Kurzweil in the Lyons’ Den

2 42 Loading

Does the Transcendent Man just want to be a robot? That’s part of the story coming out of Daniel Lyons’ recent article in Newsweek about Singularity front man, Ray Kurzweil. The other part is that Kurzweil is much too optimistic in his predictions and his beliefs. It’s not a flattering article, for either Kurzweil or Singularity enthusiasts in general. For his part, Kurzweil defended his positions in a responding letter to the editor. It’s the media equivalent of a boxing match and I’m not sure who landed the more devastating blows.

Is Ray Kurzweil a visionary...or a man desparate for computer-based immortality?

Is Ray Kurzweil a visionary...or a man desparate for computer-based immortality?

For those of you just joining the debate, let me say that it centers around two key issues: how fast the technology of intelligence (computers, biotechnology, etc) is growing, and whether or not Ray Kurzweil is a nut. A large part of Lyons’ Newsweek article, and Kurzweil’s response, focused on whether or not Kurzweil’s earlier predictions about technology were accurate. Lyons posits that most of Kurzweil’s predictions were easily forseeable (like the success of the Internet) or wrong. Kurzweil defends the originality of his insights and their accuracy.

These predictions, from Kurzweil’s books and speeches, ranged from the Internet to the Human Genome project. In the mid to late 80s, Kurzweil predicted that the Internet would grow exponentially and enjoy widespread use. Lyons says this was an easy prediction. Kurzweil also predicted, a decade later, that most computers used wouldn’t have keyboards, and would be part of someone’s apparel. Lyons claims this hasn’t happened, while Kurzweil points to iPhones, mp3 players, and computerized hearing aids. Kurzweil predicted the success of the Human Genome project in 15 years (predicting exponential growth in the rate of return). Lyons concedes that prediction but points to Kurzweil’s belief that the economy would keep growing between 1999 and 2009. The list goes on and on.

Figuring out who’s right isn’t easy. What kind of metric do we apply to futurists? How often do they have to be right, and how right do they have to be? If Kurzweil was wrong about everything else, but is correct in predicting that artificial intelligence will be indistinguishable from human intelligence in 20 years, that alone would make him a visionary. In the end, it’s up to each reader to evaluate the predictions Kurzweil made and decide whether they collectively prove he’s a technological seer, or just another dreamer.

One area in which Kurzweil certainly won is his preparedness. While Lyons might have you think that Kurzweil is a pie-eyed optimist, too certain in his beliefs to even consider other possibilities, the truth is far from it. As was evident in the panel-discussion after the Transcendent Man premier, Kurzweil is actively working on projects designed to prevent some of the worst case scenarios new technologies present. He is part of the national security team working on bio-terrorism response in the United States. His books warn against technological perils as well as predicting benefits. Whether or not he is wrong about the Singularity, Kurzweil is preparing for all outcomes.

If Lyons had just focused on Kurzweil’s predictions and left it at that, I may not be writing my own article. However, Lyons brings up several sensationalist themes prominent in the movie about Kurzweil’s life, Transcendent Man. As Singularity Hub mentioned before, Kurzweil wants to live forever, and takes a wide-range of dietary supplements to keep him going. Eventually he wants to download, or upgrade himself, into an immortal intelligence (most likely in the form of a computer). Using a similar process, Kurzweil wants to reanimate the intelligence of his dead father, remaking him from data collected in journal’s and Ray’s own memories. He proposes that the rest of us could do the same for ourselves and our loved ones.

It’s a story ripe for pity, horror, or disdain depending on your outlook. Lyons explores all three emotions. Even when attacking Kurzweil’s predictions on their own merit, Lyons is constantly returning to the futurist’s motivations. The optimism Kurzweil feels is really just a fear of death. His predictions are really just hopes to bring back his dead daddy. His continuous speaking tour around the world is just a public display of a mid-life crisis. Am I the only one who finds the focus on these suppositions offensive to my intelligence?

Maybe I’m just tired of someone’s “story” getting more press coverage than their work. You notice it most during the Olympics, but it’s pretty ubiquitous in the media as a whole. No matter who is discussed — politician, scientist, or athlete — the story of their life, the motivations for their actions, are taking up more of the discussion than the actual meaning of the actions themselves. We’re big on narrative but short on analysis, and that’s just silly.

