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Ray Kurzweil on Singularity 1 on 1: Be Who You Would Like To Be

Ray Kurzweil‘s impact on my life in general but especially on what I have been doing for the past 3 or 4 years is hard to exaggerate. It is a simple fact that, if I haven’t read his seminal book The Singularity is Near, I would be neither blogging nor podcasting about exponential technologies, not to mention going to Singularity University. And so it was with great excitement and some trepidation that I went to interview Dr. Kurzweil in his office in Boston.

Part of my trepidation came from some technical concerns: I wish I could buy a better camera. I wish I could hire a team of audio and video professionals so that I can focus on the interview itself. I wish I did a better job with the set up. I wish I had noticed that Ray’s lavalier mic has slipped out of its holder… The list is exponential. Still, if there is one thing that I’ve learned since I started podcasting is that we do get better. But it takes time. Meanwhile, my consolation is that eventually I will have to do another interview with Ray Kurzweil just so I get it right that time. For now, however, I hope that the content of this one will make up for its technical deficiencies.

During our conversation with Dr. Kurzweil we cover a wide variety of topics such as: how and why at age 5 Ray decided to become an inventor; his unique background of being born to Jewish parents but brought up in a Unitarian Church; his early interest in issues such as religious tolerance, poverty, social inequality and justice; 3D printing, open source, patents, progress and intellectual property rights; Watson, artificial intelligence, the Turing Test and human rights for AI, the technological singularity and some criticism thereof; his upcoming book How To Create A Mind and his Pattern Recognition Theory of Mind; the evolutionary advantages of intelligence; the benefits of reverse-engineering the human brain for the creation of AI and whether the latter would be interested in pondering and solving humanity’s greatest problems.

My favorite quote that I will take away from this interview with Ray Kurzweil is:

“Don’t be too concerned about what’s practical. Follow your passion and be who you would like to be.”

As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full.

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Behind The Curtain: Images of My Interview with Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil Working

the office of a creative genius

Julie Danaylov: Best Looking Camera Wo/man Ever

Ray Kurzweil on Singularity 1 on 1

Ray Kurzweil and the White Rabbit

Ray Kurzweil with his father’s portrait

Socrates trying to make a point

Thank You Dr. Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil: “I Support Singularity 1 on 1”

Socrates with Ray Kurzweil


Ray Kurzweil: I Support Singularity 1 on 1



Who is Ray Kurzweil?

Ray Kurzweil has been described as “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. Inc. magazine ranked him #8 among entrepreneurs in the United States, calling him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison,” and PBS included Ray as one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America,” along with other inventors of the past two centuries.

As one of the leading inventors of our time, Ray was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. Ray’s web site Kurzweil AI.net has over one million readers.

Among Ray’s many honors, he is the recipient of the $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize, the world’s largest for innovation. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in technology, from President Clinton in a White House ceremony. And in 2002, he was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, established by the US Patent Office.

He has received nineteen honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents.

Ray has written four national best sellers. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence has been translated into 9 languages and was the #1 best selling book on Amazon in science. Ray’s latest book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, was a New York Times best seller, and has been the #1 book on Amazon in both science and philosophy.

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  • Daniel Sprouse

    what’s with that rabbit?

  • Just finished watching the podcast. Great job Nikola! Nice balans between interest, awe and critique.

  • Very happy you liked it Dion! The balance is something I was going for this time 😉

  • It is the Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland” 😉

  • Carl Brooks

    Excellent. Glad to see ray being stretched and probed by someone who has an in depth knowledge of his work. Its a welcome change to his standard genral public key note speeches and the questions asked there in. Cheers Socrates. Keep up the fantastic work!

  • A very wide ranging and interesting interview. Great job!

  • I just finished watching the entire podcast, and, like Dion below, I greatly appreciate the intelligent questions that were not asked from a position of ignorance. I am so tired of
    mainstream conformist questions and “introductions” that have Kurzweil repeat answers he has
    given in several other online fora. You did a good job of exploring new
    ground. I personally have a ton of questions remaining in the political
    sphere, because even within libertarianism, there are a lot of areas
    rich for philosophical exploration. I appreciate that Kurzweil appears
    to be an enemy of bigotry and in favor of social tolerance: What then,
    does he make of the enormous U.S. prison industry? What of the greater
    than 60% of people incarcerated for first-time, victimless crimes? Does
    he believe a political solution is possible or desirable? What actions
    would he include under the description of “political solution”? Does
    he favor the decentralization of power via printed individualized
    defensive weaponry or individualized defensive non-weaponry? (as in the
    enlightened scientific traveler in Asimov’s “Foundation” series who puts
    up particle shields when attacked, that simply slow down his attacker’s
    blows, the closer they get, so they are useless). Which of the many
    subsets of libertarianism is Kurzweil amenable to? LeFevre’s pacifism?
    (seemingly not) Hayek’s classical liberalism? (seemingly so) Anarcho-syndicalism? (seemingly not) Kinsella’s “Against IP” (seemingly not) Randian
    objectivism? (seemingly so) Piekoff’s ignorant form of Randian
    objectivism (which blames the Branch Davidians for the Waco raid, and fully supports the prohibition of the building of a muslim civic center in NYC)? (?) Nathaniel Branden and David Kelly’s variants of objectivism (?) Vin Suprynowicz’s and John Ross’s brand of libertarianism? (seemingly so, but likely without knowledge of it) R.J.
    Rummel’s Democratic Peace (seemingly so) Gene Sharp’s “Politics of
    Nonviolent Action” (seemingly so, given his comments on Egypt), Samuel
    E. Konkin’s “countereconomics”? (seemingly so) “agorism”? (seemingly
    not)… Harry Browne and Carl Watner’s “voluntaryism”? Doug Casey’s
    “speculative pragmatism”? Absolutely noone has investigated Kurzweil’s
    philosophical-political opinions to this extent in a public forum, but
    his scientific materialism and objectivity are impeccable, as is his
    unwillingness to commit to unintelligent or unenlightened mainstream “conformist”
    paths. I look forward to hearing his opinions, on interim STRATEGY as well as
    on philosophy. Does he even believe interim (pre-singularity) political strategy to be important? (Seemingly so by his words, unknown by his actions.) He is one of a handfull of individuals capable of
    combining the two hierarchical levels. I suppose I’ll need to interview
    him myself for such answers, but anything further along those lines, I
    would appreciate. A friend of mine (Trent Pool) asked him what he thought of the FDA
    raid (violent aggression, resulting in monetary loss and loss of
    hundreds of thousands of dollars of product) on Celestial Seasonings
    company, for their victimless crime of printing “naturally sweetened
    with stevia” on tea packaging. To his credit, Kurzweil said it was
    “stupid.” (He defines stupidity as “unwittingly self-destructive.”) If
    anyone else is also curious about the answer to these questions, you
    can call or email me at 701-204-3215, my name is Jake. I am also
    available at jake.alfg@yahoo.com

