Friday, December 28, 2012

"The Ray Kurzweil Show, Now at the Googleplex" (GOOG)

Last year I mentioned some of the problems with Mr. Kurzweil's predictive abilities which a couple years ago he said were running "102 for 108".

The easiest critique is stuff like a linear extension of current trends. No real insight there.
(more after the jump)

One that he's going to have to put in the miss column is from June 2008: "Ray Kurzweil: Cost Competitive Solar Within Five Years". Here he makes a rookie mistake violating the admonition given to all junior analysts:
"If you are going to publicly call a price, for God's sake don'!"
When all is said and done though, Ray has a bigger brain than I and gets stories about him published under the subject heading:
Among the stranger things Ray Kurzweil will say to your face is that he intends to bring his father back to life. The famed inventor has a storage locker full of memorabilia—family photographs, letters, even utility bills—tied to his father, Fredric, who died in 1970. Someday, Kurzweil hopes to feed this data trove into a computer that will reconstruct a virtual rendering of dear old Dad. “There is a lot of suffering in the world,” Kurzweil once explained. “Some of it can be overcome if we have the right solutions.”

Kurzweil, 64, has spent many of the past 40 years exploring his theories on life extension and other matters from a lab in Boston. Now he’s taking the show on the road. In mid-December, Kurzweil announced he’s moving to California to begin his new job as a director of engineering at Google (GOOG). He’ll work on language processing, machine learning, and other projects. “I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Google to work on some of the hardest problems in computer science so we can turn the next decade’s ‘unrealistic’ visions into reality,” Kurzweil posted on his website.

He’s not the first senior technology celebrity Google has hired. Internet pioneer Vint Cerf often shows up at events in three-piece suits as an “evangelist” for the search giant, while Hal Varian, founding dean of the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, is now chief economist.

There are some practical reasons Kurzweil makes sense at Google. He was a coding prodigy who, as a youngster, taught computers to play music and predict the best colleges for high school students. Later he built a line of sophisticated music synthesizers and early scanners and then worked on artificial intelligence software for Wall Street equities traders. “Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence,” Bill Gates, the Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder, says on the jacket of one of Kurzweil’s books....MORE from BusinessWeek
And from our March 2011 post "Solar: Kurzweil Sees Energy Need Met In 16 Years":
...Here is some of the back-and-forth on Mr. Kurzweil's predictions. In 2010 he said he was batting 102 of 108 which raises the question: Is he predicting the inevitable?
A simple example would be "smaller computers". A prognosticator doesn't get any points from me on that type of prediction.

First up, the brainiacs at IEEE Spectrum:
Ray Kurzweil's Slippery Futurism

Techi's headline is:
Ray Kurzweil's Tech Predictions Have Been Eerily Accurate

Kurzweil fans SingularityHub write:
Kurzweil Defends Predictions for 2009, Says He is 102 for 108.

Finally, Next Big Future has a response from Ray and an update from a skeptic:
Ray Kurzweil Responds to the Issue of Accuracy of His Predictions

Update: Ray Kurzweil’s January 17th, 2010 response to this is posted below my initial post. He said, “your review is biased, incorrect, and misleading in many different ways”....
More than you cared to know?