I can’t speak much for politicians or athletes, but I know scientists. Sir Isaac Newton was into alchemy. Einstein wrote his miraculous 1905 papers while slaving away in a dead-end job. Many top scientists have been racists, sexists, drug-addicts, or just general pricks. Many have also been loving, caring men and women who’ve overcome great obstacles in life. Great. I’m enough of a post-modernist to understand that someone’s character and work are not two separate entities, but intertwining states that support one another. Still, I’m tired of being sold the story of someone’s life, when it’s their work that will impact mine.

Ray Kurzweil may be a nut, he may be going through the biggest mid-life crisis ever. I don’t know. I honestly don’t care much. I want to evaluate his predictions, and his actions, on their own merit. It would be nice if the major media outlets focused on the same.

Will we have AI that passes the Turing test in 20 years? Is the Singularity a pipe-dream or an upcoming reality? Can the average person affect the outcome (through voting, buying, or protesting)? These questions need answers, or at least, discussion. As interesting as Kurzweil may be, it’s the what, when, and how, not the who or why, that I’m dying to know about. If Newsweek really wants to focus on whether or not someone wants to become a robot, they should interview seven years olds outside the Transformer’s movie premier. For compelling science articles, I want something that’s more than meets the eye.

Discussion — 42 Responses

  • Jim Cisco June 16, 2009 on 3:54 pm

    I agree that Mr. Kurzweil is feeling the crunch of mortality, and that his timelines and happily-ever-after scenarios are informed as much by that hot dread as cold statistics. But, I don’t know that invoking his “dead daddy” is the most dignified way to take issue with his projections. (Personally, I hope he’s right and does get to reanimate his father!) I read his latest book Transcend, and was put off by the lengthy prescriptives. I think mega-supplementation is more likely to shorten all-cause mortality curves. Aubrey de Grey has written rather thoughtfully on such preventive strategies. Still, Ray is obviously brilliant, and has contributed greatly to humanity. Respect is due.

  • Jim Cisco June 16, 2009 on 11:54 am

    I agree that Mr. Kurzweil is feeling the crunch of mortality, and that his timelines and happily-ever-after scenarios are informed as much by that hot dread as cold statistics. But, I don’t know that invoking his “dead daddy” is the most dignified way to take issue with his projections. (Personally, I hope he’s right and does get to reanimate his father!) I read his latest book Transcend, and was put off by the lengthy prescriptives. I think mega-supplementation is more likely to shorten all-cause mortality curves. Aubrey de Grey has written rather thoughtfully on such preventive strategies. Still, Ray is obviously brilliant, and has contributed greatly to humanity. Respect is due.

  • AleX June 16, 2009 on 4:27 pm

    It is funny how whenever Ray is attacked it is never straight on. It is always because he’s a crackpot this or a foolish that. Perhaps that’s because his ideas are so powerful that they can’t be taken head on. I’m serious.

    We know IT is growing exponentially (fact). We know technology is becoming more powerful (fact). We know this same technology is also becoming more inexpensive (fact). Gee! I wonder where all this is heading. Newsweek should be ashamed for it’s ad hominem attacks. They attacked oprah last week. I guess she’s a real wacko for helping people too.

    I for one am going to hold my real opinion on Ray Kurzweil for the movie Transcendent Man on his life and ideas and let that inform my greater decision about him. I’ve heard it’s really special. I guess we’ll see!

    AleX

  • AleX June 16, 2009 on 12:27 pm

    It is funny how whenever Ray is attacked it is never straight on. It is always because he’s a crackpot this or a foolish that. Perhaps that’s because his ideas are so powerful that they can’t be taken head on. I’m serious.

    We know IT is growing exponentially (fact). We know technology is becoming more powerful (fact). We know this same technology is also becoming more inexpensive (fact). Gee! I wonder where all this is heading. Newsweek should be ashamed for it’s ad hominem attacks. They attacked oprah last week. I guess she’s a real wacko for helping people too.

    I for one am going to hold my real opinion on Ray Kurzweil for the movie Transcendent Man on his life and ideas and let that inform my greater decision about him. I’ve heard it’s really special. I guess we’ll see!

