Having known appallingly little about the oft-quoted man credited for the paradigm shattering ideas about the singularity, I looked forward to this glimpse into the life and ideas of this modern prophet. What I found was not quite what I had expected.
Before I review this documentary and the ideas within it, let me put out a few caveats. I have not read the source material on Kurzweil. I am assuming that the documentary is accurate and does not reflect bias. I am taking what I saw as a fair appraisal of Kurzweil and his ideas. I am open to the fact that I could be wrong in any or all of these assumptions.
Ray Kurzweil is a genius. To deny this fact is to say that the sun does not warm the earth. It is irrefutable. However, like many true geniuses there are aspects of truth outside of his field of vision for which he is as blind as the many individuals he has helped with his technologies. The result is that the more Kurzweil errs on matters beyond the finite scope of his laser intellect, the farther off he gets. But within that failing is a sad poetry that is woven into the very fabric of his achievements.
The single strongest driving force in Kurzweil is a fear of death. More than anything he wants to live forever, and beyond that, he wants his father to live forever with him. He was obviously too smart to ask sweet baby Jesus, so he turned to science for the answer. Technology became his new religion. And from this mad dash to push forward the capabilities of technology in time to save his life, and rescue the memories of his father, he has become a Promethean juggernaut.
The irony that any Peruvian jungle teenager, or Bwiti initiate could tell you is that we already do live forever, and that he can access his father’s memories any time he wishes. Ray would know this too, but he has bought into the great lie of Western government, accepting the illegality of the technologies that would allow him easy access to understand this. But for once maybe we should thank our overbearing Uncle Sam and his tyrannical religious morality, because in the absence of this simple truth, Kurzweil has given the world great gifts. It is sad though to see a great man needlessly suffer when the solution is so simple. A few grams of ibogaine and he could recall any memory he wanted and talk to his father, right now! Tell him he loved him and he was sorry, and be at peace. A few cups of Ayahuasca and Kurzweil would discover that death is actually a transition carrying the illusion of finality.
As for Kurzweil’s ideas on the singularity, they are extremely thought provoking. But once again, there is one piece of the puzzle that Ray is missing from his analysis. While we may merge more and more with machines, the thing that separates all life from non-life is the existence of our spirit, and the connection to the infinite wisdom of the higher self. While machines and nanotechnology may improve our computation and health, or perhaps handle those challenges entirely, they will never touch the true magic of what it is to be alive; Love, awe, art, beauty, poetry.
But maybe this advancement of technology will pave the way for what I believe is the real singularity. The real singularity comes when we transcend the myth of life and death. Where souls can enter and leave the physical plane consciously, choose bodies as we choose our automobiles, and communicate in higher dimensions while experiencing the physical. But to get to that maybe we do need to extend our lives another 500 years with nano-cells. Maybe we do need to have nothing left to compute and no resources of scarcity to compete for. Maybe this is always how it goes, or maybe we just fucked up along the way and are destined to weaponize artificial intelligence and relive the nightmare of the movies we created. It’s hard to say. But if we fail, I have no doubts that if they haven’t already, other species will finish the race. Taken as a cosmic whole, we are no more significant than one good soldier in a war. It would be a shame if we died. A true shame, and our uniqueness would be lost forever and missed by many. But other races will live on, more will be born, and the universal big-bang heartbeat of God will keep on pumping.