feature storyfrom | the New York Timesthe Big Question.

with Ray Kurzweil
December 1, 2018

publication: the New York Times
supplement: Turning Points
section: Opinion
story title: the Big Question
deck: Have we left something important behind?
date: December 2018

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Turning Points supplement magazine explores what critical moments from this year could mean for the year ahead.

As modern life moves forward, has our society left something important behind? Can we — or should we — try to get it back? We asked the thinkers, artists, and opinion leaders below for their thoughts:

name: Daniel Libeskind
bio: architect, artist, educator, and set designer.

name: Julia Alvarez
bio: author of poetry collections, novels, and books for young readers.

name: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
bio: journalist, film-maker, activist from Pakistan w. 2 Academy Awards + 3 Emmy Awards.

name: Ray Kurzweil
bio: best-selling author, computer scientist, inventor, and futurist.

name: Danielle S. Allen PhD
bio: author, classicist + political scientist at Harvard Univ.

name: Jacob Soll PhD
bio: teaches philosophy, history, and accounting at the Univ. of Southern California.

name: Alexia Webster
bio: documentary photographer and visual artist from South Africa.

name: Claire Ptak
bio: baker, pastry chef, author who owns Violet Cakes bakery + cafe in London | UK.

name: Richard McGuire
bio: artist, musician, and author.

name: Witold Rybczynski
bio: architect and writer who teaches urbanism at the Univ. of Pennsylvania.

name: Ben Katchor
bio: cartoonist + illustrator, creator of acclaimed comic strip “Julius Knipl: real estate photographer.”

name: Marta Viera da Silva
bio: prof. soccer player from Brazil, named FIFA World Player of the Year 6 times, and UN good-will ambassador for females in sport.

name: Emily Thompson PhD
bio: teaches history at Princeton Univ. and doesn’t use a smart-phone.

An answer from Ray Kurzweil.

In the next 3 decades natural + artificial intelligence will become one. We’ll live indefinitely, and become a billion times more intelligent. In this era of accelerating technologies: poverty, disease, resource scarcity, illiteracy, and violence are declining. In the past 20 years global poverty has decreased by more than 50 percent. In the past 200 years we have doubled our life expectancy.

Those are 2 examples of the remarkable advancements we’ve made as modern life moves forward — with comparable progress in extending education, providing sanitation, and instilling democracy world-wide.

At the core of these trends lies the steady, constant doubling of the price-performance ratio + capacity of information tech — that’s 1,000 times more powerful than years ago — and will be a million times more powerful in 20 years.

As medicine, agriculture, energy, and manufacturing become forms of information tech, we’ll see radical transformation in all aspects of our lives. Such as: our health, food, clothing, housing, work.

The future is better than you think. So, rather than look back at what society may have left behind — I look forward to the future, when our species breaks the shackles of its genetic legacy and achieves inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity.

Ray Kurzweil

— notes —

UK = the United Kingdom
UN = the United Nations
FIFA = the International Federation of Association Football