The Singularity may be near, but Stephen Colbert’s comedy hits much closer to home. Ray Kurzweil, noted author and futurist, visited the set of the Colbert Report to discuss Barry Ptolemy’s documentary Transcendent Man, which features him as the main subject. Watch Kurzweil’s five minute interview from the Colbert Report in the video below. Kurzweil does his best to relate the importance of accelerating trends in technology but Colbert steals the focus with his characteristically oblivious humor.
Hey, it’s his show, right? Despite the rather pointed barbs at Kurzweil’s expense, this appearance is a great step forward for the futurist and Transcendent Man. Sure, the Singularity is being gently mocked, but it’s being mocked on one of the most trusted and popular cable shows in the US. As anyone who watches mainstream media knows, the transition from laughable to believable is much shorter than you think.
It’s no secret that Stephen Colbert is a giant geek with a deep love for science fiction and advanced technology of all kinds. While he keeps the laughs rolling during his interview with Kurzweil, he also gives the futurist plenty of time to explain his points. Make no mistake about it, Colbert wants his audience to hear what Kurzweil has to say. Look past the schtick, and it seems like the host is pretty excited to get a chance to talk with his guest. Five minutes isn’t much time to explain the depth of changes that the near future may hold, but Kurzweil hits his major bullet points pretty soundly. Kurzweil has done many interviews in the past, but I think this high energy interview aimed at a younger demographic will ultimately be more impacting than his calmer, lengthier segments on shows like Charlie Rose. All the Singularity needs to enter into mainstream culture is for more of us to ask: “if the acceleration of technology is true, what else is true?” A Colbert chuckle-fest may inspire such curiosity in ways that other interviews simply won’t.
For those interested in learning more about Transcendent Man, please check out our previous coverage, and extended interviews with director Barry Ptolemy. Or, if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, why not join Keith and I at the SF Palace of Fine Arts for a special screening of the film tomorrow night! (Tickets and information can be found here). For everyone else, don’t forget Transcendent Man was recently released on iTunes and other digital downloads, and you can pre-order the DVD now. Ptolemy’s exploration of Kurzweil’s predictions and personal life is one of the better biographies I’ve seen in a while, and well worth your time. Watch it now and you’ll be able to say that you were into the Singularity before shows like the Colbert Report made it cool.
[screen capture and video credit: Colbert Report]