Just How Near is the Future, Anyway?

by Dan Verhaeghe

This Thursday night in Toronto, entertainment purveyors Embrace are launching their speaker series with internationally renowned American futurist Ray Kurzweil.

The magazine Scientific American recently mused about the reverse-engineering of the human brain as it will lead to great advancements in the field of neuroscience. But while some people incredibly interested in technology believe that the singularity is near, Scientific American did not believe so.

The singularity refers to the point where computation is more powerful than the human brain. Scientific American believes that, despite the advancements of even a Canadian company like D-Wave Systems, the human brain is more powerful. Kurzweil’s best-selling book disagrees. It's called "The Singularity is Near."

That was further confirmed by the book “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay,” where the author says that the neurons fire ever so quickly. That allows our bodies to function the way they do, and computation may be able to replicate speed but it cannot replicate the way we think or feel.

Kurzweil on Thursday night will lecture though on how computation, communication, biological technologies, and human knowledge in general are rapidly accelerating every year. Also lectured will be how important software insights will be gained in part from the reverse-engineering of the human brain.

Perhaps Maclean's magazine’s most recent cover, with a feature article titled “The Future is Closer Than You Think,” is fitting as part of their third annual “rethink” issue.

Kurzweil, with a 25-year record of accurate predictions, will also get into what perhaps the social and philosophical ramifications of an increasingly connected and technological world will be over the next three to four decades.

His track record is incredible. He has been the principal developer of the first charge-coupled device flatbed scanner, involved with the first omni-font optical character recognition device, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizers capable of recreating the grand piano plus other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition technology.

As I was unable to get an interview with either Kurzweil or Embrace before the event, this event is ominous indeed in advance of his next book release. The book, ridiculously called “The Secret of Human Thought Revealed,” will be released November 13 by Viking.

Kurzweil’s career is critically acclaimed to say the least. He has been called “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes, the “restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal, and Inc. magazine called him the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison." He is also an inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, a recipient of the National Medal of Technology, the Lemelson-MIT prize (the world’s largest for innovation), 19 honourary doctorates, and awards from three United States Presidents.

Tickets for Thursday are still available.

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Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe focuses on marketing, mobile, major technology players, entertainment, and new media. Dan has a dozen years of online experience that dates back to the turn of the millennium where he dominated a now non-existent online RPG game for a couple of years at the age of 15. He would eventually become a Toronto Blue Jays blogger who earned his way into Toronto's CP24 studios six years... more

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