    AleX

  • Capissen June 16, 2009 on 5:05 pm

    I’ve always said that, as brilliant and well-intentioned as Kurzweil may be, he is the worst possible spokesperson for the Singularity. Just the way he comes across *sounds* crazy. He rehashes the same points over and over again, and has no tact in discussing his goals (I groan every time I hear him talk about becoming a female rock star).

    However, just the fact that the Singularity’s point man is quirky and self-absorbed doesn’t make the *concept* of the Singularity any less valid or probable. But personally, I’d like to hear more about it from Craig Venter, Eric Drexler, and Cory Doctorow and less from Ray.

  • Capissen June 16, 2009 on 1:05 pm

    I’ve always said that, as brilliant and well-intentioned as Kurzweil may be, he is the worst possible spokesperson for the Singularity. Just the way he comes across *sounds* crazy. He rehashes the same points over and over again, and has no tact in discussing his goals (I groan every time I hear him talk about becoming a female rock star).

    However, just the fact that the Singularity’s point man is quirky and self-absorbed doesn’t make the *concept* of the Singularity any less valid or probable. But personally, I’d like to hear more about it from Craig Venter, Eric Drexler, and Cory Doctorow and less from Ray.

  • robot makes music June 16, 2009 on 6:00 pm

    Sounds like newsweek authors selectively quote fact to back up opinions. If Lyons belives himself, why not bring up some facts that will debunk big K’s ideas? ‘Anyone could have predicted the internet being huge in the 80s.’ O rly? Why the sudden mad effing scramble to get online and stake out domain names in the mid 90s if it was so obvious to “anyone.”

    Hindsight is 20/20 Mr. Lyons. When did you first get online?

    In fact, the internet was predicted many times in many forms as a very nebulous concept – first spoken of in the 40s or 50s by Berners-lee and other visionaries who laid the conceptual groundwork. But most people didn’t know, care or even hear of the internet until the 90s. Until then it was pretty much the exclusive domain of schools. Folk there might have had an inkling of what the future held, but I don’t think anyone saw the pace by which it would alter society… except big K. In fact, the internet didn’t get it’s first commercial link-up until 1989.

    A little quick wikipedia searching would have saved lyons a bit of embarrasment over this – and a little wiki-ing of Mr. Lyons shows that he has no clue when it comes to predictiong the future. Read the wiki section on daniel lyons and check out his coverage of the SCO vs, (IBM)Linux case to see just how badly he got things wrong. If he couldn’t look at that case and see how laughable it was for over 4 years, why on earth should I believe him when he says bigK is wrong? If he thought some 2-bit company like SCO had managed to out-fox IBM when they NEVER showed any evidence (I followed the case and cheered when SCO finally got laughed out of court). – this isn’t a measure of the man but of his own professional work – which, except for being a good fiction writer – is sorely lacking.

  • robot makes music June 16, 2009 on 2:00 pm

    Sounds like newsweek authors selectively quote fact to back up opinions. If Lyons belives himself, why not bring up some facts that will debunk big K’s ideas? ‘Anyone could have predicted the internet being huge in the 80s.’ O rly? Why the sudden mad effing scramble to get online and stake out domain names in the mid 90s if it was so obvious to “anyone.”

    Hindsight is 20/20 Mr. Lyons. When did you first get online?

    In fact, the internet was predicted many times in many forms as a very nebulous concept – first spoken of in the 40s or 50s by Berners-lee and other visionaries who laid the conceptual groundwork. But most people didn’t know, care or even hear of the internet until the 90s. Until then it was pretty much the exclusive domain of schools. Folk there might have had an inkling of what the future held, but I don’t think anyone saw the pace by which it would alter society… except big K. In fact, the internet didn’t get it’s first commercial link-up until 1989.

    A little quick wikipedia searching would have saved lyons a bit of embarrasment over this – and a little wiki-ing of Mr. Lyons shows that he has no clue when it comes to predictiong the future. Read the wiki section on daniel lyons and check out his coverage of the SCO vs, (IBM)Linux case to see just how badly he got things wrong. If he couldn’t look at that case and see how laughable it was for over 4 years, why on earth should I believe him when he says bigK is wrong? If he thought some 2-bit company like SCO had managed to out-fox IBM when they NEVER showed any evidence (I followed the case and cheered when SCO finally got laughed out of court). – this isn’t a measure of the man but of his own professional work – which, except for being a good fiction writer – is sorely lacking.

