January 19, 2010 Response to Ray Kurzweil

I have written Ray a short initial response, which I pursued one or two lines of criticism but mostly admitted that he’s right that 7 is a narrow selection of predictions and that if he is 102 for 108 then I would be very impressed. The key issue is how vague or precise these predictions were to start with, as Brian writes here.

Kurzweil requested that I withhold further judgment until he produces his point-by-point analysis of his 1996-1997 predictions, so I will be waiting on that before posting my full response. In truth, it’s been a few years since I looked at The Age of Spiritual Machines, but I remember reading it several times in the 2000-2005 date range.

I think that Kurzweil is one of the best futurists out there, but here he is essentially claiming that his ability to predict the future is unparalleled. I think that such a claim deserves a lot of skepticism and verification before acceptance. Maybe he is right, though — this issue is complex, and requires time to go through the whole thing. The reason why I focused on 7 predictions in my initial criticism is because I found them listed at another place on the Internet and addressing all 108 predictions would have been quite time-consuming. It could be that they are a highly non-representative sample.

Reflecting that, I have updated the title of my original post from “Kurzweil’s Failed 2009 Predictions” to “7 of 108 of Ray Kurzweil’s 1996-1997 Predictions for 2009 Which Seem Incorrect to Me”.

Comments

  1. James

    Did you not read his response? It should be down to 3 or so, not 7, if you actually read what Ray wrote about the decade resolution and the specific examples of items from the 7 that are already here. You are digging yourself deeper in, rather than doing the right thing, coming clean, and admitting your own incorrectness.

  2. Warren Bonesteel

    “I think that Kurzweil is one of the best futurists out there, but here he is essentially claiming that his ability to predict the future is unparalleled. I think that such a claim deserves a lot of skepticism and verification before acceptance.”

    Now, that’s a legitimate point, Michael. When one man, or a small group of men, no matter their previous experience – or the contents their résumé or curriculum vitae – decide that they are the new Gurus/Prophets of an age/movement/ideology, a certain amount of skepticism is necessary.

    To my knowledge, Kurzweil hasn’t made such claims, but some of the publicity about him may be leading him into the trap of ‘believing his own press.’ So, from that pov, making sure that Kurzweil’s hat still fits on his head is probably a good idea. Your earlier effort in this regard was a bit less than tactful.

    Every so often, we should all stop, look deeply into the mirror, and critically and objectively examine our own assumptions and preconceptions. Otherwise, sooner or later, someone’s gonna come along and tell us what a prat we are…and we aren’t going to like the experience.

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