In 1999, Ray Kurzweil published The Age Of Spiritual Machines. As a teenager, the book had a great influence on me. I actually believed in what he called ‘the singularity’ and I was looking forward to it. This singularity was a point of exponential growth that would be awesome. Evolution of machines would proceed forever, because “information and knowledge are not limited by the availability of material resources.” I was lucky enough to be along for the ride.
Now I’ve been on the ride for 24 years and, holy shit, I want to get off. Exponential growth turns out to be planetary cancer, not a panacea. Kurzweil never discussed energy use, resource use, pollution, and environmental destruction, and those turn out to be pretty important. Kurzweil blithely said, “Most Exponential Trends Hit a Wall… but Not This One,” in complete ignorance of the fact that we live in a connected world. His conception of AI is, in hindsight, just a dumb buzzword attached to a planet-destroying buzz saw.
Ignoring the fact that the entire premise of the book is wrong, its specific predictions are also wrong. Kurzweil predicted that we’d be having convincing virtual sex, eating and shitting nanobots, and be spending most of our time and money in AR/VR. Not in the distant future but quite specifically in 2019. Which, as you may have noticed, has come and gone. And also sucked. Even on his own wildly ignorant terms, Kurzweil was completely wrong.
Let’s go through his predictions, one by one.
The Predictions, One By One
1. Your computer will be as smart as you
A $1,000 computing device (in 1999 dollars) is now approximately equal to the computational ability of the human brain.
I use a 2020 MacBook Air, costing a bit under $1,000 adjusted dollars, and it is not approximately equal to the human brain. This is a strange prediction because Kurzweil says…