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Transcendent Man (2009)

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Ray Kurzweil is on a journey to bring his ideas to the world.

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TRANSCENDENT MAN chronicles the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist that presents his bold vision of the Singularity, a point in the near future when technology will be changing so rapidly, that we will have to enhance ourselves with artificial intelligence to keep up. Ray predicts this will be the dawning of a new civilization in which we will no longer be dependent on our physical bodies, we will be trillions of times more intelligent and there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. Human aging and illness will be reversed; world hunger and poverty will be solved and we will ultimately cure death. Critics accuse Ray of being too optimistic and argue that the dangers of the Singularity far outweigh the benefits, pointing out the apocalyptic implications that once machines achieve consciousness, we may not be able to control them. Whether Rays controversial ideas incite excitement or fear, dogma or disbelief this ... Written by Felicia Ptolemy and Celia Black

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1 March 2011 (USA)  »

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Will compete in the World Documentary Feature Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival 2009. See more »

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Futuresque Picture
9 July 2011 | by (New Zealand) – See all my reviews

Seldom do technologists gain prominence for their prophesies. Our field, you see, values doing over thinking. You believe we'll be Tom Cruising over our Minority Report-esque holograms in 2020? Great. Now build it.

But Ray Kurzweil is an exception. He's a man whose words do indeed speak louder than his actions. He famously predicted the year a computer will finally beat the best human chess players, among many other things (89 of his 109 predictions from 1999 have so far been proved right.) His actions haven't been too unimpressive either — he built a computer at age 17 (in 1965 no less) and invented a reading machine for the blind.

So we've established he's an Important Man. Now let's see what makes him Transcendent.

In Transcendent Man, Mr. Kurzweil gives us a lowdown of what we are to expect from the next couple decades. Namely: robots will take over us, we'll start planting chips made of nanotechnology into our bodies, genetic modification will make us immortal, and soon enough, singularity. Whatever that means.

The documentary follows Kurzweil in his daily life as he meets with smart people in lab courts, and William Shatner, to whom he successfully sells the idea of taking 150 pills a day (after all, we do want to see Captain Kirk witness the launch of the real Enterprise someday, no?)

We get a glimpse of the labs and institutions where the apparent future of mankind (or the beginning of the apocalypse to some) is being initiated. They all utter the same phrases, and even the naysers appear to be cheer leaders of human triumph. Did I mention? Robots. Genetics. Nanotech. Immortality. Singularity.

BOOM.

If you ask me, he's being optimistic. But then again, he knows something the rest of us don't — the true power of the exponential curve. All technology, you see, advances exponentially. Moore's Law told us the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years. Thirty two years after the first personal computer, we had one that sits in our pocket and lets us FaceTime our grandparents. Mark Zuckerberg recently made the claim that we're individually sharing double of everything year after year. I don't want to think about what this means for the pornography industry in 2020.

And lest you forget? Four years ago, Twitter was a seven letter word in the dictionary. Three years before that, "Facebook" referred to a book with pictures you wouldn't want your kids to see. Today, these terms are something most of us live and die by everyday.

Keeping this in mind, I guess it's possible that Mr. Kurzweil's predictions may not end up too far from the truth. Who knows what we'll be verbing in 2020?

Ask Ray Kurzweil.


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