  • Seppel June 16, 2009 on 7:07 pm

    Excellent commentary. That Newsweek article sucked balls.

  • Seppel June 16, 2009 on 3:07 pm

    Excellent commentary. That Newsweek article sucked balls.

  • Paul Jones June 16, 2009 on 10:55 pm

    Does it matter if Kurzweil is a nut? he is just one man, and will not live much longer.

    What about the idea of the power of an exponential trend?

    That idea is something that we all should care about, is not mortal, and is something we can see in our history and daily lives.

    Let’s say AI is “only” 1/10th the power of a human brain in 20 years, that means it will catch up to humanity in 4 more doublings: 10 years?

    What if after 10 years it was only 1 half the power of the human brain? In ten more years it would be twice the power of the human brain, even at that lower rate!

    That means if it takes 40 or even 50 years for AI to equal human intelligence, it will double human intelligence a mere couple of years later!

    What we should ask is is this what we want? Do we want a competitor to humans on the scene? Most will say no.

  • Paul Jones June 16, 2009 on 6:55 pm

    Does it matter if Kurzweil is a nut? he is just one man, and will not live much longer.

    What about the idea of the power of an exponential trend?

    That idea is something that we all should care about, is not mortal, and is something we can see in our history and daily lives.

    Let’s say AI is “only” 1/10th the power of a human brain in 20 years, that means it will catch up to humanity in 4 more doublings: 10 years?

    What if after 10 years it was only 1 half the power of the human brain? In ten more years it would be twice the power of the human brain, even at that lower rate!

    That means if it takes 40 or even 50 years for AI to equal human intelligence, it will double human intelligence a mere couple of years later!

    What we should ask is is this what we want? Do we want a competitor to humans on the scene? Most will say no.

  • DChild June 16, 2009 on 11:20 pm

    >>Maybe I’m just tired of someone’s “story” getting more press coverage than their work….
    We’re big on narrative but short on analysis, and that’s just silly.<<

    I sure wish this point would be made more often. Too much personality, and not enough ‘just the facts, maam’.

  • DChild June 16, 2009 on 7:20 pm

    >>Maybe I’m just tired of someone’s “story” getting more press coverage than their work….
    We’re big on narrative but short on analysis, and that’s just silly.<<

    I sure wish this point would be made more often. Too much personality, and not enough ‘just the facts, maam’.

  • Dillon June 17, 2009 on 2:02 am

    Well, for one, I don’t think the Newsweek piece was supposed to be a science article. I think it was intended to be more of an analysis of Kurzweil. In that aspect I think it is decent. I also think it is interesting to see what drives people to do what they do, especially if they achieve great things for odd reasons.

    On a side note I think it is ridiculous for Kurzweil to think he can recreate his father’s mind from journal notes and memories. I wish him the best of luck but, I mean, c’mon.

  • Dillon June 16, 2009 on 10:02 pm

    Well, for one, I don’t think the Newsweek piece was supposed to be a science article. I think it was intended to be more of an analysis of Kurzweil. In that aspect I think it is decent. I also think it is interesting to see what drives people to do what they do, especially if they achieve great things for odd reasons.

    On a side note I think it is ridiculous for Kurzweil to think he can recreate his father’s mind from journal notes and memories. I wish him the best of luck but, I mean, c’mon.

  • Steave June 17, 2009 on 2:08 am

    The internet was not easy to predict. Many ‘looking to the future’ style shows never even touched on the subject. It’s way to easy to make such statements in hindsight but a little bit of research proves them wrong.

  • Steave June 16, 2009 on 10:08 pm

    The internet was not easy to predict. Many ‘looking to the future’ style shows never even touched on the subject. It’s way to easy to make such statements in hindsight but a little bit of research proves them wrong.

  • Kevin June 17, 2009 on 4:24 am

    I agree with what a lot of the above commenters have said about the internet being tough to predict. I am 21 years old and I even remember a time when respectable outlets were saying “this whole interwebs thing is just a fad”. That Kurzweil was talking about this before I was born is somewhat impressive to me.

  • Kevin June 17, 2009 on 12:24 am

    I agree with what a lot of the above commenters have said about the internet being tough to predict. I am 21 years old and I even remember a time when respectable outlets were saying “this whole interwebs thing is just a fad”. That Kurzweil was talking about this before I was born is somewhat impressive to me.

