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Kurzweil: The “Ultimate Thinking Machine”

November 24 2008 | by

Raymond Kurzweil: Fantastic Voyage

Ray Kurzweil is a scientist and inventor of groundbreaking assistive technology, including a text-to-speech synthesizer, voice recognition software, and a print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. Dubbed by Forbes as “the ultimate thinking machine,” Kurzweil is highly regarded in disability circles as well as the broader artificial intelligence and technology sphere. He placed 14th on’s Agenda Setters list for 2008, mainly for his current work surrounding artificial intelligence and robotics. posted’s Q&A with Kurzweil, where he discussed his vision of the future and AI. I find Kurzweil’s research and philosophies fascinating. Not only has he improved the lives of people with disabilities with assistive tech, he has been on a mission for the last decade to make bionics and AI a cornerstone of human existence — and help us live better, smarter, longer lives. Some key points from his interview:

On the law of accelerating returns: “What used to fit in a building now fits in your pocket, what fits in your pocket now will fit inside a blood cell in 25 years.”

On the most exciting technologies in recent years: “Health and medicine … We have software that’s running in our bodies that’s thousands of years old or more and it evolved when conditions were very different, such as the fat insulin receptor gene. And what would happen if we turned that gene off? There are other genes that are necessary for heart disease or cancer to progress that we’d like to turn off.”

On the limits of computer intelligence: “In order for a computer or any entity to pass the Turing Test it has to master human emotion … Getting the joke, being funny, expressing a loving sentiment — these are actually the most complicated things we do, the cutting edge of human intelligence.” [Editor's note: This statement speaks volumes for austism and other disorders, in which such emotions are seemingly impossible to convey yet have no direct relevance on intelligence.]

On whether super intelligent machines will have a soul: “The soul is a synonym for consciousness … It’s not going to be a clear distinction of where humans or biological intelligence stops and machine intelligence starts … You won’t be able to walk into a room and say, ‘OK, humans on the left, machines on the right,’ because it’s going to be all mixed up … we will attribute consciousness to entities even if they have no biology.”

On man vs. machine: “Ultimately non-biological intelligence will be much more powerful than biological human intelligence, but it’s not an invasion of intelligent machines from Mars — it’s coming from our own civilization. And we will use it as we do today to expand our own reach–we will make ourselves smarter.”


  • Elizabeth

    Great blog! I hope you’ll consider adding it to the aggregator at Deaf Village ( — we’d love to have you as part of our community!

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