Ray Kurzweil debunks exponential returns doubters at SXSW

March 12, 2012

As you would expect, this kind of optimism draws a lot of fire from more pessimistic, perhaps more realistic, critics. On Monday at SXSW, Kurzweil took on the skeptics with an array of historical charts, future forecasts, and the simple belief that “you can start world-changing revolution with just the power of your ideas and everyday tools.”

The cornerstone to many of Kurzweil’s predictions is the Law of Accelerating Returns, a phrase he coined in his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines. The law states that certain kinds of progress are exponential, not linear, resulting in a profound acceleration of said progress. Think of it as Moore’s Law for everything.

The change is apparent in the mobile space. “Every field is being empowered by these increasingly inexpensive, but powerful tools,” Kurzweil said. “Twenty years ago, if you took out a mobile phone in a movie, it was a sign that you were a Mexican drug lord. Now there are six billion phones and a billion smartphones on the planet.” […[