  • Eric Hand June 17, 2009 on 8:37 am

    For heaven’s sake, people, stop wasting so much skull sweat on what some dipstick writer for MSM thinks/emotes. Has anybody looked at the intellectual level of Newsweek, & therefore of its target audience?
    Remember that small minds focus on people, mediocre ones on events, & great ones on ideas.

    Any genius is likely to be driven a bit neurotic trying to cope with the general public. Let’s try to support & nurture Ray & his work every way we can.

  • Den June 17, 2009 on 8:37 am

    “It’s a story ripe for pity, horror, or disdain depending on your outlook…”

    My outlook tells me that it is ripe for coolness and awesomeness!

  • Eric Hand June 17, 2009 on 4:37 am

    For heaven’s sake, people, stop wasting so much skull sweat on what some dipstick writer for MSM thinks/emotes. Has anybody looked at the intellectual level of Newsweek, & therefore of its target audience?
    Remember that small minds focus on people, mediocre ones on events, & great ones on ideas.

    Any genius is likely to be driven a bit neurotic trying to cope with the general public. Let’s try to support & nurture Ray & his work every way we can.

  • Den June 17, 2009 on 4:37 am

    “It’s a story ripe for pity, horror, or disdain depending on your outlook…”

    My outlook tells me that it is ripe for coolness and awesomeness!

  • digitalcole June 17, 2009 on 7:07 pm

    The only thing I found more irritating than the article were some of the comments. Who are we to pass judgment on Kurzweil for his depiction/prediction of the future. You’d think that we’d have enough room/disk-space for everyone to live out their utopias (or by the looks of *said* comments their “hells”).

  • digitalcole June 17, 2009 on 3:07 pm

    The only thing I found more irritating than the article were some of the comments. Who are we to pass judgment on Kurzweil for his depiction/prediction of the future. You’d think that we’d have enough room/disk-space for everyone to live out their utopias (or by the looks of *said* comments their “hells”).

  • emerson999 June 21, 2009 on 7:34 pm

    @Dillon

    “I also think it is interesting to see what drives people to do what they do”

    It’d be interesting if it was really possible. Quite often we have no idea why we’re involved in something, or so passionate about a particular topic. But we are, so we weave a narrative around it to give a reason. But it gets even more absurd when a 3rd party speculates on it. It’s a bit like the pointless speculation most of us were forced into for lit classes.

  • emerson999 June 21, 2009 on 3:34 pm

    @Dillon

    “I also think it is interesting to see what drives people to do what they do”

    It’d be interesting if it was really possible. Quite often we have no idea why we’re involved in something, or so passionate about a particular topic. But we are, so we weave a narrative around it to give a reason. But it gets even more absurd when a 3rd party speculates on it. It’s a bit like the pointless speculation most of us were forced into for lit classes.

  • Rob June 22, 2009 on 9:08 pm

    Kurzweil’s great insight is that technology develops exponentially and that electronic IT is the most powerful of all. Actually predicting specific events is surprisingly difficult. Almost no one gets it right consistently and many very bright people get it very wrong. However, some non-specific predictions are very reasonable. For example, the doubling of computer power per $ for the forseeable future. That molecular science, automation and nanotechnology are now IT so knowledge of these technologies will double annually. We see stunning changes and findings almost weekly, a rate far faster than just a year or so ago. Will this continue? I cannot see any reason why not so I look after myself in the hope that cellular biology will find a way to replace all my bodily parts with rejuvenated pluripotent cells over the next twenty years making us live forever. In the same time period I expect to see machines intelligent enough to be autonomous including the factories that make them and for good food to be produced the same way. I do not expect to see robots waking up and taking over if only because we have computers now that can process information really fast and do tricks that I would take a million years to do and are they waking up? or even close to it? The internet isn’t waking up even though it is a network of more intelligence than millions of people combined. Unlike Kurzweil I think that machines will never be more than very, very powerful tools but that is scary enough.

