but in content as well, eventually granting users access 'to international networks of libraries, data bases, and information services'.
Additionally, Kurzweil claims to have correctly foreseen that the preferred mode of Internet access would inevitably be through wireless systems, and he was also correct to estimate that the latter would become practical for widespread use in the early 21st century.
Daniel Lyons, writing in Newsweek magazine, criticized Kurzweil for some of his predictions that turned out to be wrong, such as the economy continuing to boom from the 1998 dot-com through 2009, a US company having a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion by 2009, a supercomputer achieving 20 petaflops, speech recognition being in widespread use and cars that would drive themselves using sensors installed in highways;
To the charge that a 20 petaflop supercomputer was not produced in the time he predicted, Kurzweil responded that he considers Google a giant supercomputer, and that it is indeed capable of 20 petaflops.
He says he is confident that within 10 years we will have the option to spend some of our time in 3D virtual environments that appear just as real as real reality, but these will not yet be made possible via direct interaction with our nervous system.
He believes that 20 to 25 years from now, we will have millions of blood-cell sized devices, known as nanobots, inside our bodies fighting against diseases, improving our memory, and cognitive abilities.
Kurzweil says that a machine will pass the Turing test by 2029, and that around 2045, 'the pace of change will be so astonishingly quick that we won't be able to keep up, unless we enhance our own intelligence by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating'.
Kurzweil states 'We humans are going to start linking with each other and become a metaconnection we will all be connected and all be omnipresent, plugged into this global network that is connected to billions of people, and filled with data.' 
Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation, has called the notion of a technological singularity 'intelligent design for the IQ 140 people...This proposition that we're heading to this point at which everything is going to be just unimaginably different—it's fundamentally, in my view, driven by a religious impulse.
Nordhaus supposes that the Singularity could arise from either the demand or supply side of a market economy, but for information technology to proceed at the kind of pace Kurzweil suggests, there would have to be significant productivity trade-offs.
Using a variety of econometric methods, Nordhaus runs six supply side tests and one demand side test to track the macroeconomic viability of such steep rises in information technology output.
UoN MIT Postdoctoral Fellowships in Artificial Intelligence and Biomaterials Discovery
Reference:SCI1905 This is an exciting opportunity to join the visionary biomaterials research teams at UoN and MIT, who have a long standing track record of excellence in the creation of new materials, joint publications, intellectual property and spin-out companies.
The Fellows will be under the joint guidance of MIT and Nottingham Professors who have shared interests in the high throughput discovery of materials for intracellular delivery of gene and RNA therapies and medical device materials with reduced immune rejection by the body.
In addition to a strong track record in molecular or materials discovery, experience in use of machine learning to generate quantitative structure-activity relationships for discovery and optimization of new materials and to elucidate mechanistic understanding would be highly regarded.
We support applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and also welcome applications from those wishing to work part-time in order to combine the fellowship with other personal responsibilities.
This includes novel biomaterials development using polymers and assembly of organic molecules in high throughput screens, alongside the use of advanced experimental surface molecular characterisation using surface mass spectrometry (ToF SIMS) along with computational structural descriptors to develop materials structure-property/performance relationships that underpin discovery and optimization of next generation of biomaterials.
- On 10. april 2021
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