Men must merge with machines: an interview with inventor and futurist Raymond Kurzweil

March 3, 2012

Some have called inventor, author, and future-thinker Raymond Kurzweil the Thomas Edison of the 21st century, and rightly so. The National Inventor Hall of Fame inductee began his career making technology that helped blind people read — Stevie Wonder, in fact, is a good friend because of this — and then went on to pen books about computer science, nutrition, spirituality, and the merging of men with machines.

He comes to share his thoughts with Santa Barbara on March 6, so we asked our occasional correspondent Lynda Weinman, of, to send Kurzweil a few thoughtful questions. Here’s the result of their email conversation.

What will your speaking topic focus be for the UCSB Arts & Lectures series?

I will talk about why this is a period of the empowerment of the individual. The tools to change the world are in everyone’s hands. Facebook, Google, and many other world changing ventures were started with nothing more than thousand dollar laptops. A kid in Africa with a smart phone today has access to more knowledge and information than the President of the United States did 15 years ago.

The phenomenon that is powering this change is the exponential growth of information technology. Computer technology today is billions of times more powerful per constant dollar than it was when I was a student and is continuing to double in price-performance in less than a year. Health and medicine has recently become an information technology and will, therefore, also now be subject to what I call the “law of accelerating returns.” I will discuss the implications of these changes. […]