  • Rob June 22, 2009 on 5:08 pm

    Kurzweil’s great insight is that technology develops exponentially and that electronic IT is the most powerful of all. Actually predicting specific events is surprisingly difficult. Almost no one gets it right consistently and many very bright people get it very wrong. However, some non-specific predictions are very reasonable. For example, the doubling of computer power per $ for the forseeable future. That molecular science, automation and nanotechnology are now IT so knowledge of these technologies will double annually. We see stunning changes and findings almost weekly, a rate far faster than just a year or so ago. Will this continue? I cannot see any reason why not so I look after myself in the hope that cellular biology will find a way to replace all my bodily parts with rejuvenated pluripotent cells over the next twenty years making us live forever. In the same time period I expect to see machines intelligent enough to be autonomous including the factories that make them and for good food to be produced the same way. I do not expect to see robots waking up and taking over if only because we have computers now that can process information really fast and do tricks that I would take a million years to do and are they waking up? or even close to it? The internet isn’t waking up even though it is a network of more intelligence than millions of people combined. Unlike Kurzweil I think that machines will never be more than very, very powerful tools but that is scary enough.

  • Chris Williamson June 24, 2009 on 8:51 pm

    Great Article. I really liked your analysis of how media is full of narrative but light on analysis. Good job you didn’t make me hunger for more.

  • Chris Williamson June 24, 2009 on 4:51 pm

    Great Article. I really liked your analysis of how media is full of narrative but light on analysis. Good job you didn’t make me hunger for more.

  • Chris Williamson June 24, 2009 on 8:54 pm

    Oh I know what happened…the writer didn’t get taken through the shock levels slow enough!!!

    Kurzweil must’ve taken him right to Shock Level 4 without anything to stand on!!!

    No wonder he is having a hard time integrating the idea of accelerating advancement into his worldview!

    Don’t worry, if Kurzweil’s right then he’ll get there soon enough!

  • Chris Williamson June 24, 2009 on 4:54 pm

    Oh I know what happened…the writer didn’t get taken through the shock levels slow enough!!!

    Kurzweil must’ve taken him right to Shock Level 4 without anything to stand on!!!

    No wonder he is having a hard time integrating the idea of accelerating advancement into his worldview!

    Don’t worry, if Kurzweil’s right then he’ll get there soon enough!

  • brio June 28, 2009 on 6:11 am

    “In the mid to late 80s, Kurzweil predicted that the Internet would grow exponentially and enjoy widespread use. Lyons says this was an easy prediction”

    a lot of very smart people failed to make this prediction at the time, including Bill Gates. Microsoft played catch-up to smaller companies for a decade after that

  • brio June 28, 2009 on 2:11 am

    “In the mid to late 80s, Kurzweil predicted that the Internet would grow exponentially and enjoy widespread use. Lyons says this was an easy prediction”

    a lot of very smart people failed to make this prediction at the time, including Bill Gates. Microsoft played catch-up to smaller companies for a decade after that

  • Jeff August 19, 2009 on 10:56 pm

    I have seen this pattern several times, surfing singularity websites like this. The media writes a singularity story. They rightfully focus on a person (Kurzweil for instance), instead of focusing only on that person’s predictions. And you people get all indignant about it.

    If you think it’s a mistake to focus on “narrative” instead of just “analysis”, then in fact you’re the one making the mistake. We live in the real world, and the real world consists of “narrative”, real people and their life stories. “Analysis” is just one device which people use to get on with their lives. Therefore, analysis is secondary.

    The problem with transhumanists is that they are typically people who have fallen in love with their own powers of analysis. Then they make huge, misguided extrapolations based on current trends in computing power and come up with horseshit about AI, “the singularity” and immortality.

    Deep down, you know NewsWeek is right and simply talking common sense. At least you are open-minded enough to not disagree with them. You just can’t fully accept their point of view because it contradicts the Singularity fantasy. So instead you categorize and dismiss NewsWeek as a bunch of journalists who only makes ad hominem arguments, which funny enough, is itself an ad hominem argument. Then you all leave comments validating each other, and the fantasy lives on.

    • umm Jeff September 4, 2009 on 1:28 am

      “They rightfully focus on a person (Kurzweil for instance), instead of focusing only on that person’s predictions.”

      They should focus on a person, but that should be secondary to the predictions. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that I share Kurzweil’s predictions but not his narrative. Argument against Kurzweil has no impact on me, but argument on his predictions are also arguments against my predictions and have bearing to me.

      “We live in the real world, and the real world consists of ‘narrative’, real people and their life stories. ‘Analysis’ is just one device which people use to get on with their lives. Therefore, analysis is secondary.”

