Hearing Ray Talk
By Brenda Cooper, 2001
I flew 699 miles to hear him. He flew about 3,000 miles to talk to a few hundred people, starting at midnight his time, stopping the formal talk about three AM his time. He was still surrounded by the audience an hour later, when I gave up on my own question and stumbled to bed. I flew 699 miles to see Ray Kurzweil talk, and it was worth it.
Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor, entrepreneur, author, and speaker. He is clearly a leading thinker. Every so often someone comes along and catalyzes an entire generation with their thoughts about the future. John Naisbitt did that with the original “Megatrends” in 1984. Raymond Kurzweil’s “The Age of Spiritual Machines” is that kind of book; it paints a picture so well, so easily, and so elegantly that you just end up believing it. When I read Naisbitt in the 80’s, I knew it was prophetic, and it was. Not a completely clear crystal ball, and Ray’s “The Age of Spiritual Machines” or the upcoming “The Singularity is Near” won’t be either, but they”ll be near the mark.
We gathered at 8:30 PM to hear the talk – a special event with a late starting hour to accommodate a man who flew between coasts in between two family events. The other people who came to hear were also anticipatory, energized, excited. By 8:30 every seat was taken and people lined the walls and sat on the floor.
At 9:30 he still wasn’t there. We were told his plane was late.
We kept buzzing – there was a lot to say: technologies to discuss, names to exchange, ideas to throw out. The room was full of Extropians who had seen each other far more virtually than physically for the past two years.
About 10:00 PM, Ray Kurzweil showed up.
He started slowly, almost haltingly. His portable computer wouldn’t work. He repeated himself. At some point I realized I couldn’t quite write fast enough. We flew through graph after graph of high-speed change, industry after industry, technology after technology. Our own history as human inventors was laid out neatly on exponential graphs.
And the lines on the exponential graphs looked just like the lines of an exponential equation on a straight graph. In other words, the rate of change itself is increasing exponentially. Yipes.
I’m thinking, “Gee, and I feel outpaced now” I’m going to need the artificial and machine intelligence Ray talks about just to keep up with the realities of daily life. And soon.
The talk was like the pace of change itself – it started slowly and ramped up until it was nearly too fast to follow. I ended up with something like twenty pages of notes. I won’t repeat them all here, you’ll have to just buy his books. And visit his website – KurzweilAI.net. Its one of the best sites I’ve seen.