IEEE Spectrum | John Rennie | Ray Kurzweil's Slippery FuturismIndeed, but his genius is firmly in the realm of signals processing. If I had some tricky questions about that domain I would totally listen to Kurzweil's opinions. But when it comes to "What is the future of AI, computing, and society?" I wouldn't stake anything on his answers being any better than any other mildly informed observer.
On close examination, his clearest and most successful predictions often lack originality or profundity. And most of his predictions come with so many loopholes that they border on the unfalsifiable. Yet he continues to be taken seriously enough as an oracle of technology to command very impressive speaker fees at pricey conferences, to author best-selling books,"
Ray Kurzweil's genius is beyond dispute.
(Actually, I'd wager his answers will be qualitatively worse, for three reasons. One, he has a terrible track record when it comes to predictions. Two, his incentive is not to make correct predictions, it's to make notable, provocative predictions that people will want to pay him to talk about. Three, he already has a dedicated group of cult-like followers who are predisposed to believe his predictions, lessening the incentive to be accurate.)
While Rennie presents a pretty firm criticism of Kurzweil, I think he erred on the side of leniency.
PS I am pleased that Kurzweil is willing to place bets on his predictions. More people making public claims ought to be willign to do that.
Kurzweil is confident, for instance, that by 2029 researchers, having reverse engineered the human brain, will build an AI that can pass as human. (He has a US $20 000 bet to that effect with computing pioneer Mitchell Kapor riding at the Long Bets Web site.)I think he's going to lose that money, but my hat is off to him for wagering it. I'd put $5 grand down on the other side of that bet, if we could work out an acceptable agreement for what "pass as human" means.