      The real world may consist of narrative, but it requires analysis to decipher. You can’t make good predictions of the future based on narrative, but you can with analysis.

      “The problem with transhumanists is that they are typically people who have fallen in love with their own powers of analysis. Then they make huge, misguided extrapolations based on current trends in computing power and come up with horseshit about AI, ‘the singularity’ and ‘immortality’.”

      These trends in cps have kept up for over 100 years with very little deviation. They only need to hold true for a few more decades. They are not just “current trends.”

      “Deep down, you know NewsWeek is right and simply talking common sense.”

      You provide no argument for this, it is just an assertion. Back up your claims with arguments/ evidence/ something.

      “At least you are open-minded enough to not disagree with them.”

      Open-mindedness means waiting to judge something until after you read it, it doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with something. I’m not saying I’m 100% certain in Kurzweil, but I am saying that the NewsWeek was a bad argument against Kurzweil.

      “you categorize and dismiss NewsWeek as a bunch of journalists who only makes ad hominem arguments, which funny enough, is itself an ad hominem argument.”

      First, that’s not all we do. We also argue against their other arguments. Second, no, it is not ad hominem to point out logical fallacies in your opponents argument. It is ad hominem to base an argument about someone’s predictions on unrelated personal information.

  • Jeff August 19, 2009 on 6:56 pm

    I have seen this pattern several times, surfing singularity websites like this. The media writes a singularity story. They rightfully focus on a person (Kurzweil for instance), instead of focusing only on that person’s predictions. And you people get all indignant about it.

    If you think it’s a mistake to focus on “narrative” instead of just “analysis”, then in fact you’re the one making the mistake. We live in the real world, and the real world consists of “narrative”, real people and their life stories. “Analysis” is just one device which people use to get on with their lives. Therefore, analysis is secondary.

    The problem with transhumanists is that they are typically people who have fallen in love with their own powers of analysis. Then they make huge, misguided extrapolations based on current trends in computing power and come up with horseshit about AI, “the singularity” and immortality.

    Deep down, you know NewsWeek is right and simply talking common sense. At least you are open-minded enough to not disagree with them. You just can’t fully accept their point of view because it contradicts the Singularity fantasy. So instead you categorize and dismiss NewsWeek as a bunch of journalists who only makes ad hominem arguments, which funny enough, is itself an ad hominem argument. Then you all leave comments validating each other, and the fantasy lives on.

    • umm Jeff September 3, 2009 on 9:28 pm

      “They rightfully focus on a person (Kurzweil for instance), instead of focusing only on that person’s predictions.”

      They should focus on a person, but that should be secondary to the predictions. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that I share Kurzweil’s predictions but not his narrative. Argument against Kurzweil has no impact on me, but argument on his predictions are also arguments against my predictions and have bearing to me.

      “We live in the real world, and the real world consists of ‘narrative’, real people and their life stories. ‘Analysis’ is just one device which people use to get on with their lives. Therefore, analysis is secondary.”

      The real world may consist of narrative, but it requires analysis to decipher. You can’t make good predictions of the future based on narrative, but you can with analysis.

      “The problem with transhumanists is that they are typically people who have fallen in love with their own powers of analysis. Then they make huge, misguided extrapolations based on current trends in computing power and come up with horseshit about AI, ‘the singularity’ and ‘immortality’.”

      These trends in cps have kept up for over 100 years with very little deviation. They only need to hold true for a few more decades. They are not just “current trends.”

      “Deep down, you know NewsWeek is right and simply talking common sense.”

      You provide no argument for this, it is just an assertion. Back up your claims with arguments/ evidence/ something.

      “At least you are open-minded enough to not disagree with them.”

      Open-mindedness means waiting to judge something until after you read it, it doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with something. I’m not saying I’m 100% certain in Kurzweil, but I am saying that the NewsWeek was a bad argument against Kurzweil.

      “you categorize and dismiss NewsWeek as a bunch of journalists who only makes ad hominem arguments, which funny enough, is itself an ad hominem argument.”

      First, that’s not all we do. We also argue against their other arguments. Second, no, it is not ad hominem to point out logical fallacies in your opponents argument. It is ad hominem to base an argument about someone’s predictions on unrelated personal information.