Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them. - Laurence J. Peter

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Singularity Summit - John Horgan and Ray Kurzweil

John Horgan and Ray Kurzweil are debating. Horgan thinks the Singularity will not happen. He's saying people have long been too optimistic about technological progress - Artificial Intelligence, fusion, infectious disease, cancer, gene therapy, neuroscience. There have been very optimistic progress on these and very little real progress or results. Specifically on neuroscience, sure we have a lot more data, but we have no new treatments for mental illness.

Ray Kurzweil is replying. He's saying that sure there's no shortage of bad predictions. And he adds that the exponential growth curves that he likes to talk about (see his books or website) do not apply to everything, but are proceeding as expected in the fields they're supposed to. He accuses Horgan of oversimplifying. He's giving examples of technological progress - heart disease is way down; Google made an Arabic-English translator that compared favorably with human translators, which was especially impressive because the Google team didn't speak Arabic themselves; Kurzweil predicted the importance of the internet in the 80s based on the observed exponential growth. And he says don't be so impatient; human genome data is less than a decade old.


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