  • Was it painted by Grace Slick? She paints such rabbits, as novelty items for those who know her song, “White Rabbit.” (Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall!)

  • CM Stewart

    Outstanding interview, worth watching again and again! Even the facial expressions and body language are quite telling.

    Thank you, Nikola, for asking questions submitted by the public. I’m thrilled to hear Kurzweil talk about Ramona, she’s a fascinating character, as is Ray. In regard to claims on her quotes (for example, if a fiction writer were to directly quote her), I guess she is in limbo for the time being.

    I also appreciate you mentioning Karl Schroeder’s “many lenses” perspective. Kurzweil has a flair for shredding criticism of his projections and theories, in my opinion. I still find Schroeder’s perspective valuable and useful, but I am glad to hear Kurzweil’s reaction to it.

    Nikola, was the placement of the “White Rabbit” poster behind Kurzweil, and the Singularity poster behind you deliberate, or was Kurzweil in the middle of rearranging his office? Either way, the posters enhanced the video and the photos.

    Again, congratulations on an excellent interview, Nikola. And if Kurzweil decides to read everything ever written about him after he gets his speed reading implant . .

    Thank you, Dr. Kurzweil, for showing the world the future!

  • Very happy you like the interview Cynthia. As per the “White Rabbit” I have to say that all I moved around were the chairs. All else was untouched by me and I simply took advantage of things the way they were already. I don’t know if Kurzweil was moving but it didn’t seem so. Thus I suspect his office is like mine in that sense – the space of a creative genius… 😉

  • Just watched. I’ve watched a lot of your interviews and I think it was the best I’ve seen. You clearly do a better job interviewing in person. The timing of interjection, question followup, and general interaction are all much better than in the webcam interviews. It’s a pity they can’t all be in person.

    I’ve been listening to Ray interviews for years and yours had the highest level of meaningful give-and-take. It makes a difference when the interviewer has context, as you do. It also helped that even though you’re a fan, you only allowed yourself a little bit of gushing during the bookends (many of us probably envy you there), but that you pushed him hard in the interview itself, harder than other journalists would be able to do. Looking forward to more.

  • Thank you very much friend I am very happy you enjoyed it so much and you found it was worth your while. I also wish I have the budget to do all my interviews in person. This one for example costed me only about $800 dollars worth of travel expenses but I also had to buy all the audio and video tech for my rig which is about $3,000. So, while I hope to do them all like that, for now, I will have to do in-person every once-in-a-while… So, it is for this reason that I’ve been fundraising for the past 30 days: http://www.indiegogo.com/singularity1on1?a=1300521 In short, to have the production you must have at least some money to spend on it…

  • ok. Money where my mouth is.

  • My goodness Jon, thank you very much for your most generous contribution! Jon, we need to connect and discuss your perks! 😉

  • I got no need for perks. Give the promotional stuff to Federico Pistono, the kid who wrote “Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK.” You guys met already. :). He’ll make better use of it than I will, going basically the same direction I would if I had the time and energy.

  • Dan

    Well done sir

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  • Hrrhhmmm I see…… (envious stare)

  • Solace

    Ray is the best, I’ve met him here in Toronto when he was on tour for his new book “How to Create a Mind”. Would you be able to open a DogeCoin wallet? I bet you could get some serious attention if you did…. 😉

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  • If Romana actually will look anything like Pauley perrette then I insist we have a date, and I look forward to anything approximating a Singularity.

  • nomi

    This guy goal is to create machines more intelligent than human brain while he is still studying and mentioning that he is in process of knowing the brain due to recent advances. Yes he is cocky sure he will create more intelligent human brain. Then he is so sure that super intelligent machines will help humans. Also he is confused between thought and intelligence. Thoughts make us intelligent and creative. If he is making intelligent machines he is making machines that can think. If they can think how we will be able to control their thinking. This guy will die utterly confused.

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