Erik Larson

Feb 9, 2014

Kurzweil Can See the Future

This dude I love. He says: “I do expect that full MNT (nanotech) will emerge prior to Strong AI, but only by a few years (around 2025 for nanotechnology, around 2029 for strong AI).

Sweet! This guy’s got it figured. I didn’t know that humans could predict the future, but turns out that, armed with the Law of Accelerating Returns (a law Kurzweil made up, in essence, to describe how technological innovations are coming more rapidly today than they did, say, at the time of the invention of the printing press), we can predict the future of technology. Of course, we’ve been morons about the future of tech until Kurzweil, but don’t fret about a track record, as he’s rewriting the rules here. His predictions are scientific.

I envision all this in a used car type of advertisement:

Want Strong AI? No problem. That’s 2029!!! Nanotech? Look no further. That’s 2025.

Dude, seriously. If you know when an innovation will happen, you know enough about the innovation to make it happen today. The philosopher Karl Popper pointed this out years ago, that predicting technological innovation amounts to knowing the innovation, which amounts to already knowing how to do it today. Hence, the whole prediction of inventions is bogus. Listen up, Kurzweil. You’re silly made-up laws about the exponential rate of technological change don’t tell us what technologies are coming. At best, they only tell us that new tech will keep popping up, and the gap between old tech and new tech will keep getting smaller. That quantitative trend itself will likely change (say, because the world changes radically in some other way, or who knows). But what we can say for certain is that the qualitative aspect—what technology is next—is outside the law of accelerating returns and outside prediction generally.

Sorry, Kurzweil. But nice book sales.