Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Kurzweil Keynote



Ray Kurzweil has been working with and writing about Artificial Intelligence and technology for over 40 years. In this keynote speech for last year's Singularity University Executive Program* he divulges much awe inspiring information about the exponential growth of the pace of development in microprocessor technologies, human genome discovery, image scanning - both macro and micro - and the internet. In a studiously careful yet casual manner he convincingly explains how one can include literally any other realm of research and philosophical contemplation in the process of evolving understanding.

At about 20 minutes into the clip, he hits on what is surely the Most Important Point to comprehend as fully as is possible for those who would Govern and partake effectively and profitably in Economies: Resource availability (regulation and allocation!) fuels or limits growth.

This is certainly not a fact which he limits to economics. His focus is, of course, technology in general, and argue for segregation of ideas as one might, economics is amongst the most fundamental technologies of Homo Sapiens sapiens. Even before our ancestors developed the knack for using a broken and sharp edged piece rock to cut away more manageable slices of supper they were observing their environment and planning where next to spend their energy finding food and shelter. They had evolved to be animals who were capable of consciously thinking about their places in, not only their own little social groupings, but the environment which they personally and as a group did have around them. The order and extent to which this emergence of consciousness took place is amongst the most profoundly challenging questions which our species does wonder. What is it if not the basis of all Creation Myths? What is it if not the ultimate source of that most common of questions that we ask, not only ourselves, but of our Gods? Why are we here? Why did this happen to me? What is the meaning of Life?

And the way to the answers, as recordable history is making plain and clear, is through ever more clear observation and always open-minded analysis of reality. Kurzweil makes it very clear in this presentation how both of those activities have benefited and improved profoundly in quality and accuracy through our use of technology. Not only of the electronic variety over the last 100 years or so, but throughout the time of our existence on this world. Recent discoveries in neuro-biology have even shown how our relationships, our connections to animals (and even plants!) as simple as aplysia, the see slugs studied by Eric Kandel, convincingly evidence that our ability to obtain those answers are innate. A functional development of our evolution from the single celled molecules which somehow managed to replicate themselves over years, then hundreds, then thousands and then hundreds of millions of years until, apparently in the blink of a cosmic eye, We should stand up and ask them all. Miraculous and Natural. Wow! :)

On a more personal note, (c'mon! You guys know me!) at about the 30 minute mark I almost had a mental orgasm (lol!) as I first got started using the internet in the year, 1993, right before it exploded into the general societal consciousness. The chart he displays** reflects how the interwebs had by that year been mostly a collection of connections between Universities and other points of research activity. Those connections did certainly stretch to far points on the globe (not shown per se) but were quite thinly spread, and specific in their destinations from one point to the next. Talk about a natural miracle of understanding! Within 7 years we had such economic investments in this new phenomenon that, when the bubble did finally pop, the Media and Wall Street simply had to give it an iconic name; The Dot Com Bust.

Finally, for those of you who find our American worship of the Stock Market and so called "free enterprise" fascinating, at the 36:00 mark, near the end of the clip, Kurzweil begins to explain how we've already gained enough information about the physiology of our brains in order to at least begin to understand why our - and these are my words, not his - self interests are not always what we think they should be. He explains how the "dot com bust" was really and effective only a bust for investors on Wall Street. There simply was no letup in the expansion of either personal or commercial use of the internet. In fact it continued to expand at the same rate it had been doing and does still continue, regardless of who wins or loses in their investments in the Market. The electronic communication web continues to become an ever more natural and sustainable fact of human life. In more ways than we can currently comprehend or even imagine.

Finding this video this morning was a much appreciated event. Thank you, Facebook! Kurzweil is one of those awesome silly humans whom I admire and I appreciate so very much his being in the public eye. He has learned how to integrate knowledge in, stay with me here, such a compassionate manner as to be capable of understanding that what one learns in one singular field of study can and indeed must be utilized in other fields, no matter that they might seem so very disparate as to appear completely unrelated.

At least until we understand, and then care how they're all part of the one.


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* The link is to this year's Program.


** If I've one criticism of the video it's simply that the camera doesn't stay long enough on those charts and graphs Kurzweil uses so effectively to make his points. Most likely my dissatisfaction on this point is based in the sluggishness of my own brain's observational inputs. I may seem to some to make "flash" decisions, but any observations which I might share have almost always been simmering up in that 3 pound enigma for months, or even years, integrating information and making sense of it. If I'd been in the audience, or doing the recording or producing even, I would definitely have spent a little longer on the slides.

3 comments:

  1. Ah! a bit of synchronicity at work here. I had found my thought wandering around the same topic and then as I was eavesdropping on what some of the early patrons were saying---bar-tending can sometimes be such a boring occupation, you know---I stumbled onto the gentleman's keynote~~~

    "He has learned how to integrate knowledge in, stay with me here, such a compassionate manner as to be capable of understanding that what one learns in one singular field of study can and indeed must be utilized in other fields, no matter that they might seem so very disparate as to appear completely unrelated."

    Yes. It does remind one a bit of Nexialism, does it not, sir?

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  2. I think that's not likely the first I've heard of Nexialism, but is the first I can recall. And yes it does seem an apt assignation. Thanks!

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  3. So after what? Six months of near-silence, you burst forth with this lengthy review. Too bad I discovered it so close to my bed time. I'll have to watch the video when I'm more alert. Ray's hard enough to understand when I'm awake. But great to hear from you!

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