March 21, 2012
Ray Kurzweil Defends His Predictions
The title of Alex Knapp’s blog post is “Ray Kurzweil’s Predictions for 2009 Were Mostly Inaccurate” is itself blatantly inaccurate. I made 147 predictions for 2009 in my book The Age of Spiritual Machines (ASM) which I wrote in the mid to late 1990s and which was published at the end of 1998. You can read a detailed and carefully researched 148 page report on all of these predictions (in fact on all of the predictions I’ve made over the past quarter century in a number of different books and publications) here.
To summarize the report, I made 147 predictions for 2009 in ASM. Of these, 115 (78 percent) are entirely correct as of the end of 2009, and another 12 (8 percent) are “essentially correct” — a total of 127 predictions (86 percent) are correct or essentially correct. Since the predictions were made with a specificity of decades (that is, for 2009, 2019, 2029, and so on), a prediction was considered “essentially correct” if it came true in 2010 or 2011. Another 17 (12 percent) are partially correct, and 3 (2 percent) are wrong.
Even the predictions that were considered “wrong” in this report were not all wrong. For example, the prediction that we would have self-driving cars was regarded as wrong even though Google self-driving cars have logged over 200,000 miles in traffic from Mountain View to Santa Monica and back in California. In October 2010, four driverless electric vans successfully concluded a 13,000-kilometer test drive from Italy to China, Nevada has issued the first set of regulations for driverless cars, and WIRED magazine recently ran a cover story anticipating driverless cars in your life in the near future. Ironically I have received praise for this “prescient” prediction because when I made it in the late 1990s driverless cars were considered crazy and centuries away. Nonetheless, I rated this prediction as wrong because the technology is still experimental today.
In particular, the predictions that were concerned with basic measurements of the capacity and price-performance of information technologies were very accurate.
Even on the 12 predictions that Knapp reports on, his analysis is idiosyncratic and biased. He is confusing his own limited observations with the reality of what is going on in the field.
For example, in my report I rate the speech recognition prediction as partially correct. Knapp says it is “not even close.” Perhaps he has never seen (or heard) people dictating their text messages, IM’s and emails using speech recognition on their iPhones and Droids. This is very common. Perhaps Knapp considers text creation to only pertain to a formal word document, but that is not a reasonable interpretation. Text is text. For that matter, speaking to Siri is creating a text input to Siri.
Both continuous speech recognition and language translation software work quite well so apps that combine these two capabilities to provide a “translating telephone” are popular apps today.
Knapp mentions music accompanist software that he finds impressive but still rates this prediction as “wrong.” I cite many more popular applications (in the predictions essay cited above) where people jam with their computers. For example, anyone hear of guitar hero?
He cites bioengineered treatments for cancer and heart disease having reduced mortality as “wrong” and goes on to define bioengineering as gene therapy which is simply not correct. As just one example of many, half of all heart attack survivors have a damaged heart and suffer from heart failure, a condition my father had and died from some decades ago. That used to be a permanent and fatal condition, but today you can fix that condition with a stem cell therapy that is definitely regarded as bioengineering. Many if not most of the new cancer drugs are based on personal genetic triggers. There are many other advances. I could write a book on these developments (in fact I have).
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Tags: Alex Knapp, artificial intelligence, future technology, futurism, Kurzweil predictions, Ray Kurzweil
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