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June 22 2017

Ray Kurzweil on the future

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This article was originally published by Markedsforing Denmark.  You can read the original article in Danish here.

Things have never been as good as they are now thanks to technology, says inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who chaired a session at Cannes Lions to explain his vision of the future.

Sometimes a person walks on stage, causing the audience to shiver (with delight, it should be added). Kurzweil is the closest we have to a Thomas Edison of our time and he is one of those people.

Kurzweil may seem small on the huge Debussy Stage at the Palais des Festival but his views fill the room. While he is too factual to ever be a politician, he is a prophet who dares to stand by his views.

Kurzweil is probably the person who has most accurately hit the mark predicting how technology would develop. For example, his early theories were the foundation of Moore’s Law, by which computer power doubles every two years.

Kurzwell’s brain simply works faster than most; it is this speed that makes him so interesting, and the reason that PHD network has invited him to talk about progress on the Debussy stage.

PHD’s latest book release, “Merge | The closing gap between technology and us” will maintain the media agency’s status as one of the few thought leaders in the industry.

“Merge” can be purchased via Amazon or PHD Media’s app and all proceeds from the sale go to UNICEF.

But back to Kurzweil.

Kurzweil’s outlook is optimistic but some of his predictions send shivers down the spine

Of course, we have the initial Tour de Force, which showed that 30 years ago, 10 million people had access to the internet, compared to more than three billion today.

There are more mobile phone subscriptions than there are people in the world, and the smartphone you have in your pocket has more computing power than NASA had when it sent Neil Armstrong to the moon.

In today’s money, the first computers cost four million dollars and weighed several tonnes. The cheapest computer today is the Raspberry Pi Zero, which weighs nine grams and costs five dollars. That computer and the most common smartphones today can be used to access the internet on top of Mount Everest, where the 4G network is excellent, and in submerged submarines, where I’m not sure whether the 4G network even works. But connection is there.

But why did Kurzweil say these things? He’s a born optimist, although many of his views resemble ethical shadows that interfere with our prejudiced understanding of reality.

We live healthier, longer and are richer

–  Valid global analysis shows that over 90% of the world’s population estimates that the state of pretty much everything except technology is worse today than 20 to 40 years ago. Only one percent correctly assume that we are better off, safer and healthier today.

– Communication has changed so that we are exposed to all the negative news, which can falsely bias our perspective.

This could mean that media is lower quality but at a higher technological accuracy than it was 30 years ago, which can distort democratic debate.

The truth is indeed that we live healthier and longer, are better educated, earn more money and are less threatened by terrorism and religious fanatics than we were in the “old days”. The miserable masses are there, certainly, but it does not change the global view of improvements on all parameters.

We often use outdated technology

It is largely technology’s fault, Kurzweil says, which will only become more apparent in the future. For example, isn’t overpopulation a problem?

– Nope, 98% of the planet is unpopulated, purely because people still uses obsolete technology. With Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, self-thinking nano-particles, artificial intelligence and robots, it will be possible to relocate to places we currently wouldn’t want to live.

-Solar energy and wind power will eliminate energy problems. There is a lot of energy that just has to be collected and distributed so there isn’t a shortage of energy.

For once, Kurzweil did not bring up pollution, but he has previously said that, when the right business case presents itself, technology will solve pollution too. Money drives us, which can actually be indirectly seen here in Cannes.

He also brought up Facebook, commenting that it was not Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas that made the social platform a success. It had been tested several times and failed, but became successful when the time was right and the business opportunities were available.

The brain should be connected to cloud

So what else did Kurzweil say?

– Within a few years – Kurzweil often looks 15 to 20 years ahead and calls it the ‘near future’ – we will send small computers, the size of nano-particles, into our blood which will rid us of disease.

– The same mini-computers will be put in our minds and boost the neo-cortex, making us even smarter and better at decision making.

– People will live long, healthy and pleasant lives and soon it will be common to reach 100 years of age without problems. But you can still be hit by a bus …

Here, Kurzweil did in fact hesitate, scratch his head and add:

“The self-propelled buses will minimize that risk, but even the best technology can experience setbacks.”

The audience was left reflecting on whether politicians’ neo-cortices should be connected with the cloud before they make decisions about introducing new technologies.

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